Independent singer-songwriter Amir Alif recently released a music video for his latest single “Lover Boy” online, a feat made possible through the Create Now Funding Programme offered by the Cultural Economy Development Agency (CENDANA) . The video follows Amir as he travels up Genting Highlands on foot, with a veiled, white-wearing woman he finds in the middle of the road.
The Create Now Funding Programme offers makers of music, visual art, and performance grants worth RM1,500 for individuals, and RM3,500 for collectives and organisations. It was established to support the practice and operations of Malaysian artists, collectives and arts organisations during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
Amir Alif first heard of CENDANA a year after debuting. It took him two years to convince himself he was ready to apply for grants from the agency — even his application to fund the music video for “Lover Boy” was filled with doubt over whether his proposal was good enough.
“I applied for the CENDANA Create Now Funding Program as it was the easiest and the smallest funding program available,” he explained over email. “I applied as a collaboration between me and Dean Amir Hussain, a videographer who has worked behind the scene for many mainstream artists such as Ismail Izzani, Naim Daniel and Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza.”
Aiming for a dreamy and mysterious vibe, Amir and Dean chose to set the music video in Genting Highlands. The video was shot across a period of 19 hours, beginning in Shah Alam at 5:30am and ending at 7:00am the following day in Genting. Due to budget limitations, the team had to wait through an unexpected spell of rain so they could shoot in their preferred conditions: misty.
“To all independent artist and any creative workers out there, apply for any of CENDANA’s funding programmes that suit your needs,” Amir added. “They are really helpful with forms and applications and you can always hit them up for any enquiries.”
Though Amir’s musical work does not share the production finesse of his industry peers, he possesses plenty of zeal and will eventually work his way towards a sizeable fanbase. His track record meanwhile shows promise on “Changes” and the Obscura EP.
As of now, the music video of “Lover Boy” serves to highlight his desire to be taken seriously as a musician. It’s a proud achievement considering the size of the Create Now Funding Program grant.
An artist of Amir Alif’s level doesn’t often get grants, and this invites the question — is CENDANA’s disbursement of grant money going to the most urgent parts of the arts during the pandemic? The issue of funding creates black holes in every arts town hall and conversation ever held, and it is no secret that CENDANA’s vision of the cultural economy omits sectors such as literature.
Could it be time for the highest-functioning agency in Malaysian arts to reevaluate its focus areas? If CENDANA has resources to provide grants to smaller artists in music, visual art and performance, it surely has the capacity to support all deserving players in the cultural economy, regardless of where they lie.