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Talented Perak

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Kamal Sabran

If you look very, very carefully there is a long list of very talented people associated with the enigmatic Silver State of Perak. From the ubiquitous literary talents of Tash Aw (writer) to the eminently delectable actress Datuk Michelle Yeoh, their stars forever shine in the heavens of the international firmament.

Aside – In my haste to impart this, I am not, of course, forgetting either my old mate, the silver-tongued Patrick Teoh (broadcaster, acerbic writer and thespian), or fellow writer, and thoroughly nice individual, Preeta Samarasan.

However, what you may, or may not know is that there are still many mega-talented people, who actually prefer to live in the Silver State, rather than write about it from afar. They are brave, hearty souls who shun the bright lights and big cities to live in the comparative quiet of a rural setting, wherein they may listen to their hearts and comprehend their muse – not read the SMS screen and facebook themselves out of existence.

It was recently, having well girded my loins, I stepped out from my misnamed studio, kick-started my monolithic jeep and reached out to the cowering world at large, to meet with some (hopefully) fellow humans.

In my questing I was hugely fortunate enough to meet with two charmingly gifted sons of Perak – Raja Shahriman b Raja Aziddin (aka Raja Shahriman), sculptor, painter and all round nice guy, and, equally as nice, contemporary artist, musician and academic Kamal Sabran.

To be fair, I only met Raja Shahriman en passant as it were – while he was accompanying my buddy, the artist Rafiee Ghani, in Kuala Lumpur, but shortly excused himself to return to his beloved state and family. I sincerely hope to meet more fully with Raja Shahriman at a later date, perhaps in his residence at Kuala Kangsar, where he creates the sculptures he is known for. Kamal Sabran I met, in Ipoh, at a mamak restaurant to talk about his forthcoming music CD entitled ‘The Space Gambus Experiment’ – more of that later.

Raja Shahriman currently has an exhibition of his profound sculptures, paintings and sketches at the Galeri Petronas, KLCC, Kuala Lumpur; profound, in the sense that within the painted, twisted metal forms lies a greater depth of meaning, and significance too.

While it is the three dimensionality of Raja Shahriman’s sculpted forms which greets the visitor at first glance, on second spine tingling glimpse, one notices the intricate play of light on the works, and, obviously, the vividness of the shadows. For it is within the forms of those pronounced shadows, spread from the sculptures that give them life, which the artist’s greatness comes into play.  Through Raja Shahriman’s mastery of his medium, he deftly reveals the vicious shadow creatures, which inhabit the rabid consciousness of the brutal warrior – his martial spine a bandolier of bullets.

People of a nervous disposition might stand in the corner of one of the galleries, staring at Raja Shahriman’s sculptures, waiting for the blatant shadows to come to life, so eerily real are they, in an abstract way. These same visitors, out of the corner of one eye, may see shadows, as if in a wayang kulit play, engage in their incipient warfare, rising out from curved metal flames and doing battle with tendril-like hands and protuberances, which may in our imaginations, be fashioned as swords.

While the shadows of Raja Shahriman’s sculptures eerily poise for battle, Kamal Sabran’s music CD soothes those parts that other music CDs cannot soothe, with its unique blend of sounds from space and music from the traditional Malay gambus (a lute-like instrument).

Just back from Kuala Lumpur, promoting his short film – LUMPUR, for 15 Malaysia, Kamal Sabran spoke with me about his collaboration with Mohd Zulkifi Ramli, and the unique music they have created for the CD ‘The Space Gambus Experiment’.

An observant reader will have noticed the word – Space in the title of this CD, as in The Space Gambus Experiment, and maybe scratched an itchy follicle or two on its significance. To put your inquisitive minds at rest, I am not referring to some post-hippy, pseudo-psychedelia, but in this case – real Space, as in “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, the National Space Agency and the planet Jupiter.

Kamal Sabran developed ‘Sonic Cosmic Music from Outer Space’, while he was ‘artist in residence’ at the National Space Agency and some of that celestial material, along with the more traditional gambus music, graces this present album. It is therefore a credit to both Kamal Sabran and to Mohd Zulkifi Ramli, that together they have been able to create such a distinctive and richly melodic sound.

YUSUF MARTIN