Friday, December 27, 2019

Remembering 2019 (PART 2)

To read part 1, click here.


So in July we (Mozek, Farid, Prakash, Henry and I) did our first Pinball Monkeys show at The Joke Factory, under the guise of "Mystery Show" on a Thursday night (4th July). Pinball Monkeys do long-form improvised comedy, as opposed to the more familiar short-form improvised comedy that people have gotten to know through shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway and AIIA Improv. The Joke Factory has their own short-form improv comedy night (Wednesday nights), and I am more often than not part of that line-up, but long-form improv is not something very common in the Malaysian comedy scene (at least not through my observation of it). I have been a fan of long-form improv since I started listening to long-form improv comedy podcasts in 2014 such as Improv4humans, Comedy Bang Bang and Spontaneanation (RIP), and it had always been a dream of mine to do it myself, but I thought it would never happen for me in Malaysia because most people simply did not know what it was, and I'd always thought that I'd have to wait until I moved to Los Angeles and register for Upright Citizens Brigade classes for me to actually do it.

But thanks to the efforts of Mozek in pushing forward the idea, the long-form was tested out twice and finally approved to be a regular monthly show at The Joke Factory. It's been loads of fun learning how to do it well with semi-regular rehearsals and discussions about how to improve as improvisors, and even though no two shows are ever the same, they have all been well-received by the audiences. I still feel I have loads to learn in terms of being an improvisor, but I'm glad that I've been given the chance to do long-form improv in front of live audiences. I hope this continues to be the case, and grows in terms of frequency and scale.

In July, I also got to tick another thing I'd always wanted to do off my list, which was do a MaiTry Nasi Kandar episode in Penang. Making it with Mirza and Helmie was a lot of fun. We stayed at a Sekeping hotel in Georgetown, and we also got to shoot the MaiTry vegetarian episode punya main part at the hotel. We stayed there for a weekend, and since Penang holds a special place in my heart, the trip was a memorable one.

Pasca Sini performed four times in July, the first weekend playing ROTTW's Battle Of The Bands thing called Soundstage (we didn't get past the first round), the third weekend playing two shows (one at Rumah Api, one at Angkasa Cheras), and the fourth weekend playing at Angkasa Cheras once again. We were feeling pretty tight as a live band during this time, as we were playing a lot of shows back to back, and that felt good.


And feeling tight was very important and good for the show that felt like what we had been working towards throughout the year, which was the Naib Johan Music Festival at Impero Studio, Oasis Damansara. It was organised by my brother and Pasca Sini bassist, Boy, with his small team of dedicated people. The line-up was super impressive, full of some of the most exciting bands to come out of the underground music scene, and the show ended up being sold-out. It was definitely one of the highlights of the year in terms of shows that we got to play, and I think we'll always remember August 2019 as the year we first did Naib Johan and had a blast doing it in front of our friends in the scene.

Pasca Sini played two other shows later in the month at Livefact Kota Damansara and at Impero again, but I have very little recollection of what happened at those shows.

I also recorded an episode of Naurashares on the 7th of August. It was a live TEDtalk-like show thingy that was recorded for television, and I had to speak about my hardships in life and how I overcame them, in hopes of providing people with some inspiration to get through their own hardships. To be honest, I don't think I've had that difficult of a life. I'm a middle-class Malay Muslim man in Malaysia, how hard could life be with all this privilege, am I right? So the choice to have me on the show made me go "Me? Really?" But I didn't turn it down because as the Malays say, "rezeki jangan ditolak". What I'm most proud of about the talk was that I was able to make the audience laugh a handful of times throughout my fifteen-minute slot, so I guess that made it feel like it was not for naught. I haven't seen the finished episode on TV ever yet, and I don't plan on watching it ever either.


A lot of September was taken up by my acting workshop's Task 1, in which we were required to act in a play directed by a professional director (in this case, it was the great Chris Ling), and the play we staged was an original script by Arshad Adam called Playing God. I was cast as Tri, a male prostitute who because a national celebrity, and went on the talk show called Playing God to fulfil his mission in life. Anything beyond that would be spoiler territory, so I'll stop there. The process was tiring but fun. We had three weeks to get the production show-ready, and we hustled until it happened. Chris put us through a rigorous process for us to be able to truly pull off the show, and the end-product was quite the spectacle. Being able to work with Chris again was great, and sharing the stage with Kak Dzeelfa, Kak Tini, Abang Rahim and Kak Tria was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot in terms of using feelings and impulses that were familiar to turn into someone completely different to become Tri, and I value the whole experience highly.

In September, Mirza suggested we start a new show on Thelaki called Yeh Meh, which is basically our spin on the other Youtube show Dope Or Nope. It turned out to be rather well-received, and we've had fun doing it so far. My favourite episode is the one in which Helmie and Ijal are doing the hosting, talking about ten things we bought for them from DAISO. I had a blast being behind the scenes for that one, and it came out real good after editing too, so I'm glad about it. It's turning out to be our best-received series on the channel, so I'm very thankful that Mirza suggested this idea and that we went with it, because it's been great!

There wasn't much else that went on in the month, as rehearsing for plays takes up a lot of one's time, but Pasca Sini did go into the studio to record a live session that's not out yet, so I'm not at liberty to disclose what that thing's all about quite yet.


In October, Pasca Sini started going into Shaheir Jibin's studio to record tracks for our first album. The process already started with Pola Pikir Positif, but the rest of the record kicked into production in October. Recording new songs is definitely a tough process, both creatively and technically, and we're doing the best we can really. We hope that we get to release the album in 2020, and that enough people give it the time of day for us to continue playing music for people for years to come.

Thelaki was hired to make a travelog video of us going around Perak, so Mirza, Helmie and I got to go around Perak doing outdoorsy-type things that I would normally avoid (ATV riding, rock-climbing, white water rafting and caving), and I have to say that I had loads of fun doing it. Mirza and Helmie are fun people to hang around, and to be able to work with. It was a chill experience, and I appreciate that so much.

I also had a video shoot with my wife for a client I shy away from disclosing. We spent the day hanging out in and around KL, saw what sights KL had to offer while camera-people followed us around shooting our interactions with each other. It ended up feeling a lot like an extended date with cameras, and we had fun doing it, so that was cool.


I personally played two flagship shows at the end of November at AOR Fest in Alor Setar, one for Delude and one for Pasca Sini. At the beginning of the month, I was asked by Shaheir if I could play guitar for Delude at the AOR Fest show that was happening at the end of the month since Haikal (Delude's real guitarist) wasn't able to make the show, and I immediately said yes, because playing for Delude had been a dream of mine since 2007. I practiced guitar for the four songs setlist they sent me pretty much every day, and I was super pumped for it. At that same show, Pasca Sini were also playing, but Syawal (our vocalist) and Thoriq (our lead guitarist) could not make it to the show, so what the band decided to do was to assign me as the vocalist for the show and have Sahaq and Wish cover on both guitars. This was major for me as I had always wanted to be the lead singer of a band, but my not so merdu voice had always been the penghalang utama.

Three or four days before the show, it turned out that Faridzul (Delude's bassist) couldn't make it to the show too, so I was asked if I could play bass instead, so of course I said yes and on the 30th of November, I got to play as part of Delude and sing for Pasca Sini. It was such a great day, and I loved being able to do both things.

November was also the month in which the BMW Shorties were held. The BMW Shorties is an annual short film competition (held by BMW, I guess?) to highlight new local film-makers, and Taka and I were involved in one of the shortfilms submitted this year: Khairi Anwar's Ralat The Musical. Taka and I both had small roles in the short that featured Fimi Don, Tasha Shilla and OG Ahmad Daud, among some other theatre friends such as Mawar Roseka, Maza Maamor and Megat Adli, just to name a few. It was a big cast, for a short story with big heart, and it even won People's Choice Award in the Award show proper, so that's a nice thing to have been a part of.

I also hosted a few educational videos for Bahagian Teknologi Pendidikan in KL. I was approached by one of the producers for the show who happened to be a senior of mine from Kolej Sultan Abdul Hamid, and he asked if I would be interested in hosting some web-videos teaching secondary school kids some grammar, and I said I was down as long as I was getting paid, and we arranged for a couple of shoot days and they have been shot. It was interesting being able to see and experience how differently the BTP shot videos from how I had become accustomed to making them by myself and at Thelaki, especially in terms of scale.


At the start of December, Pasca Sini played a music school recital show as guest performers. At that show we got to see a whole bunch of kids take turns playing their chosen recital songs, either on drums, guitar or vocals. It was pretty cool getting to see these young people learning how to play instruments already, and they looked like they were having fun, so that was nice. I hope they continue to play and contribute meaningfully to the Malaysian music scene in their own capacities.

Pasca Sini also played two other important shows for the band: Rantai Art Festival and My Chemical Romance Tribute. The first time I'd heard of Rantai Art Festival was in 2007 or 2008 when Hujan played there with like hundreds of people in the audience, and somebody from like a storey above capturing that performance on video, making an impact on me about both Hujan and Rantai Art Festival. In my mind, they both became big deals. And this was the first time Pasca Sini played at Rantai Art Festival, and even though we played to a significantly smaller audience (probably around 20-30 people), it was fun to do and to be a part of.

The My Chemical Romance Tribute show was played in front of a significantly larger audience (the show sold out Angkasa, so like 300 people were there). It was a big deal because for as long as we have been able to play guitar, we have been playing My Chemical Romance songs as a band regularly. When we're in the jamming studio and we don't know what we want to play, our default had always been I Don't Love You. Whenever I was alone, I would play Cancer. When we heard MCR were getting back together, we introduced Teenagers into our set list. So even though I wasn't able to make it to the show (I was at a family vacation trip and Sahaq covered for me on guitar duty), watching the videos from the night made my heart explode. So much love, fun and energy throughout the night, all united by their love for a band that changed our lives (MCR). It was a very important night, and I'm glad Pasca Sini were able to be a part of it, so I am grateful for Ze Spooky for inviting us to play jugak.

We have one more show to go. On New Year's Eve we'll be playing at Impero again for Underground Music Festival. Lots of bands, three stages, lots of fun also, so if you'd like, come on down and hang out.

In December I also got the biggest news in my acting career up until now, which is that a short film that I acted in will be screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The short film is called Benevolent Ba, and was written and directed by the very talented Diffan Norman. If you'd like to watch the trailer, click here. The short film was shot in August last year, and I didn't receive any update about it whatsoever until the day the film poster was made public, which was on the 11th of December. I was super surprised by it, and to this day I'm still kinda riding the high of realising that moving images of me will be shown in Salt Lake City Utah for a bit next year. I'm very grateful for Diffan for having me on for the project, and for everyone who was involved on that set for making it as good an experience as it was.

Besides that, I also got cast in a small role in a web-series thing that'll be published some time next year. I am unable to disclose what that project is, specifically, but I will say that it was my first time playing a doctor, and the script was silly and it should be a real fun watch when it comes out.


A thing I would like to add at the end here is that I played in weekly short form improv shows called Making Shit Up at The Joke Factory a lot of times this year (maybe, like, thirty or something?) and they're always fun to do, and I am grateful that I get to keep doing it and keep getting called back to perform it for people.

I also formed deeper friendships with people I started to get to know last year, so that's been great. They know who they are, and I am very grateful for their continued friendships with me.

And that's it for this year's wrap-up. It's been a whirl of a time, and I look forward to what other adventures I get to go on in 2020.


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