AS soon as the rich and distinctive strains of Javanese music begin, Darwisyah Afrina Kamarul Anuar immediately goes into character. Tonight she is a Javanese princess complete with headgear, jasmine flowers falling gracefully over one shoulder and a golden selendang tucked into her belt.
With a piercing look at the audience, Awish, as she is better known within her circle, begins to sway and dance, as she sings Asmaradana, a song from the blockbuster, Puteri Gunung Ledang.
Smoothly switching from sultry low notes to airy middle notes before cleanly belting out her voice at the bridge (the part which connects the verse and chorus), Awish easily keeps up with the funky and melodic arrangement of the song played by her fellow band members.
Not surprisingly, the riveting performance by the team from Melaka bagged the gold award at the recent 2018 National Level Secondary School Combo Competition in Radio Television Malaysia Johor Auditorium, Johor Baru.
On techniques to get into character when singing, Awish said: “I’m a totally different person off-stage. However, when I’m on stage and the music starts, my persona automatically switches to suit the song.
“And I don’t know how I do it either.”
The 2018 National Level Secondary School Combo Competition was organised by the Ministry of Education’s Co-Curriculum and Arts Division, and carried out by the Johor State Education Department.
In his opening speech, Johor State Education Department director Shaharuddin Sharif said that the aim of the contest was to hone students’ artistic talents, and channel them into beneficial hobbies they can pursue.
“In addition, it is hoped that this platform will provide those with exceptional talents a career option when they leave school,” he added.
“The competition also provides the community exposure to musical activities conducted at the school level.”
A combo band is different from a regular band in terms of the number of members, the extent of improvisations as well as the types of musical instruments. In this competition, the number of team members cannot exceed 12, including vocalists as well as musicians. They are required to perform an introduction piece of not more than one minute, followed by two musical pieces, one of which is a vocal song in Bahasa Malaysia and the other, an instrumental piece (in full or in a medley). In total, the teams must not exceed the time limit of 12 minutes for all three performances.
After a gruelling one-day preliminary round the day before, the five teams that made it to the finals on the evening of Sept 28 were from Sabah, Melaka, Johor and Perlis, and the team from Sekolah Seni Malaysia Sarawak.
Other than the gold award which Team Melaka won, the other awards were for best music arrangement (Sekolah Seni Malaysia Sarawak), best vocals (Nur Sarah Adrianna Shamsul Azrin from the Perlis team) and special jury award (team from Sabah).
Of the remaining participating teams, five teams received the silver award, seven teams won the bronze award and the last three teams received a certificate of participation each.
Wellson Yong Thau Yung, 16, the lead vocalist and saxophone player from the Sabah team, was ecstatic when his team won the special jury award. The SMK Mat Salleh in Ranau, Sabah student said that he was happy and satisfied with his performance.
“I only started to learn to play the saxophone five months ago so I’m glad the hard work has paid off.”
On the delay in learning to play the saxophone, he answered: “Ranau is really far away from Kota Kinabalu, about two hours away by car. So it wasn’t practical to travel all the way to the capital city for an
hour’s lesson and then travel all the way back.
“Lucky for me, a music teacher was transferred
to Ranau last year, and she started a class to teach the saxophone.”
SMK Mat Salleh, Ranau principal Majus Munsing said that the team owed its success to support from the parents and teachers.
“Some parents even forked out their own money for the air fare to go and support our team at the competition in Johor,” he added.
The panel of judges for the competition comprised head jurist Isa Amri from Institut Pendidikan Guru Temenggong Ibrahim, Ismail Bahari from Yayasan Warisan Johor and renown jazz musician Syafiee Obe, who is Royal Johor music director and adviser.
“All the teams that performed in the finals were really impressive,” said Isa.
“Their technique and skills are really good, almost on par with professional musicians,” added Syafiee.
Ismail concurred saying that the overall impressive showcase of the students’ talents is the result of patient nurturing and guidance by their dedicated teachers. “It shows in the teams’ performances.”