ASK Malaysian music lovers if they have heard of a Nick and Simon and chances are, Nick Rhodes and Simon Le Bon of 1980s British pop group Duran Duran will come to mind.
Duran Duran is well-known for its monster hits which include The Reflex, Rio and A View To A Kill, the theme song of Sir Roger Moore's final James Bond outing of the same name.
But across the North Sea in the Netherlands, another Nick and Simon have become household names over the last two decades, and they are currently in Malaysia, making our country their very first Asian music destination.
Nick Schilder, 35, and Simon Keizer, 34, of pop-rock duo Nick & Simon, recently visited Melaka, Johor Baru, Kuching and Kuala Lumpur as part of their popular Dutch television series, Nick & Simon: The Dream.
The music-themed travel show has been broadcast on Dutch television for seven years, and has taken Schilder and Keizer to the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, Cuba, Jamaica and Sweden, among other countries.
At every destination, the high school friends made friends with local musicians and singers while also promoted popular tourist destinations, participating in popular pastimes and cultural events.
Their week-long visit to Malaysia, which ends with a mini concert at The Bee in Publika, Solaris Dutamas, KL tonight, has “added value” for Malaysians — they have written and composed a special song with a Malay title called Kasih Sayang.
Schilder said: “Actually the song is 90 per cent in English, as that's the language we normally sing in. We just added words Kasih Sayang, which we picked up from the dictionary, to make it a message of love to all Malaysian music lovers.”
“We completed our song in late June but didn't give it a title. Then, we thought why not give it a Malay name? We searched the online dictionary for a Malay phrase that meant love, and Kasih Sayang was the result,’ added Keizer.
The words Kasih Sayang are warbled throughout the chorus, and Dutch fans have praised Schilder and Keizer for their effort to “wow the locals”.
“Kasih Sayang is only the beginning. We are learning more Malay words and if all goes well, we will one day come up with an entirely Malay song specially for Malaysians,” said Schilder, who plays the guitar.
The duo jammed with popular Malaysian band Salammusik, which translated Kasih Sayang into Malay and added some traditional percussion beats to it.
“We jammed in their studio on the first day of our visit. They're very cool and creative, and the next time we choose to perform a duet with a Malaysian band, they might be it,” said Keizer.
Schilder and Keizer chose to visit Malaysia because it was “less known” amongst the Dutch compared to its neighbours Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.
“We love to travel to countries that are less commonly talked about, and we'd read a bit about Malaysia. We've long been fascinated with Malaysia's cultural diversity, beaches, history and heritage. The country is a melting pot of diverse influences from around Asia as well as Europe. Malaysians are also considerably fluent in English and well-exposed to Western music,” said Keizer.
MAKING MUSIC A REALITY
Schilder actually visited Langkawi and Penang with family and friends in 2008. “Both islands are a tropical paradises. . While there, I thought, I'd love to perform with Simon in Malaysia someday. We’re delighted that it has finally happened.”
Schilder and Keizer are from Volendam which is 20km north of the Dutch capital, Amsterdam. They have been close friends since they were teenagers, with a passion for pop and rock music.
They count The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Jason Mraz and Ed Sheeran as their major musical influences, and have released 10 studio albums since teaming up in 2006. The duo took part in Idols, the Dutch version of reality talent show Idol in 2004, in which Schilder finished 11th. Keizer was eliminated in the first round.
They also became ocal coaches for the first three seasons for The Voice Of Holland from 2010 to 2012. It is this reality talent show which made Nick & Simon a household name in the Netherlands.
Schilder and Keizer got their own television documentary show, Nick & Simon: The American Dreamteam, in June 2011. In the show, they visit several cities in the US, promoting tourist attractions, participating in cultural activities and jamming with popular musicians.
Keizer said The American Dreamteam was the “prototype” for The Dream. “Our trip across the US encouraged us to visit various destinations around the world. The Dream has so far taken us to four continents — Europe, North America, South America, and Africa.
“It's been a real eye-opener because, among others, we didn't realise we had a strong following in Suriname, a country in South America with Dutch as its national language. Simply amazing!”
Most of Schilder's and Keizer's fans are from the Netherlands and Belgium, where Dutch is also the national language. “Many South Africans also enjoy our music as their national language, Afrikaans, is closely related to the Dutch language,” said Schilder.
Keizer said their visit to Malaysia, which kicks off the eighth season of The Dream, will debut on Dutch television in September.
“In tonight's concert, we hope to meet more Malaysian musicians and learn more about the local music scene. We're definitely going to be back, and next time, we hope to record a duet or two with our Malaysian friends,” said Schilder.
Kasih Sayang was released under Warner Music early this month. The song was launched by Nick & Simon at Atas By Bijan FX, Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya on July 18.