From Gempak Desa to Dewan Filharmonik Petronas

Together with pop icons and juggernauts like Datuk Hattan and Azlan, Hazama will be part of ‘Rock Tri-O’, a special showcase in collaboration with MPO at DFP

By AZALEA AZUAR / Pic By ARIF KARTONO 

FOR ANY performer, the opportunity to sing with an orchestra could be considered the ultimate dream.

Hazama says the project is a great achievement in his career, as it is not that easy to get to perform with the MPO

Only the selected few who have made quite an impression with their body of work could reach such a “pinnacle”.

Hazama Ahmad Azmi, once a struggling singer who had spent years on smaller stages before he was crowned the champion of Akademi Fantasia (AF) season 9 in 2011, is the latest performer joining the rank of elites who had performed with the esteemed Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP).

Prior to winning the AF champion title, Hazama was known as just one of the regular faces who were part of Astro’s Gempak Desa and Gempak Selebriti Astro series, a troupe that would travel to smaller towns as part of the satellite television providers weekly promo tour.

After his success with AF9, the trajectory of Hazama’s career has been rather phenomenal.

Hazama is the struggling singer no more as he is about to embark on another musical journey at another level, on a very prestigious stage.

Together with pop icons and juggernauts like Datuk Hattan and Azlan (of Azlan and the Typewriter and Meet Uncle Hussein fame), Hazama will be part of “Rock Tri-O”, a special showcase in collaboration with MPO at DFP.

Rockestra the Way To Go
A concept like Rock Tri-O is not new as MPO has performed its fair share of rock-themed concerts or “rockestra” at DFP.

As for having to sing other artist’s songs, Hattan says he would deliver the songs with his style

Since 2013, the MPO has rocked out with several concerts beginning with “MPO Rocks” and paid tribute to the most iconic rockers with concerts such as “The Music of Led Zeppelin” in 2014 and “The Music of Queen” in 2015.

The most recent “rockestra” held in the DFP was back in 2017 where the MPO performed alongside the Malaysian “Queen of Rock”, Ella, with the concert titled “Ella ‘Live’ with the MPO”.

The concert was meant to celebrate Ella’s 30th anniversary as a successful rock icon after successfully selling many multi-platinum records and hitting the charts of the radio stations back in the 1980s.

“Ella ‘Live’ with the MPO” was conducted by Ahmad Muriz Che Rose. In less than a couple weeks, Ahmad Muriz will return with his baton to conduct “Rock Tri-O”.

“Of course we have the regular audience who’d come to enjoy the MPO. But what I would want to target is the curious spectators who would question how and why Hattan, Hazama and Azlan are in this project.

“It’s all about fuelling the curiosity of the unknown audience,” said Ahmad Muriz.

It may be an experimental but a calculated risk nevertheless for the team.

No matter, the conductor is confident that the three rockers are credible enough in terms of delivering the arranged songs. The specially selected repertoire is given symphonic interpretations by Luqman Aziz, Jenny Chin, Genervie Kam and Leonard Yap.

Something for Everyone
Ahmad Muriz admitted that when they sit down for the selection process, they always faced problems.

Most singers would be intimidated by the venue and its prestige, says Azlan

“One man’s meat is another man’s poison,” the conductor said.

“So in the end, where is the line? Do we go for the name or do we go for the delivery to strike that balance?”

The songs that will be performed in “Rock Tri-O” are Malay classics such as “Gerhana”, “Biso Bonar” and “Fantasia Bulan Madu” while English hits include “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Back in Black” and “Stairway to Heaven”.

The songs were chosen based on the team’s confidence in the trio’s ability in delivering the goods and their vocal agility in complementing the music arrangements. Apart from medleys, each singer is expected to perform four songs.

“I’ve worked some time ago with Hattan, most recently with Hazama, and I have seen Azlan during the years when had makeup on half his face. I believed that he is something else. He is on his own ‘category something’,” Ahmad Muriz said.

He said that in the past the MPO team would focus on the artists’ songs.

For Rock Tri-O, however, the main theme would be the rock classics throughout the ages in both Bahasa Malaysia and English, ranging from Amy Search to Wings to AC/DC to Led Zeppelin and Queen.

“So, it’s something for everyone,” he said, adding that the orchestra would add a different dimension to the whole presentation.

“I think it’s not that much of a problem when it comes to rearranging the tunes. It would be more on how the singers interpret the tunes with the orchestra.

“It’s an orchestra in the foundation which will be the dominant part of the performance. The music arrangement would be blown into a much bigger sound, with a much more symphonic treatment,” Ahmad Muriz said.

Every ‘Rockestra’ is Different
While there have been many rockestra performances held in Malaysia, such as The Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s collaboration with The Artist’s Welfare Foundations in “KL Rhythm Nitez: Konsert Rockestra Lagenda” this year and Istana Budaya’s “Wings Rockestra” in 2013, Ahmad Muriz said that a concert at the DFP is a totally different ballgame.

“It is the treatment of the symphonic arrangement. It’s hard for me to describe in words, but if you’ve been to some pop concerts that highlight local singers, you’ll see what I really mean because it’s really unlike what you’d listened to,” he said.

When Ahmad Muriz led the MPO for Ella’s concert, it was still the same old Ella singing. However, the look and feel of the concert was what hit the audience more.

“You can go to a lot of ‘rockestra’ concerts in Asia, but it’s still going to be a different feeling once you go out of that concert,” he added.

As for the track record of concerts performed by local musicians at DFP, Ahmad Muriz said the hall has so far registered full houses.

An Honour to Perform at the MPO
The three singers chosen for “Rock Tri-O” are as excited as Ahmad Muriz.

Old-timer, or “otai” if you may, Hattan who made his debut in the late 1980s, confessed that he has never set foot inside the DFP! 

The music arrangement would be blown into a much bigger sound, with a much more symphonic treatment, says Ahmad Muriz

“I’ve never been inside the hall so I never knew what it looked like. But I am looking forward to performing with the MPO because the orchestration is very different.

“The approach is different compared to normal bands, which is why I accepted the offer,” he said.

Born Mohd Shukri Shahabudin, Hattan said he wanted to challenge himself through the project.

“To perform alongside an orchestra takes you to another world. The MPO has changed the arrangements to make it more interesting,” he said.

As for Nor Azlan Rosle, the frontman of The Typewriter said he is very excited to be part of the project.

“To me, the performance with MPO is as a personal history, because the orchestra’s position is very high in the music industry,” he said.

Azlan said most singers would be intimidated by the venue and its prestige.

“Even though they follow the material, the experience is still frightening. That is the feeling that I am embracing right now,” said Azlan.

Meanwhile, Hazama said the project is a great achievement in his career, as it is not that easy to get to perform with the MPO.

“I feel proud to share the stage with Hattan, as well as performing alongside the MPO,” he said.

The Challenges Ahead
The show would be on in less than a week and the pressure on the three singers is mounting by the day.

“For me, the real challenge would be the medley of English songs as I had never performed some of the tunes before,” Hazama said.

He added that it is not just going to be a show by one name and the main obstacle would be to make their performances seamless with great cohesion.

“The three of us would be involved in the medleys and that would be my main worry,” Hazama said.

His concern is also shared by Hattan, who described the task as “very tough”.

“We need to showcase harmony apart from having to blend well in our unisons. We are preparing for that now and use all the available time to iron out all the kinks,” he said.

As for having to sing other artist’s songs, Hattan, who is known for his covers of other artists’ big hits, said that he would deliver the songs with his style.

“I am not worried about what people will say. In fact, I don’t give a damn about what people say. I used to record covers and perform it with my style,” he added.

One of his covers was “Sekuntum Mawar Merah”, originally recorded by Alleycats. Hattan gave it his twist and made it even more memorable.

On the other hand, the most challenging song for Azlan is “Back in Black” by Australian rock band AC/DC, which is something that he might be familiar with but was never part of his repertoire.

“I’m struggling with this song. So, I am trying to soften the delivery due to the key,” he said. “Rock Tri-O” will be staged at DFP on Nov 16 and Nov 17 at 8.30pm. Tickets are priced at RM299 (premium seats), RM199 (A reserve seats), RM139 (B Reserve seats) and RM99 (C reserve seats).