We are not afraid of AI, artistes say


AKADEMI Fantasia alumnus and singer-songwriter Amir Jahari is “not afraid of artificial intelligence (AI)” and believes that it will not have an impact on independent musicians like him. 

He said from a composer and songwriter’s perspective, there is no problem because he writes songs from the soul. 

“AI is just a collective of information which delivers and imitates a singer’s voice but it will not be able to replicate what makes a song ‘human’. 

“So, no, I am not afraid of AI,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) after his performance at the “Merdeka Sukacita” showcase at the National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur (KL) recently. 

However, he believed that AI could affect big international artists as the software can calculate their formulas for success. 

Countermeasures Against AI

Popular British singer Sting warned musicians of a battle against AI-written songs, saying the human capital is crucial in the coming years, as AI has been used to “clone” famous artistes’ vocals. 

Meanwhile, Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and producer John Legend has called for regulation on AI in the music industry, and believed that AI should be used responsibly. 

The recording industry has launched the “Human Artistry Campaign” to combat AI’s copyright violations by training their software on commercially released music. 

This was in response to the viral AI hit “Heart on My Sleeve” which mimicked the voices of rapper Drake and singer The Weeknd. 

The fake hit received millions of plays across TikTok, Spotify and YouTube before it was removed. 

Amir assured that musicians who do not care about making money would not fear the impacts of AI. 

“Although ChatGPT can write good lyrics, it is still unable to replicate the information which has been produced by humans. 

“Humans have a very complex and abstract mind. 

“AI is unable to 100% produce the same quality as that of a human’s since they do not have the abstract element that a human has,” he explained. 

The Kuching-born singer joined Akademi Fantasia Season 9 in 2011 and his song “Hasrat” has recently become a hit. 

It was the theme song for the “Imagi-nur” film, which collected a box office of RM6 million in a month. 

Leaism says AI-generated music will hurt cover bands that make money by playing songs recorded by other artistes (pic: MUHD AMIN NAHARUL/TMR)

Cover Bands Badly Impacted

Social media users have been experimenting on AI to create covers. 

Such an example is using Ariana Grande’s voice to cover all of SZA’s songs on her album “SOS”. 

This trend has sparked curiosity about creating AI-generated covers, and artistes and music labels are voicing concerns. 

Singer Leaism said AI-generated music would hurt cover bands that make money by playing songs recorded by other artistes. 

“It is harder for the cover bands but not the songwriters, melody or beat makers and producers. 

“We make our own music so we will always explore, try something different and add different elements,” she told TMR.

The KL-based singer shared that AI can only go so far as to copy and recreate it.

In fact, Leaism would not mind a 50% human and 50% AI collaboration, as long as the song is not 100% produced by AI.

“I think it is good to progress with time and embrace innovation,” she said, adding that musicians can use AI to enhance their music. 

Nevertheless, Leaism is amazed at the uniqueness of humans. 

“There are billions of musicians around the world creating songs daily and they are all different. I don’t think AI can do that. 

“We make music and art through human experiences such as loss and grief. AI does not go through such experiences,” she said. 

The “Murka Jiwa” songstress grew up in Cherating, Pahang, and Pulau Pangkor, Perak, which inspired the beach and tropical vibes in her music. 

“When you are at the beach, you hear a lot of international music in different languages. 

“I always try to capture these influences in my music, which I call tropical soul,” Leaism explained. 

Before releasing her first album “Kesuma” in 2019, she was a street busker in KL, Johor and Penang for three years. 

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, she resorted to teaching music and doing voice-overs. 

“It was a tough challenge for me because live shows are where I am the most comfortable, so I have to figure out other ways to survive,” she said. 

Leaism will be releasing a three-track extended play by the end of the year. 

Use AI Wisely 

Ungku Muhammad Zunurain Ungku Zakaria, whose stage name is Kuzu, believed that AI should be used correctly, not to fully replicate human voices. 

“It can copy an artiste’s vocal tone and make a whole new track, which is dangerous as it will affect our livelihood,” he told TMR. 

OpenAI’s ChatGPT, released in November 2022, has been used to write cover letters, books and students’ assignments. 

Tech giants such as Google LLC have analysed its potential and suggested hiring the bot as an entry-level coder while Amazon.com Inc employees praise ChatGPT’s customer support, training document creation and corporate strategy expertise. 

This software has raised concern on how it will affect the labour market and replace jobs in marketing, journalism and legal. 

However, Kuzu, who has been a vocalist for KL-based band Elmontaro since 2010, was confident that ChatGPT will not replace songwriters. 

“AI does not have emotions. As humans, we produce music with emotions where we sometimes do not even think of the words, but just follow our feelings, in our music. 

“A sad song written by ChatGPT might not bring out any emotions from the listener,” he said. 

Although he admitted that it is more costly for companies to hire musicians and producers while AI-generated software is cheap, even free, and they do not take long to generate music. 

However, AI-generated work may be copyrightable if there is sufficient human authorship. 

“Our music is registered under bodies that give us royalty for all our efforts. 

“So, if you use ChatGPT or other AI software, you need to have permission from the artiste to use the music,” he added. 

Elmontaro consists of vocalist Kuzu, guitarist Shaikh Syafiq Shaikh Fadilah (Abe) and percussionist Megat NorEzzany Megat Elfy (Meg). They are currently working on a single and are planning to produce an album. 

In conclusion, although local musicians remain cautious about the effects of AI-generated music, they are confident that it will always lack the human touch. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

For that 15 minutes of fame…