PETALING JAYA: From rock to hip-hop from the West to K-Pop in the East, popular music has found a huge fan base across the world, including Malaysia.
Unfortunately, there are also unsavoury and less-desirable elements attached to such music. Hit songs are sometimes laced with allusions of substance abuse, soft porn, exploitation of women and sex, which is unacceptable in a conservative Muslim country like Malaysia.
But to keep the young in the country entertained without indulging in what many would refer to as “trashy” music, a recording company has come up with a novel idea to release pop songs with an Islamic theme.
Tarbiah Sentap Records, a Kuala Lumpur-based Islamic pop label, has found success in producing music described as “pop nasyid”, as well as covers of popular mainstream hits reproduced to adhere to conservative Islamic principles.
These songs have been attracting millions of views on their YouTube channel.
Usamah Kamaruzaman, a pioneer in pop nasyid, said the values perpetuated by mainstream entertainment may have led to grave consequences for the nation’s youth.
“This does not only affect their morality but also influences their core beliefs and there is too much at stake for the future of our beloved country. Our youth are better off without this kind of music and entertainment,” Usamah, who is a sound engineer and spokesman for the label, told theSun.
“There is no denying that western music and K-pop have a huge influence on listeners. Their music arrangements and the melodies are top-notch,” he said.
“However, the lyrics and the culture which it promotes is the problem. Our listeners are largely the younger generation. When they realise the negative values embedded in it, they want to switch to more positive music.”
Realising that there is a vacuum that needs to be filled, Tarbiah Sentap began by producing nasyid pop singles, and has produced six albums.
“They are a high quality alternative for audiences who prefer more positive content,” Usamah said.
This has led to a huge expansion in viewership of the videos.
He added that since July last year, Tarbiah Sentap has released six singles, with five of them trending on YouTube in Malaysia.
“This proves that nasyid is still relevant in our country. There is a huge demand for it among youth.”
Usamah said this also debunks the argument that religion and culture are a barrier to creativity.
Twenty-one-year-old student Syahmi Shuhaidi agreed that young people could be easily influenced before they have built a strong religious and cultural base.
He said he is a K-pop fan, but since he does not understand Korean, he also listens to pop nasyid.
“I understand the lyrics and it reminds me of Islam.”
But however popular pop nasyid has become, it still has its detractors.
One is K-pop fan Nurul Rama. The 23-year-old understands that young and underage individuals are obviously easily influenced and tend to want to do what their idols are doing.
But she believes that although she understands the message that Tarbiah Sentap is trying to convey, some of it could be perceived as insensitive.
“I believe some may think that for Muslims in Malaysia, this style of preaching is cool, but non-Muslims who see these covers might think that the religious messages could be over the top.”
“Music is an art. Having boundaries and limits is too extreme. After all, artistes do not force audiences to listen or (accept) the content produced,” she added.