On a psychedelic roll

21 Oct 2019 / 10:36 H.

Recently, five young Malaysians flew to South Korea to play in a sold-out show at an annual Seoul music festival.

They came with hearts filled with a passion for music and a repertoire comprising Malay psychedelic rock inspired by the 1970s. Their name? Ramayan.

“We were one of only two Malaysian bands there at the Zandari Festa [in] Seoul,” said drummer Muhammad Naquyuddin Azeem, better known as Que.

Vocalist and guitarist Mohamed Syafi’i Nasir aka Pi’e (who, incidentally, is the son of veteran artiste M. Nasir) added: “We were the only band that sang in Malay.”

Ramayan was formed five years ago when Pi’e and Que, who were in another band, met bassist Omar Saifuddin, guitarist Amin Jali, and piano and organ player Mohd Nadzrul Yahaya at the Ruang Irama music studio.

Coming together to form a new music group felt “intuitive and natural”.

In the past five years, the band members said they have changed their wardrobe, become more healthy and mature – and even got rounder and fatter, too!

Ramayan’s next big international show will be at the Saarang World Fest in Chennai, India, in January next year.

While the exact details of that show are not “set in stone” just yet, the band is eager to share its brand of Malaysian music with the world.

In 2016, Ramayan released a self-titled album in CD form and on streaming music platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

That album featured songs such as Oh Dewiku, Hantu, Akhir Kalam and Sepintas Sastera Hati, which helped introduce the band’s music to a larger audience.

Ramayan hopes to release its next album by the end of the year.

Pi’e said: “For our second album, the sound would be different from the first, but still keeping with the theme of psychedelic rock.”

“With more funk and disco,” Que added.

Most Ramayan fans discovered the band through social media, music festivals, and word of mouth.

Searching for the band online is a little tricky, as its name is similar to that of an Indian historical epic TV series from the 1980s.

“When you try to search for us, Google ‘Ramayan Band Malaysia’ – that is the most accurate term,” said Que.

In fact, the band’s name is an amalgamation of two words suggested by Omar (‘Isorama’), and Pi’e (‘Jan’).

The band members find that foreigners are more willing to accept their brand of music, as it is new and novel to them.

But, they note that this ‘love of the exotic’ is no different than when a foreign musician comes to Malaysia.

According to Ramayan, one of the best platforms for championing local artistes is music festivals.

“There are a lot of parties that are trying to liven up the music scene in Malaysia, like TapauFest, Urbanscapes, and others,” said Que.

To the band, these well-established festivals are some of the tentpoles of the Malaysian music industry, and are seen as places where new talents can shine.

If you want a sample of what Ramayan is all about, find the band on Instagram at @ramayanmusic, or look for its music on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music.

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