Farewell September

It’s hard to pen in words which only the heart can feel so acutely.

The past few days have been one of the most difficult in my life.
My dear friend Keyjohan Ismail passed on after his hard-fought battle with cancer.

Diagnosed with nose cancer a few years back, he fought hard to stop the disease in its tracks.

His passing is hard for many of us to take.
To his band mates and friends, they’ve lost a timekeeper, Mr. Groove or Pocket Man and a friend.
To his family, they’ve lost a son and a brother.
To his wife Suzy and his 3 young sons, she has lost her soulmate and they have lost a wonderful father.

For me, I’ve lost a long-standing friend of 25 years, a brother, producer, and most importantly, an immaculate musician. Jo’s the perfect musician that I am so blessed to have worked with.

Jo is one of my closest and unwavering supporter and friend. I felt confident whenever Jo performed with me, simply because he always had my back.

He was a dedicated and talented drummer who had the grooviest knack. While working on my album Deeper Than Purple where Jo was the producer, he dedicated his attention and time whole-heartedly and professionally throughout the countless late nights we spent in the recording studio. And this was despite having to juggle his huge role as the sole breadwinner to his young family (his wife was pregnant with their third child then) and his full-time job as a drummer with his band Energy.

Even when he was sick, he never stopped to think about music. I visited and texted Jo often, our conversations often about his recovery and him looking forward to work on my 3rd album. A few times he said if we have enough funds, he will ask Steve Gadd to do one of the songs. But after that we’ll laugh it off knowing it’s only a wistful thought.

I missed the times we spent chatting and laughing over teh tarik, Jo.

Here I want to share a conversation I had with Jo the night before he passed away.

I was by his bedside together with 3 other friends and his wife. He was so weak then it was difficult watching over him. Yet he mustered enough strength to whisper to me, about a CD he had played on and had asked me to listen a month ago. I leaned in really close, putting my ears to his lips. No one knew or could hear our conversation.

“I miss you, sidekick.”

“I miss you too and I’m here.”

“My chest is heavy and it’s hard to breathe.”

(I rubbed his chest but stayed silent)

“How was my drumming in the CD?”

“It was perfect.”

Sounding slightly frustrated, he replied, “I haven’t got the chance to listen to it.”

“But you played on it. That’s the beauty.”

Then he closed his eyes.

I struggled not to cry. I don’t know what went on in his mind at that point in time, but what I saw was that even on his death bed, he was still so concerned about how well he had done his work.

Jo’s not a perfectionist, he’s a perfect musician.

I lost both parents to cancer, and now Jo.
Cancer is a debilitating disease, so let us pray for those who are going through it and also for those who have lost their loved ones to cancer. If possible, please support the various cancer societies and foundations we have in Singapore.

To our fans and friends, we can never fully express our thanks and gratitude towards your support of our musical journey all these years.
And especially to Jo for being so amazing and a wonderful blessing in our lives.

In return, we want to help Jo’s wife Suzy and their 3 young sons get through this difficult time in whatever ways we can.
If you like to help them via monetary donation or other means, here are the details:-

Suzyana Bte Sulaiman
E-mail: zykey_06@yahoo.com.sg
Bank Account: (OCBC) 528-8-045130

Farewell and thank you, Jo.
Till all of us see each other again hereafter.

– RM


Counting Down – What The Moon Said


We are counting down!!

Just 2 more weeks to go to Rosli’s much anticipated return to the performing stage on 29th June after his one-year hiatus! Rosli and the guys are deep in preparation and practice, just so they can give you the most unforgettable musical experience.

Talking about the guys, just who are they? This video has the answers…and a little teaser on what is to come.

If you have not bought your tickets, get them now before they run out! Get ’em at all SISTIC counters or from SISTIC’s website.

Rosli Mansor, What The Moon Said

Photos from Arts Weekend @ The Malay Heritage Centre

The afternoon was hot and humid, and the air heavy and still on a Friday.

As Rosli and the guys rolled into The Malay Heritage Centre to do their soundcheck for Arts Weekend, dark clouds loomed and the sky opened its gates. Undeterred, we had some fans who braved the wet weather to catch Rosli, Keyjohan Ismail, Azman Nirwan, Khairil Yamin entertain with songs from Deeper Than Purple and also a medley of P. Ramlee hits with guest singer Trisno Ishak.

Thank you for making time and effort (especially with the weather) if you were there. Here are some photos taken at the event (photos courtesy of Vicki Lim).

Rosli Mansor

Keyjohan Ismail

Khairil Yamin

Rosli Mansor: Deeper Than Purple – Portrait of Fading Faces

As the monologue played over the sound system, I had a flashback to year 2007, during the launch of Dragged. My concerns then were how my family would view me, if they would accept me as a performer; what the audience would think, of my talking, my playing, and the overall performance. My greatest fear then was that I would not deliver what they were all expecting.

While I was backstage, I heard the quiet chatter of the crowd. Then Nasrun stepped up and started talking to the audience, and as I listened, I was barely aware of what was going on. All I heard was the sound of the shutter going off as Vicki took pictures of the band and I, and laughter as Nasrun dished out a funny anecdote but my mind was a complete blank. It was as if my brain went into overload, and froze.

I stepped out into the darkness, not being able to see anybody – and I felt as if I was in my own purple room. I plugged in my guitar, and cracked a joke about how I was delayed because Keyjohan was powdering my nose backstage, and when the audience laughed, I felt home again.

After the Portrait of Fading Faces / Last Man Standing medley, I scanned the crowd, I saw my family, and the people who I knew would be there for me, rain or shine. But those that had helped me before weren’t there any longer. There were also new faces, vague faces, ex-schoolmates and ex-bandmates. The audience was a mix of all ages and colours. And as my eyes moved to the seat beside my brother, which was occupied by my late father during the launch of Dragged, I was surprised to see it filled by my godfather and a father figure to me. And he had brought his whole family with him. He was someone who supported me for my achievements and overlooked my flaws. I was bombarded by a mixture of emotions at that point, and was at a loss for words.

I took deep breaths and as I tried to compose myself, I heard words of encouragement coming from all sides. This heartened me and strengthened my resolve to not break down, because I wanted to give my best to the people who travelled all the way just to watch me perform.

I mentioned previously that there’s this triangle that represents this journey that I am on. The three sides each correspond to one element – namely passion, family and friends, and fans. The triangle is only whole when all three sides are fused and merged. And this very triangle has been the driving force of my journey, and of the completion of Deeper Than Purple.

It would not have been possible to achieve what I have without my band, my friends (those we were at the launch – and those who weren’t), students, supporters, and most importantly, my family. And for that, I thank them. Each and every one of them had a hand in making me what I am today. As the Palahnuik quote says, “I am the combined effort of everybody I’ve ever known.”

The thing that struck me was how well my team works together. Not just the band, but the crew as well. It’s a myriad of different personalities and characters, and when all the elements come together, the strengths shine through.

During the launch, I had an idea that involved the audience’s participation with egg-shakers during the song Rachel’s Dance. To be honest, the plan almost fell through because I could not find the egg shakers in time. But by some miracle, Keyjohan managed to acquire 50 pieces on Thursday, just 2 days before the launch. I was touched, because he made the effort to get them; and it showed how much he cared. It showed how he felt that it was his responsibility to make things happens, and that he had truly went Deeper Than Purple with me and understood what it means. Sure, it wasn’t the 100 that I had initially hoped for, but 50 were more than enough. I don’t know how he did it, but the fact that he did, was all that mattered. Respect.

That served as a reminder of how I made the right choice in choosing the people for my band. Even though Khairil wasn’t part of the recording process, he fit in very nicely. The band is very easygoing, but when it comes to work, the band never fails to make everything sound better. That night, I did not treat him as my student, but a professional musician who would be giving me his 101%, and he did just that.

Despite being his first professional performance, Khairil did not panic but instead played his part well and delivered a confident and solid show. Also, it was not my first time playing with Keyjohan and Azman, the previous being close to 20 years ago – around ’93 or thereabouts; and 20 years on, we sound even better and more polished than before.

Azman has always made me feel very comfortable around him, and he never fails to make me smile. His presence just blends in with everyone else’s, and he being very people-orientated, we never had any major disagreements or issues at all. He’s always advancing in music; be it playing, gear, or knowledge. But he never forgets to groove, and that’s what I like about him.

The band had great chemistry, and we communicated very effectively with each other without words or even looks. Everyone just did their own thing and we bonded through our respective instruments, thanks to Keyjohan the producer as well as musical director.

Then came Venice – The Love Story. It was the first song I wrote after recovering from my condition… which changed my playing style. To me, Venice is the heartbeat of Deeper Than Purple. It’s like a light dimmer. Something that can brighten a day, or tone it down. It’s a song that you want to finish listening to before you continue your chores or walk away. It was a love story, a promise that was never fulfilled.

Most love stories don’t have happy endings. They end up as shattered hopes and plans reduced to ashes at the end of the road. As depicted in the album cover, despite how the buildings at the mouth of the Venetian canal had all started to burn, there was still hope as the water still flows into the sea, allowing yet another chance at exploration.

And of the album cover, I have Sharon Lee from Luscious Ink to thank. She captured the very soul of Deeper Than Purple through her drawings which were all painstakingly hand-drawn from scratch. I passed her my sketches, and raw versions of my songs to work with, and she carried on from there. It was tough work, especially because each and every bit of the cover was manually drawn, scanned, coloured and then shaded in Photoshop.

Compared to the art for Dragged, the artwork for Deeper Than Purple has been pushed up a notch and moved to greater heights than before. As it was all hand-drawn with a personal touch, the album art brought out the mood and colour of the album tremendously well. Upon closer look at the cover, one would notice a number of songs represented in it by a number of icons. For example, Sorry I’m Late (man burdened by a grandfather clock), Rachel’s Dance (monsters holding a musical box with a ballerina), Last Man Standing (Pizzahead boy with the double blade), and Mocking Monsters (where a motley crew of monsters tease the Pizzahead boy). My motive was to give everyone a souvenir, akin to a picture book, which they can keep and appreciate in time to come.

For Towmy’s Secrets, I invited another senior musician, Mr Gavin Cardoza, a very seasoned keyboardist who has played with many bands, and is still progressing up to this very day. It was my first time working with him during the recording, and the launch was the first time I performed on stage with him as well. I invited him to contribute to my album as per Keyjohan’s recommendation when he knew that I needed an organ player for some of the songs. It was a pleasure working with Gavin as he was extremely easy to work with and we got along without any hitches.

Sorry I’m Late is a song about Time, portrayed on the album cover by the figure burdened by the grandfather clock on his back. This was where I remembered my father, and reminded the people there to who still had their fathers to do what I didn’t, and more. The song has an old school, 12/8 blues gospel feel. Having Gavin on the keys for Sorry I’m Late gave it much more depth and really helped the song to sound much more mature. Abang Hamid from Black Dog Bone made the song even more melodic with his basslines. To me, Sorry I’m Late is the song where Abang Hamid and Keyjohan jelled up, with Gavin contributing to the bluesy gospel feel and I was just singing along with my guitars. Thank you Abang Hamid for your musical input; your humble, down-to-earth attitude made this song perfect.

After that night, I had a multitude of text messages, phone calls, emails, and private messages from a huge number of people – all telling me that they loved the song. I am gratified that they understood the song, and my meaning behind it. It was not my intention at all to make people tear, and I apologise. I was just trying to make everyone understand what Time is, and how it affects us all.

For the encore, I invited a good buddy and ex-bandmate of mine up on stage to jam with me. We played a Deep Purple song “When A Blind Man Cries”, in reference to “BUTA”, or blind man, a nickname my old schoolmates used to call me. That was when I sang in front of an audience for the first time, to the surprise of many people. It was a total impromptu and last minute arrangement, but it felt great and we both had a ball of a time. It seemed that everything had finally fallen into place. Thank you Mohd Khusaini and my ex-schoolmates… You were all part of my growing process.

Eleanor from terraBox has been helping me since Dragged. Her help in getting outlets and gigs for me to perform at and regular updates on the website was invaluable. The effort she put into this journey Deeper Than Purple can clearly be seen by how she opened her own record label to go in depth into working with me, and the videos and write-ups that led up to the launch. She also took the time to get everything organized in place, and met all the sponsors for the launch. At the event itself, she was the first person to be there and the last to leave. I hope to be able to continue to work with her and the management for time to come.

To be completely and blatantly honest, I cannot let go of the people who were there with me for Dragged, and have now faded away by their own volition; hence the song Portrait of Fading Faces.

On the other hand though, it might also very well be a blessing in disguise. I am only strong enough to bear the burdens of a few. Those that will help and support me are a welcome weight, because I know that they would play their parts and also push me on. However, the people who are unwilling and resisting of my efforts take a toll on me as well. Thus, I have no other option but to let go of them.

I don’t want to move on, but I have to. Deeper Than Purple is, after all, and album about moving on. Forgive me if I have ever offended you, intentionally or not. Perhaps at that point in time you probably did not understand me, or my efforts.

There wouldn’t be me without Dragged, and there wouldn’t have been Deeper Than Purple without the band. And most importantly, there would never have been an event like this without you guys.

For that, I thank you all. To my family, friends, students, and supporters, thank you for being part of my journey Deeper Than Purple.

— Rosli Mansor (http://www.facebook.com/roslimansor)

All photos courtesy of Vicki Lim