Tuesday, November 27, 2007

e C e n t r a l - Scent of success


Mesmerising. That’s the word that came to this writer’s mind while listening to Anuar Zain’s songs in his latest self-titled album. His crisp clear vocals complemented by the beautiful melodies and intricate string arrangements made for a heavenly hour of listening.
Kudos to Anuar for his meticulous work on this album which has sounds of live horns and string ensemble setting it apart from the rest in the local pop scene.
The song Ketulusan Hati, composed and arranged by Numata, for instance, catches the imagination first and foremost, with its melodious orchestral arrangement, while Bidadari features a beautiful Oriental bent, courtesy of the Beijing Orchestra. That tune was recorded, of course, in Beijing.
After a five-year wait, fans are definitely in for a treat as the 37-year-old singer has finally produced and released the album that he has been dreaming about since his last solo outing in 2002.
For the record, Anuar always takes his time to produce his albums. There was a four-year gap between his first and second albums. So how does he feel about the positive response towards his latest effort?

Anuar Zain: "I wanted to make a killer album that blends quality and mass appeal."”I feel a huge relief that the album is out now in the market,” said a cheery Anuar, when contacted via telephone recently.
“It has sold 21,000 copies and has already hit double platinum (since its September release). I am still shocked by the numbers because normally, it takes more than a year to achieve that kind of sales.
“I wanted to make a killer album that quality and mass appeal. The album was also the result of listening to my friends, fans and family’s opinions and ideas. That helped a lot.”
Anuar had to fly around Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Beijing to do the recordings over the past two years. It looks like all the hard work and effort has paid off. The new album is definitely in a class of its own.
Of all the tracks, Anuar admitted that the song Lelaki Ini, composed by Numata and arranged by DJ Sumantri, proved to be the most difficult to record.
“This song is very big in terms of music arrangement and it also has a choir ensemble. It was hard to get the right feel.”
The Indonesian touch is also ubiquitous on this album. Nine tracks are the works of Indonesian songwriters except Bidadari, composed by Omar K and arranged by Jenny Chin. Two other songs – Tinggalkan Aku by Sharon Paul, and Teman Terulung, penned by Azalea – feature musical arrangements by renowned Indonesian composer Andi Rianto.
Other tracks in the album are I’m the Lucky One composed by Tengku Shafick and Andi Rianto, Kau Bunga Cintaku (Numata/Irwan Simanjuntak), Tak Lelah composed by Tengku Shafick and arranged by Tohpati, Hanya Milikmu (Nico Ajie Bandy/Andi Rianto) and Jangan Pernah Lagi (Nico Ajie Bandy/DJ Sumantri).
Despite the criticism that Anuar favoured foreign songwriters in his album, the man has his own reasons for doing so.
“Don’t get me wrong, I have requested (through my managers) songs from composers in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore.
“I did receive material from our composers but somehow the songs from the Indonesian songwriters fitted my music style in terms of melody and lyrics,” said Anuar, before adding that working with Indonesian composers was invaluable learning experiences for him as a singer.
He admitted that to get the right songs and the right people to work in Indonesia wasn't easy. The networking efforts in Jakarta have been extremely taxing, both in terms of time and money. But he felt that it was all worth it.
“You need to have a network there and these songwriters and arrangers have to know you first. One thing about them, they would do their own research on a particular artiste and only then will they agree to work with you.
“It wasn’t my intention to overlook local talent but I needed songs that suited the concept and direction of my new album,” explained the singer who contributed lyrics for Tinggalkan Aku.
He added that producing the album has been an emotional journey for him.
“It was very difficult at times, especially when I wasn’t satisfied with my own vocals, as I’m very particular. That meant long hours in the studio.
“I’m fully aware that, with the huge contribution from Indonesian songwriters and arrangers, this album will not qualify to compete in any of the local award shows, including Anugerah Industri Muzik (AIM).
“I’m producing this album for my fans and for my own satisfaction. That is the most important thing ... if I receive an award, it will be a bonus.”
Anuar, who self-produced the album through his own production company Anuar Zain Network Sdn Bhd, will need all the help he can get to overcome the obstacles in the music scene. The album, distributed by Universal Music Malaysia, serves as a reminder that Anuar is an artiste in total control of his creative and business direction.
It has taken years for him to gain such clout, but the wait has not been in vain. He also hopes that the album will have an Indonesian release. But having several top Indonesian songwriters is no guarantee that it will be accepted in the republic where music listeners are more protective of their own artistes.
“The reality is harsh but I will keep keep on trying to break into Indonesia,” concluded a determined-sounding Anuar, who won the best male vocal award at the AIM awards in 1999 and 2003.
This progressive-minded pop star hasn’t forgotten about his loyal fans here, and you can expect that his current three-month national tour will help push the sales tally for his new release.

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