Kembara journeys on with (from top left, clockwise) Zoul, S.Sahlan, A. Ali, and M.Nasir.

After almost three decades of silence, iconic Malay rock group Kembara has reunited for a concert and album, writes Aref Omar

DATUK M. Nasir needs no introduction. But the multi-talented singer-songwriter’s former band Kembara has been away from the limelight for close to 30 years.

Diehard fans will rejoice to learn that his rock band is performing in a special concert at Istana Budaya’s Panggung Sari in Kuala Lumpur in November.

“The idea for this concert came after the success and positive feedback on Kembara’s Konsert Ekspres Rakyat show at Singapore’s Esplanade early last year,” said Nasir at a recent Press conference.

Titled Konsert Hati Emas Kembara, the three-day event from Nov 21-23 will feature core founding members M. Nasir, S. Sahlan (singer) and A. Ali (singer, guitarist), together with newer members Cheman Suri (bassist), Zoul a.k.a. Zulkipli Mohd (lead guitarist), Md Shah Othman (keyboardist) and Mohamed Shahrum Basiron (drummer).

“You can call this a reunion of sorts,” said the frontman and lead vocalist of the group.

Sporting his trademark goatee and looking rugged in a Hugo Boss leather jacket, he added: “Although many people still remember our songs, the concert also serves to let the public know that Kembara is still alive and healthy.”

He explained that one of Kembara’s evergreen songs, Hati Emas, was used as the name of the concert because it was significant in how it shaped the band into what it is today.

“When that song was released on our debut album it quickly became an anthem for our fans,” said Nasir. “It has also become a staple song at wedding receptions.”

EARLY BEGINNINGS

Known for its lasting tunes like Keroncong Untuk Ana, Ekspres Rakyat and Duit, Kembara’s music has always been a combination of sharp vocal harmonies, folk elements and poetic lyricism.

Nasir said that the upcoming shows, organised by his company, Luncai Emas, and supported by Celcom Axiata Berhad, will include features that illustrate the journey of the band from its very early beginnings in the world of music to now.

“We’ll be using modern technology for the visuals to create an exciting experience during the concert,” he said, adding that the public can expect to witness great showmanship onstage as well. “This will also create a different feel from the previous concert in Singapore.”

But it’s not just going to be a trip down memory lane as the sifu reveals that Kembara is also in the process of producing a new album. “The last time we put something out was way back in 1986, so it’s exciting to have new original songs for this 10-track release,” he said.

As to the flavour of the new material, Nasir said that the identity of Kembara will be intact although the songs will reflect the times with a folksy and alternative rock mix. The new album, expected to be out before the concert, will include new arrangements and renditions of classic hits such as Hati Emas, Impian Seorang Nelayan, Gerhana and Perhentian Puduraya.

Aside from the concert and new release, Kembara will also publish a biographical memoir of the band highlighting its history and musical journey through the decades for posterity. “God-willing the concert will be one of our very best live performances. We are very fortunate to have all the former members of Kembara back together for this event,” he said.

The concert will also serve to give the new generation a chance to get to know Kembara and its repertoire.

Celcom Axiata Berhad’s chief executive officer, Datuk Seri Shazzalli Ramly, who was also present, said there are plans for a bigger scale event after this concert run.

“We are still in talks with Luncai Emas on this,” said Shazalli. He was optimistic that Kembara’s popularity would rise if new and younger artistes were to upload their own cover versions of the group’s songs on websites like YouTube. An example he gave was Narmi, who did just that with the late Datuk Sudirman’s song, Warisan.

“A huge number of youngsters thought the song was a new composition,” he said. “I’m certain that Kembara will attract a new generation of fans through this method, not only in Malaysia but in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and other countries with the help of Celcom Axiata.”

LIVE PERFORMANCES

In an online world of virtual reality and digital distractions, Nasir said that nothing beats a physical experience.

“I’m hoping that this concert will create an excitement for our fans and music lovers in general to have a renewed desire to experience live performances,” he said.

Originally from Singapore, Kembara recorded seven albums, with Kembara Seniman Jalanan being the last release in 1986.

Starting as a vocal harmony group, the three core members wrote the classic songs together. They were then influenced by the southern rock and progressive rock genres and later, journeyed into art rock territory.

“There were other vocal harmony groups during that time but we were different due to our hard-hitting rock sound,” said Nasir.

After making three albums together A. Ali and S. Sahlan ventured out to pursue their solo careers. The session players for the albums later became Kembara members.

Although Nasir remains as the most prominent member post-Kembara, the other members have also enjoyed successful careers in the music industry. “I’m still part of the Kembara group, it’s just that I’m the handsomest,” he quipped.

On a more serious note, he added that the strength of A. Ali was in his affinity to the Malay pop genre. “S. Sahlan and I were more folk-oriented,” he added.

“The songs of Kembara that our fans enjoy are the direct result of the fruitful and creative collaboration between the three of us.”

Details on ticket information will be released soon.

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