Music with HeArt

Art Fazil will give a fresh interpretation of the socially conscious songs from his 20-year-old debut album

Singer-songwriter Art Fazil. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM
Singer-songwriter Art Fazil. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

Singer-songwriter Art Fazil's signature folk tune Full Moon Over Marina Bay, one of the songs from his self-titled debut album, is more than two decades old.

On Friday, he celebrates the album's 20th anniversary with a gig at, aptly, Marina Bay - at the Esplanade Recital Studio to be exact.

"The songs are still relevant," he says of the socially conscious lyrics that permeate the 12-track album originally released in 1993.

Full Moon Over Marina Bay, for example, was inspired by youth problems and "weird things" that happen every time there is a full moon. It cites, among others, a real-life incident in which a pregnant youth gave birth to a baby in a toilet bowl.

"You still read and hear about people doing wacko things in Singapore, like the guy with a samurai sword on the MRT," he adds. In that incident, a man was arrested for wielding the weapon in a packed train in December last year.

In an interview at the Esplanade offices, Art, 46, tells Life! that he plans to play "fresh interpretations" of the songs in the album, updated with modern arrangements.

Late last year, he released a 20th-anniversary CD of the album, which was remastered for improved audio clarity, under his own record label, Moro Records.

Art now owns all his songs, which were previously the property of now-defunct label Pony Canyon Singapore.

"I spent four years tracking down Jimmy Wee, the former managing director. When I finally met him, I told him that I wanted to work out a licensing deal to re-issue the album, but he offered to sell me all the rights to the album instead, and it was too good a deal to pass up," he says, without revealing how much he paid for the songs.

Songs on the album include Sometimes When I Feel Blue, a song which peaked at No. 2 on local radio station 987FM and won Best Local English Pop Song at the 1995 Compass (Composers and Authors Society of Singapore) Awards.

While the self-titled album was his first English release, Art was already known in the local and Malaysian-Malay music scene at the time of its debut as he was a member of folk-rock group Rausyanfikir, which released two popular Malay albums in 1992 and 1994. The trio were known for radio hits such as Dhikir Fikir Fikir and Pesta Perut.

In 1997, he moved to London and spent a decade there, performing in clubs and studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

These days, he spends most of his time in Kuala Lumpur, where his record label is based.

While his work as label boss at Moro Records, which also releases songs by local Malay artist Jamiel Said, takes up most of his time, Art says that he still has plenty of songs in him and has plans to release new songs in Malay and English in the near future.

Ironically, for all of his socially conscious songs such as Full Moon Over Marina Bay, he had his biggest hit to date when Rilek Brader - a catchy, humorous song urging one to keep a cool head - went viral in Malaysia last year.

Released in January last year and featuring guest singing from popular Malaysian singer and comedian Imuda, it has since generated more than one million views on YouTube.

That does not mean, however, that the bachelor is taking a career detour down the comedy route. He is a firm believer in the healing power of music and cites a letter he received in 1993 from a fan who said that Rainbow Child, a track from his eponymous album, prevented the young fan from committing suicide.

The lyrics were written after he did a performance for terminally ill children and touches on dealing with predicaments in a positive way.

"Sometimes, a song takes on a life of its own and it goes beyond being just a source of entertainment. I'm just glad that my music can help people when they are going through a bad time."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.