December 12, 2009

Solidarity Night : Dari Rakyat Untuk Rakyat

If you've not heard the songs on Meor's latest album 'Dari Rakyat Untuk Rakyat' (DRUR), you can listen to some of them at Amnesty's Human Rights Day at the Annex at Central Market on the 13th Dec.

I was glad to sing one of the songs on DRUR. Because there aren't many, if any, songs that embody the progressive voice of Malaysians. 'Dari Rakyat Untuk Rakyat' is such an initiative by some Malaysians, with songs written by individuals from civil society and put into song by singer-songwriter Meor. DRUR reflects real issues and expresses aspirations of a politically awakened Malaysia; from human rights lawyer Amer Hamzah's song on ISA, activist/blogger Amin Iskandar's lyrics on the Memali Massacre, Rahmat Harun's poem on Shamsiah Fakeh, lyrics by Hishamudin Rais' and notable poet PyanHabib, to Meor's 'Sampai Bila' reflecting Malaysia's longing for democracy and justice. 

I'll be singing Aapi (Awasi Api Perempuan Ini- lyrics from Rahmat Harun's poem on Shamsiah Fakeh), and perhaps a song or two of my own, at the 'Solidarity Night : Dari Rakyat Untuk Rakyat' on the 13th Dec. Details below:

13 December 2009

The Annexe Gallery, 1st Floor, 
Central Market
Kuala Lumpur 

November 4, 2009

Prisoners in their own land

SOMETIMES, we miss the forest for the trees. Often, we fail to humanise those different from us; something that must be reflected upon after watching Prisoners of a White God which was shown at the FreedomFilmFest KL 2009. In this documentary, Czech researcher Tomáš Ryška investigates wrongdoings against the Akhas – a small mountain ethnic tribe in the Thai and Laotian mountains.

The film documents the change experienced by the Akhas over two years and their reality with forced relocation, cultural genocide and many other unjust violations by certain missionaries and developmental projects. These were dramatically captured and narrated, giving an insight into the realities faced by indigenous people and marginalised groups.

However, concerns with issues of objectivity and dramatic techniques used in this film were raised during its post-screening discussion, with some misgivings over the accuracy of its title. While it is good to be discerning and critical regarding the reliability of certain scenes in the film, perhaps the more pertinent issue to be discussed was about religious aid, or developmental projects in relation to the reality faced by people they are supposed to be helping.

Prisoners of a White God is an apt title, because it beautifully encompasses the gist of the film by also referring to the capitalistic and western development that the mainstream all aspire to. It is essentially about bigotry and how sometimes so-called good intentions can cause harm. The relevance of this film giving insight into the reality faced by indigenous or marginalised groups is so much more urgent than, say, whether the way it was filmed was too dramatic or not.

It would be unfortunate if this insight were to be understated, as public opinion is such that it is so easy to overlook the rights of indigenous peoples, and how convenient it is to accept the justification of "development" without consideration of how marginalised groups are harmed in the process. Common simplistic assumptions that indigenous groups just do not want "progress" or that they do not know what’s good for them, are still very much alive. Malaysians are no different in this indifference, and we need all the help we can to awaken our public consciousness to truly understand why some are "prisoners in their own land".

This film is also a reminder of how we ought to be careful in the charity that we do, or with making public or private entities accountable for what they preach. Planting trees, being "green", and using popular lingo like "sustainability" and "unity" not only makes good advertising under the guise of corporate social responsibility or campaigns, but also distract us from the reality of any wrongdoings that may occur; if a company publicly appropriates an environmental cause, are its business practices really green and are they committing or allowing human rights violations to occur? Entities, be it companies, politicians or governments, that appropriate and ride on popular causes for cheap publicity, while performing hypocritical or unjust acts on the other hand, are deceitful to the public and further restrict our democratic space by usurping and diluting the language used for a cause.

Prisoners of a White God is a beautiful documentary to be appreciated for its ability to engage and the honesty of its agenda, which is the well-being of the Akhas, and in doing so exposes the dangers of bigotry or the perceived infallibility of certain organisations. It is also an important reminder that perhaps we should all be more critical about our own perceptions of how things "should be" and the nature of help that we support or give others.

The writer believes that police and state resources should be used to fight crime instead of monitoring film screenings. Prisoners of a White God is found online licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.
Published Tue, 03 Nov 2009 Freespace, The Sun,

October 7, 2009

CD on tour with FreedomFilmFest09 in PG, Kuching, JB

Thanks to the FreedomFilmFest2009 KL team and volunteers for a great weekend! 

For those in Penang, Kuching, and Johor, don’t miss it and book your free passes asap. Dates and venues below: 

  • 9-11 OCTOBER 2009, Han Chiang College, Penang
  • 23-25 OCTOBER, Sek. Men. Chung Hua No.1, Kuching
  • 30 OCTOBER-1 NOVEMBER, Tropical Inn, Johor Bharu 

More details, film synopsis, and location maps on FFF website

For reservations of passes, please email or call 017-3749887, with the following information: 

Name, Contact tel. no and email, Title of film/time of session that you would like to watch, Number of passes needed, In which state (KL, PG, JB, or KUCHING)

My CD will also be on sale at the screening venues, along with Meor's new album 'Dari Rakyat Untuk Rakyat' where I sang on one of the songs written by Ramat Harun, ‘awasi API perempuan ini’. 

Don't miss it!!!

September 30, 2009

Freedom Film Fest 2009 weekend!

Freedom Film Fest is back this weekend! I may be playing a song or two on saturday if I can make it for the awards night, but am definately attending most of the films. Full listing here:
Apart from the FFF winning films on the theme of 'real change', do watch out for 'prisoners of a white god', Burma VJ, Nia Dinata's 'at stake', Flow, Carbon connection, and a host of other excellent docos that has garnered awards from Sundance, Full Frame, etc.

Looking forward to get my yearly dose of human rights docos. See you there!

July 2, 2009

Malam Seni Rakyat & Gadoh

I should have updated this blog much earlier, but there you go. Guess I'm far from being a serial updater.

I'll be playing 2 songs tomorrow night at a gig organized by Meor and friends. It's in Kajang so do come along if you can. It's slightly experimental since I'll be singing a song written by Rahmat Harun and put into a song by Meor. Well, basically it is written in Malay so do excuse the accent if it sounds confused :)

Have missed quite a bit of gigs lately, including urbanscape, being away travelling on the tibetian plateau. Heard it was good along with a packed screening of Gadoh. If you haven't seen it, do catch it at the next screening; it's well worth the watch for every Malaysian.

April 3, 2009

Who gets paid every time you flush your toilet?

So long as laws and a system that curtails freedom of information- or that which prevents our right to know important information that affects us- continues, any claims for change remains as just another insidious plan at shallow rebranding, and attempts to further restrict our democratic spaces by usurping and appropriating language used to express our aspirations. As such, efforts to make known crucial information that affects us is even more important. The following are important info for the state of Selangor, and Malaysians in general as it may determine how a big chunk of our tax money is being spent:  

visit which has all the relevant information and facts on the much publicised Selangor Water Restructuring Exercise.

Spread the word!

March 9, 2009

FREEDOM FILM FEST 2009 & The Retrospective in London

FFF is back this year with the theme 'Real Change?' which is timely as we need to know how recent political changes affect our lives as Malaysians.
It's a great chance to win RM5,000 to make a film about your/a story of change in Malaysia, or win RM2000 for an existing film (Deadline- April 15,2009). For more details about the competition, see here. You can also email or call 03-79685415 for more info.

I've written about FFF last year when it first screened in east Malaysia. This year, FFF will be going to London for a 'Retrospective' on the 28 March 2009 at The Garden Court Chambers, where the screening will present its films from 2004-2008 for Malaysians and friends in London. If you're in London, it's a great chance to attend the screenings and catch up on the different issues which have been raised by Malaysian activists over the years.

FFF London is made possible and organized entirely by Malaysian volunteers and friends in London. For more details or if you’re interest to be a volunteer, please visit
or email

March 3, 2009

Hope sinks in limbo land

WHILE some are busy debating morality, our constitution and ethics over recent fiascos, a section of Malaysians know very well how political changes can directly impact their lives in what could be very real and lasting manner.

Watching a video interview of some Perak-ians recently, I saw the immense disappointment in their eyes as they spoke of the political turmoil in the state.

"Macam orang gantung pada langit", a man described how they have never felt Malaysian for the past 51 years; the orang asli in Perak have been denied their rights to their land and a chance to live as equals ever since Malaysia gained independence.

In finding an urban parallel, I imagined a foreigner telling me that I have to leave my home because it belongs to them according to "their" new set of laws. Then the house they claimed from me is sold or used for immense profit. In the meantime, these powerful people decide to do "good" by running a programme and hire me to work in the house for RM400 a year. Anyone in their right mind would revolt at the injustice. But such is the situation of a marginalised community with little access to recourse or opportunities. They live at the sidelines, without a voice, and pushed around as and when someone else with the power and money want the land they have been living and toiling on.

Imagine their sense of hope, when what had not been achieved in 51 years, was done in a short span of 10 months since the last general election. Systems were put in place to assure their voices were heard by the state, and the process of ensuring their right to their ancestral lands were started; they showed that when given a chance, they could work hard to exercise their rights, to live as equals, and hope for the future. (For more info, see:
But the recent fiasco in Perak has left them worried – with mixed emotions of quiet anger and hatred – at those responsible for the political turmoil that could mean a permanent end to whatever progress made since March last year.

One wonders if some middle-class Malaysians whose emotions run high because they feel like "2nd class citizens" have spared a thought for the orang asli, and perhaps include them in their demands for justice? One wonders also if those who thump their chest in anger because they feel besieged or "challenged" by those who questioned the manner of Perak’s takeover, have considered the orang asli community whose lives may be relegated back to how their rights have been trampled on for 51 years?

Land-grabbing is happening right under our noses, under the glare of our media, preoccupied with sensationalising private lives of politicians. Aside from stunting the progress of civil society, such gutter journalism supports the malicious intent of those bent on discrediting one of the few politicians who makes a firm stand based on just values.
Threats against politicians like Elizabeth Wong are a threat to her country at large which will continue to inherit the kind of processes that put profit above lives, should her kind of work not continue. We don’t need politicians who allow landslides to happen, only to appear at the next tragedy site when people die to donate money and shed some tears for the press. We don’t need state policies that continue to marginalise certain communities, and then do so-called charitable work from fat profits off the land taken from the very people whose rights were denied.

We surely don’t need politicians – no matter how articulate – to opine or justify their hypocritical actions, along with tabloids disguised as newspapers, for these irritatingly distracts us from the reality on the ground that speaks for itself.