Fake band now a festival regular

Rizman Putra (left) sings while Safuan Johari (right) creates dance music by slicing old Malay songs and putting them together again.
Rizman Putra (left) sings while Safuan Johari (right) creates dance music by slicing old Malay songs and putting them together again. PHOTO: THROBBING PIXEL

Electronic music duo Nada launched as a fake band for an arts project. In a Spinal Tap twist, they have since become a proper music act that have since performed at major events here as well as in cities around the world, including Paris, London and New York.

The pair, whose brand of intriguing dance music deconstructs old Malay music dating back to the 1940s, are among eight acts to be featured at Club Malam. Part of the Singapore International Festival of the Arts' pre-festival programme, The O.P.E.N., the event is an arts party taking place at the old Kallang Airport from tomorrow to Saturday.

Nada - comprising singer and performance artist Rizman Putra, 38, and producer and sound designer Safuan Johari, 35 - will also soundtrack the rest of the performances and installations at Club Malam, together with tunes from Indonesian experimental act Senyawa.

The two formed Nada for an installation commissioned by the Malay Heritage Centre for 2014's Malay CultureFest.

They came up with a back story - the group formed in the 1970s but mysteriously disappeared in the 1980s - and put up fake photos, posters and even instruments supposedly used by the band, including "a fake sci-fi guitar and electronic music equipment made from an old computer CPU".

The hoax was so well done it fooled some exhibition-goers.

  • BOOK IT /CLUB MALAM

  • WHERE: Old Kallang Airport, 9 Stadium Link 

    WHEN: Tomorrow to Saturday, 6.30 to 11pm daily 

    ADMISSION: Free with The O.P.E.N. Pass, $45 (includes all The O.P.E.N. programmes), $25 (for students and those aged 55 and above), from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555) or $10 (limited availability) at the door

Nada also performed for the installation, with Rizman and Safuan hidden behind a screen displaying visuals by video artist Brandon Tay.

Their setlist of the "band's biggest hits" comprised music sampling various Malay music genres such as ronggeng, keroncong and pop yeh-yeh and artists ranging from 1960s pop singer S. Latifah to 1970s dangdut artist Ahmadi Hassan.

Safuan, who also produces electronic music under the moniker Max Lane and is an avid collector of vintage Malay music, says: "I would slice the songs up and put them back together again."

Rizman, who is also a theatre performer and frontman for alternative rock band Tiramisu, sang over the music. He says: "My technique of writing lyrics is similar to what Safuan does. I would take words from old Western pop and rock songs from artists such as Jimi Hendrix and The Doors, translate them to Malay and cut and paste them together."

Nada, initially a one-off project, were soon invited for projects, installations and performances overseas. These included arts event L'exposition Archipel Secret in Paris and a series of performances in Beijing, London and New York as part of Singapore: Inside Out, a travelling showcase of home- grown creative talents last year.

Back in Singapore, the pair performed at events such as the opening of the National Gallery Singapore, M1 Singapore Fringe Festival, Singapore Night Festival and Neon Lights Festival.

For their live performances now, they no longer hide behind screens. Instead, they dress in monochrome as a homage to the black-and-white photographs of the past, or in attire favoured by the Malay community, including songkoks and jubahs.

At Club Malam, Nada's performance will be accompanied by visual artist Tay's mash-ups of scenes from old Malay movies.

The music will be fresh - the pair will tailor their repertoire to Club Malam's theme of reimagining Malay dance clubs of the 1940s and 1950s.

Says Safuan: "We were mindful of the fact that the venue, Old Kallang Airport, is close to where old entertainment venues such as Gay World and Happy World were. So it will be our interpretation of what the music there would have been like."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2016, with the headline 'Fake band now a festival regular'. Print Edition | Subscribe