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Datuk Ramli Sarip and Ella (NSTP/KHAIRUL AZHAR AHMAD)

Datuk Ramli Sarip and Ella performing live together? Sounds like a dream come true

BOTH are household names, icons of rock music at home and across the Causeway.

And both are known to value their diehard fans, conducting themselves with down-to-earth demeanour.

Papa Rock Datuk Ramli Sarip and Ratu Rock Ella Aminuddin are old buddies who have performed together in musical concerts and showcases over the years.

They share many things in common — a good rapport with fans of all ages, a passion for rock music, a positive outlook in life, and the ability to move with the times.

Tonight, Ramli, 67, and Ella, 53, are marking history in their careers.

For the first time, they are co-starring in a collaborative concert, held at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur.

Titled Konsert Kembara Kita Datuk Ramli Sarip & Ella, the two-day show is produced by Rasa Music Sdn Bhd, and named after the singers’ famous duet Kembara Kita, released in 1993.

Says Ramli: “Kembara Kita is our mutual musical journey. We may represent different sounds in rock music — I’m more bluesy than Ella — but we’re like-minded in our love for the genre, and believe in staying relevant in music by adapting to the times.”

Nodding in agreement, Ella adds: “By adapting, we mean performing with and guiding the aspiring new talents, as well as appearing in entertainment programmes and showcases which target young fans. Performing around the country is part of this too, and we’ve both done that over the years.”

Ramli’s last major concert at Istana Budaya, Konsert Doa Buat Kekasih, is still fresh in his memory, as it marked three decades of his duet with another old friend, Datuk Khadijah Ibrahim.

“Kembara Kita marks my second team-up with a popular Malaysian female artiste. A dear friend, who died not too long ago, encouraged me to join forces with Ella. This concert will be dedicated to him,” says Ramli who, with his band Sweet Charity, marks 55 years in music.

That late friend was the acclaimed guitarist Fauzi Samin or Aji, who died of a heart attack at the age of 50 last year.

Ramli first met Ella in the 1980s, when she was still with rock band Ella And The Boys.

“I’ve always admired Ella from afar. She sings with heartfelt passion, and has a raw, rock sound. Not many Malaysian women were into rock then, and I deem her a trailblazer,” he says.

Ramli first collaborated with Ella in 1989, when he produced her first solo studio album, Pengemis Cinta. They teamed up again a year later for her second studio album, Puteri Kota, and her third, Identiti.

Pengemis Cinta spawned Ella’s first two major hit singles — Permata Biru and the title track. Puteri Kota had Tiada Tangis Lagi and Kembara Kita. Identiti introduced her fans to Kasih, Sepi Sekuntum Mawar Merah and Cinta Selembut Sutera.

“Ella is very ‘street smart’. She disarmed me as soon as she walked into my studio,” recalls Ramli.

“When it came to work, she was a professional with superb work ethics. Our recordings took hours but she was fully cooperative and accepted constructive criticism willingly.

“The end result were three top-selling albums which cemented her status as Ratu Rock. From then on, there was no stopping Ella. At every one of her concerts that I’ve attended, she’s never disappointed me. Her music always brings me joy.”

When asked about his repertoire, Ramli says he will perform both his popular songs and some lesser-known ones which used to receive good radio airplay.

“I’m going to sing Batu, which has a heavy guitar rhythm. This is a lesser known song which I performed in 1983, and it was rather popular for some time,” he says, adding that the 150-minute concert will be “compact” with songs the audience can sing along to.

“We will each sing 10 to 12 songs, and Ella will take to the stage first. After my segment, we’ll sing two or three of our duets,” says Ramli, who spent a month rehearsing for the concert with his band.

Ella says she and Ramli had been rehearsing separately for a month, and spent a week “fine-tuning” their duets. They will be accompanied by their own teams of musicians, while Man Kidal (Abdul Rahman Mahmood) of Lefthanded fame will join them as guest musician.

“Tok Ramli and I will be singing Kembara Kita, Dia Lelaki and a surprise third duet, so do come and find out, says Ella.

“And while I’ll be singing some of Ramli’s compositions, most of my songs will be my popular hits. Better still, we may do cover versions of songs by our talented juniors in music!”

Ella recalls that when she first met Ramli, she was “a shy girl” and felt “a bit intimidated” by him.

“Who wouldn’t? Tok Ramli is a giant in rock music. With his ‘garang’ look, I assumed he would be a taskmaster ‘cikgu’, recalls Ella.

The then 21-year-old Ella was glad that Ramli proved her wrong, and from that day onwards, they became “rock buddies”

“Ramli is a gentleman at heart. When he’s not satisfied with the end result, he will point things out and tell me how to rectify them.

“I was at ease working with him in his studio. He’s a kind and understanding soul who cares deeply about the people he befriends or works with.

“So sharing the stage with Ramli in a double act is a dream come true. I’m confident both of us, and all our fans, will have a rocking good time!” says Ella excitedly.

Ella thoroughly enjoyed her last major concert, Ella Unplugged which was held at Istana Budaya early last year.

Ella reveals that she will be donning some of her “legendary” outfits from past concerts.

“They are actually modified versions of the original. I’m delighted that I’m still able to fit into them,” she says.

Her secret to looking good, staying happy and healthy? Exercise regularly and cut down “tremendously” on sugary food and drinks.

“There’ll be lots of black and silver in my outfits. They’re my favourite colours and they reflect the two sides of me — mysterious for black, and shining for silver,” she says.

Ramli and Ella plan to share with fans some anecdotes as well as the origins of their famous songs.

“For example, I’ll tell you why Kamelia and Teratai are my favourite Ramli songs,” says Ella.

“And I’ll be sharing my favourite Ella songs,” adds Ramli.

When asked about her foray into chilli-farming, Ella says her 1.2 hectare chilli farm was “doing very well”. She opened the farm, which she co-owns with Azhar, in Puncak Alam, Kuala Selangor early last year.

“I’ve always been green-fingered, and now that I’m an established singer, it’s good to do something other than music and entertainment,” she says, adding that she may grow rock melons next.

“I love spicy stuff, so it’s natural that I grow chillis.”

She plans to come up with her own brand of chilli sauce someday.

“A great idea, Ella,” quips Ramli. “Perhaps, you can call it Ratu Rock!”

Ramli and Ella vow to continue to rock Malaysians as long as they are blessed with good health and vitality.

“The key to musical longevity is passion and love for what you do,” she says.

Adds Ramli: “Also, we must be spiritual, think of our loved ones, spend quality time with them, and never forget to thank God.”

While Ramli’s next major show is still under wraps, Ella says she will be performing in Ramli’s hometown, Singapore, in April.

“It’s going to be Ella Unplugged in the Lion City, and I can’t wait to be there!” she quips.

Besides having their own musicians, Ramli and Ella will be accompanied by music director and keyboardist Rio Rasul, Ude Wahid (keyboardist), Addy Rasidi and Helmi (guitarists), Din Safari (bass guitarist), Tom Anuar and Bob Wahid (drummer), and Kamrun Hussin (percussionist).

Izzat and Baby will be their background vocalists.

Tickets, priced at RM110, RM160, RM210, RM260, RM310, RM360, RM460, and RM510, are available at www.ticket2u.com.my.

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