For his latest album Rasa (Feel), veteran singer-songwriter Ramli Sarip assembled his personal list of the finest musicians in Singapore.
His 23rd album is his first to be mostly recorded here since 1986's Bukan Kerana Nama (Not For The Name). The 69-year-old has spent the last few decades largely performing and working on music projects in Malaysia and Indonesia, but has been in Singapore since February last year after the pandemic put a stop to travel.
The musicians he worked with are no mere hired guns, says Ramli, who also produced the album.
Guitarist Addy Cradle, who serves as co-producer, has released solo albums and is known for playing in established home-grown bands such as Jive Talkin', Teacher's Pet and Cradle. Percussionist Riduan Zalani is a National Arts Council's Young Artist Award winner, while bassist Din Safari has a music career dating back to the 1970s and has performed with local music icons such as Anita Sarawak.
"I haven't felt this way about a recording in a long time," says Ramli, who started his music career with pioneering rock band Sweet Charity in the late 1960s. "There was a sense of 'semangat' (spirit) among us, a strong bond of brotherhood."
With its meld of genres ranging from folk and blues to rock and traditional Malay music, Ramli hopes the songs will inspire the local music and arts scene, which has been hard hit by the restrictions brought about by the pandemic.
The title reflects the philosophy that guides the songs. "The music has to be soulful, you have to be able to feel and not just merely listen to the songs."
The 10-track album, released by Ramli's production company Rasa Karya in collaboration with Singaporean events company Boss Production, is his first full studio album since 2002's Kalam Kesturi.
Three of the songs, Srikandi Zaman (Heroines Of The Ages), Sentosa Di Kubah Hayat (Peace In The Dome Of Life) and Surat Cinta Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur Love Letter) were recorded in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 2018 to 2019. The rest were recorded in Singapore.
The album also includes a rendition of the Malay classic Ayah Dan Ibu (Mother And Father), a song first recorded in the 1940s by Malaysian singer A. Rahman and later made popular in the 1980s by Malaysian singer Sudirman. Ramli says: "Singing the song drove me to tears because it reminded me of my parents."
While it is more common for singers today to release singles on streaming platforms, he still believes in releasing full albums in physical formats.
Rasa is currently available only on CD and will be on streaming platforms later. There are also plans to put out the album on vinyl.
"I want the fans to be able to physically touch the album and cherish the moment while they are listening to the songs," he says, adding that an album has "more impact" than just mere singles.
He will perform songs from the album live at a concert at Our Tampines Hub on Saturday, a collaboration with Malay performing arts group Sri Warisan.
And when travel restrictions ease, Ramli plans to do a promotional tour all over Malaysia. "We cannot predict what is going to happen in the future, but that hasn't stopped us from making plans."
And there is more new music to come. "In the past year, we worked on more than 30 new songs, so we still have plenty left in storage," he says.
- Rasa is available at Wardah Books (wardahbooks.com and 58 Bussorah Street).