Music Talent Quest 2013

Here I sit, in the fourth row, on the ground floor of the Great Hall. Ben tells me to stay even though Ems has just told me that the event has started outside. I have no idea how to react to this, just chilling to “Oldie” by OFWGKTA, bumping it off my cellular phone, headphone bleed, but shit sounds real. 🙂

The whole room is barely lit now, the backstage crew finished fiddling with the multiple overhead lights around. Typing this article into my laptop with brightness on low. Anticipating the next few moments of this special event held by the Music Society. “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Music Talent Quest 2013!!!” shouts Ben boy into the mic, from the outside, I being able to hear it through the speakers inside the Hall. Classic Ben event introduction. B-boy presents each of the finalists, starting with the solo competitors and last but not least, the three band finalists. I feel like I’m in a remake of Survivor or something, thanks to the intro music, “The Final Countdown”. If you people that were there, wondered who was the smartly-dressed guy shouting out “Muz!”, waving a middle finger, that person might have probably been me. Most probably. 🙂

For the night, the panel of judges included Kareema (winner of last year’s MTQ in the solo category), and also guest perfomers Sarah & Nabil from the band AVG. Virtuous started off first, from the solo category, as S01. She started off well enough, not one for criticism, yet constructive is always better. I felt like Bill Murray in one of those karaoke bars in Japan à la Lost in Translation due to the backing track although she pulled off the high-pitch parts well. Then came on S02, which had to be Sandhya. I personally felt that she started off really well, with her solo rendition of Rihanna’s “Stay”. Her voice seemed soft at first, but possibly for effect. “I want you to stay…” she speaks into the microphone, before going off singing something else in Tamil, I definitely needed to be high for this but oh well… Post-performance, Sandhya was preternaturally cute as always, as she received a healthy round of applause from the audience (including me, oh yeah!). Kareema’s thoughts were that Sandhya’s performance was “something different”.

Next up, S04 was Wong Yen Hoong, a bit off-key at parts but full of energy nonetheless, singing “Give Your Heart A Break” by Demi Lovato. Wong moves around, she definitely had charm and stage presence. Her vocal volume control was almost Brandon Boyd-like, really great. S07, and shit someone is like, dressed like Bond. Daren, I mean. Daren sings Adele – Someone Like You. Very James Blake-like. Nabil says it turned him on, God bless son. Teng Mee Chiou comes on next and this event seems to be moving really fast, with the cooperation of the audience and well-coordinated Music Society members. Teng, mid-song, throws a paper heart or something, and takes off his cap and puts it back on, to roars by the fans around the Hall. “That was amazing” Ben says…. Kareema says he sounds like James Blunt, refreshing to hear “How to Make You Feel the Love”. Sarah says it was full of emotion. Looking around, she states. Good selection of song, not a big fan of J. Blunt, says Nabil, one of the guest judges from AVG.

Then came on s10, which was Salar, singing “Hallelujah Today”, doing justice he hopes. Can’t really hear the guitar at the start, as the piano backing track was too loud. Now the guitar is more audible, and Salar’s vocals is exceptional as usual. At the end of his performance Kareema said he definitely did the song justice. He not only connected with the audience, yet his voice texture even melts heart. Salar’s improvisation was good, not an easy song, yet he engaged the audience with his onstage persona. True talent. Sarah really liked it, a plain song made powerful. So nice to watch, she said. Nabil, however, deems that his voice was standard, to the amusement of the audience.

Imran played a nice song I can’t name here, yet a very deep song and quaintly nice. Imran goes into the second part of his performance, a second song titled “Here Without You” by 3 Doors Down, a popular enough rock song. There seems to be feedback from the strummed bass E string, in most chords he plays. Kareema’s judging states that Imran had manly voice texture, a crisp and clear voice, like water in YO FACEE!!! He was very dynamic, his vocal techniques were mastered and with “great power comes great responsiblity..” great words coming from Judge K… Pitching is important, with a voice like his. Lucky Draw happens now, lucky prizes won by random people around, to the tune of Maroon 5’s “This Love” playing through the speakers around the Hall.

After the lucky draw, the lights came on and we enjoyed a phenomenal guest performance by Harvinth Skin and Meroshana Thaiyalan from Kajang. They performed a massive mash-up of “Written in the Stars” by Tinie Tempah & Eric Turner, “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z & Alicia Keys and “Encore/Numb” by Jay-Z & Linkin Park. It was pretty great, I personally felt. Finally some fuckin’ hip-hop, bitch! Harvinth’s rapping was definitely like a young Jay-Z and Mero pulled off the female vocals part considerably well. Later on, the solo category of MTQ continued with Arvina as S12 doing her version of “Valerie” by Bruno Mars, the more upbeat cover of Amy Winehouse’s original song. Let me tell you guys this, she pulled it off quite well, it even made me dance in my seat for a while. S14 next and it was Tae Jun Soong, with a certain song I can’t particularly name, but trust me when I say he did pretty alright as well. 🙂 Zoe Lee then came on next as contestant S03, doing a version of Lady Gaga’s “You & I” and it was very nice, her dress was pretty hippie-like and it was a nice treat fo sho’. She even inserted a part from “Hey Jude”, a classic Beatles hit. The judges felt her voice had good texture, even though the tempo of the guitar was a bit lacking. A good transition & attempt, simply brilliant stuff!

The proceedings seem to roll fast enough, and then it was time for a moment’s silence for a senior student that has just left us, Year 3 Mechatronics student Neeraj Geer. Let me be completely honest and say this lad was a true gentleman in the very least, I can still recount times being spent sharing cigarettes outside the TCR. I seriously think, to this day, that if he was here with us that night, he would’ve wanted us to light some illegal substances in the Hall, of which kind I will not say. 🙂 Next up came the guest performances by last year’s MTQ band category winners, The Wayfarers, consisting of Fabiolla Netto  & Pradheep Kay (sadly without their drummer, Imran who was in the UK during the event). I have to say, them covering “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Wanz, was insanely epic. I probably heard this song too many times on the local radio, but their acoustic cover made the performance way more interesting. It was suave, jazzy, upbeat and nice! Fabi hit it well on vocals alongside Pradheep’s guitar-playing and beatboxing. Great stuff from the two, definitely.

Man, I think I’ve overdone this article a bit, with the word count breaching 4 digits. Oh well, the solo stuff was done and dusted, and so we continued on into the night, for the band performances. Haha, let me also state that Ben’s MC-ing was great, per se and I also loved the fact that the contest wasn’t too genre-specific, the music presented was without borders, breaking down barriers of language and connecting us all as humanly and emotionally as much as possible. First off to start it all was One Nice Try, B01. The first song they played was a bit offbeat and the guitar seemed off. I also felt the bass was better in the rehearsals, but the effort was entirely appreciated either way. For their second song, it seemed a lot better with the keyboard intro before the guitar drifts into the song. As the chorus kicks in, so do the drums & bass guitar. The singer finally stood up and this performance was pretty good, I have to say.

Next up, came on B02,  The Nut Nut with first, a version of Frankie Valli’s popular “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, a hit in 1967 that has lasted almost endearingly forever (the age of the song, I mean).  The performance was really good and kind of upbeat. Their second song was sung entirely in Chinese and honestly was nice enough. The vocal harmonizing was refreshingly nice and it was a brave shot with an original composition. Mind me for sounding Malaysian, but it felt like a Chinese song I remembered but forgot the words and title to. “Cloud Atlas Sextet” much?

Yet another Lucky Draw happens before swiftly going into the final contestants of the night, The Indonesians, a 5-piece consisting of Naza (lead vocals), Muz (backing vox, bass guitar), Arief (drums), Syafiq (lead guitar, backing vox) & last but not least Ozzie (rhythm guitar, backing vox). The band kicked off with a great, jazzy cover of a song made famous by Norah Jones entitled “Don’t Know Why”, I can’t begin to describe how amazing the performance was. I almost drifted off into slumber, thanks to the sweet vocals laid by Miss Naza (next Mrs. Nottingham, maybe?). Then, after the calm before the storm was an incredible pop-punk cover of Paramore’s “Crushcrushcrush”. Rocky, nice, what more can I really say? At this point, I really wished I had taken some good stuff to go with the show and slowly, calmly lose my mind in appropriate manner.

As the number of Lucky Draw winners increased, I probably went out to catch a few puffs off cigarettes, possibly with Eiman Mirghani (our lovely Managing Editor, God bless!). Off the record, don’t think I encourage smoking on this article. Back to business, as each band then performs their own covers of the most watched video on Youtube, “Gangnam Style”! One Nice Try’s cover was actually quite jazzy and good, The Nut Nut’s one was poignant, nice even, with a little dance or two by the drummer but the Indonesians stole the show, as usual, with a hardcore rock/progressive metal cover with was unconventional to say the least, but I lost my shit alright. Yeah, Muz, lost my shit, you bugger! 😀 After those proceedings, The Absolute Seconds came on as a guest performance, starting off with a small intro to the tunes of the popular “Feeling Good” that has been covered by artists such as Muse, Nina Simone & Michael Buble before heading into a straight-up cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”, which was popular enough for the crowd to enjoy.

The next thing that happened was the BIG Lucky Draw in which winners went home with accesories such as an iPod Nano, Armageddon speakers & even a brand new iPad mini! AVG (Sarah & Nabil, who were guest judges) then came on to give a special guest performance that rocked us off our seats as if the Indonesians didn’t just perform! After loads of anticipation and buzz around the Hall, the results for both categories were announced. In the solo category, Imran finished 2nd behind none other than Salar Khan, the new champion to the coveted solo category out of 14 finalists! However, in the band category, the winners were The Indonesians, the 5-piece stealing the crown for this year’s MTQ, to the roar of the crowd and tremendous applause by most in the Hall. In the words of Mr. Hunte, it was an extremely fabulous night of music indeed :).

Update: I am concurrently working on an article on the winner’s of the latest edition of the Music Talent Quest this year, and will be interviewing none other than the Indonesians themselves, winners in the band category of this year’s MTQ. Be sure to be psyched for that ordeal! Peace 😀

Danish Zainal

"Zeal without knowledge is fire without light." - Thomas Fuller, 17th century historian

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