Reunited rock legends Amy and his band Search, postponing retirement to headline the last day of this year’s Festival Belia Putrajaya on Sunday, were cheaply attacked online shortly after by a self-proclaimed “motivational expert”.
The questionable publicity stunt by one Lukman Hakim Muhammad, who runs the site motivasilukman.com enraged many, drawing threats in the hundreds by rock fans across the country.
Fellow rock musicians have also leapt to Search’s defense, speaking out to express their ire and, directing all sorts of verbal projectiles and warnings towards the poor misguided Lukman in bahasa.
But Amy’s reaction couldn’t have been cooler.
The following day, the voice of “Isabella” (a.k.a. ‘lagu “Negaraku” kedua’, the singer once acknowledged) and countless Malay rock hits of our time posted the perfect response on his official artist page on Facebook: a lyrical poem and rationale in Malay chastising the irresponsible commenter and an old video of nasyid favourites Rabbani, Mawi and others singing the Search classic “Mentari Merah Di Ufuk Timur” together featuring Amy himself.
Amy’s page also followed with recent clips of “Takbir Cinta”, the nasyid duet the vocalist did with Yassin, as well as “Redha”, the theme song for the upcoming film about national soldiers, Bravo, the next day.
“To me it was just a case of, ‘ok, this person has tarnished his own mouth and now he has to wash it clean on his own from here’,” said the 57-year-old rocker, born Suhaimi Abdul Rahman, who recently founded the tahfiz school for children, Al-Bayan, based in Kota Damansara.
Amy shared that Lukman had called to request a personal meeting with the singer he wronged, only to be told off by Amy’s wife and manager Nourish who instead firmly advised him to issue a public apology [which he has, two days after the statement (see footnote)].
“I didn’t feel he deserved face-time because for all I know, he may have only wanted a picture with me to show that all is well and to redeem his image,” Amy said. This attitude displayed by Lukman could be seen as a disturbing sign of the shameless sycophantic culture of name-riding in our public sphere.
Only in this case the person he is name-riding is also the same one he is attempting to smear for his own gain. Clearly this is one of perhaps many (though hopefully not an increasing number of) public speakers who fail in knowing who and what exactly they are dealing with, and all for self-promoting reasons.
The power is with the people
Poor Lukman last weekend; under scrutiny for a widespread apology, just for a cheap stab at publicity for his motivational services. Threats to inflict bodily harm from mat rock everywhere were not only limited to social media comments, but private SMS messages too. As the truly elderly would say, “kerna mulut badan binasa” (“because of the mouth, the body hurts”). As the slightly younger would say – “ini sua lebey!” (“this is too much!”).
To be completely serious though, the young-at-heart abang Amy replied: “Wa rilek je beb” (“I’m good over here”), with the relaxed smile of one who’s shrugged off this kind of thing more than once throughout his three-and-a-half decades long career. Someone who knows that his fans will speak up for him; fans who have lived with his songs, which have inspired them to lead productive lives in their own right.
Amy Search shares that he recently met a doctor who wanted to thank the singer and the band for Search’s songs, which kept him company while he sat for medical exams. “Belia rosak” indeed. If the self-righteous are not eating their words by now, we give up.
“It is not even a case of this person against me or Search, because he has so many others to face and make it up to,” observed the legendary singer, who counts doctors, lawyers, businessmen, professionals, decision-makers and politicians among the many fans he and Search have helped liberate in their 35 years as Malaysia’s most well-known rock group.
We don’t need no education
“I’m not an active volcano anymore,” says Amy with an easy laugh today. “I don’t feel I needed to say much to justify myself to people like this who are just coming out of nowhere. My listeners have spoken for me, they feel what I feel because I came from there, they are a part of me, as I am a part of their journey. Everyone has their ambitions, and everyone’s journey is different.”
Amy feels that the most sensitive thing about this whole incident is not how rock keeps on getting a bad rep even in 2015, but how the country’s belia still keep on being made the scapegoats. The 30-year-old Lukman’s statement, roughly translated, crudely implied that our nation’s youth will keep on getting spoiled as long as there are role models like Search up there onstage.
“Why do you have to keep on bombarding the young people? And especially coming from you, a motivational speaker who should speak on behalf of them and not against them. You should be an example. I don’t know, if it was me needing motivation I wouldn’t go to someone like this for guidance. He speaks from a place without knowledge, without appreciation of seni, and without responsibility,” expressed Amy, distraught.
“I have a sahabat of mine, my bandmate Yazit (Search drummer, 53) who is very ill with dialysis but he still gets up on stage today and delivers music because of he is so passionate and this is his life. All of us, (guitarists Kid, Din, Hilary and bassist Nasir) we have done this for more than 30 years, and we’re still here,” reminds Amy. Hard to believe that these were the same family men who were, at their age, just name-called a ‘hantu‘ just two days ago.
Besides, is someone’s hijrah (‘retiring from the world of arts’) ultimately anyone else’s concern but Allah s.w.t.’s at the end of the day? If rock is bad for Malaysia, can K-Pop, for example, guarantee the wellness of our country’s youth? Art is also a creation of God, and it has always been there with the people, surviving wars, plagues, paradigm shift and technology, way before brand-building motivational speakers.
Here we go again
Another unsettling aspect of the issue with “motivational speakers” is that they are getting bolder and bolder, indicating a persistent feudal mindset among the so-called “educated” class of youth who value a certain accepted image (e.g. short hair, tie), hollow (bogus?) “academic qualifications” and “credentials” over life experience and other soft skills fostered by seni. It illustrates a clear and serious divide and difference in values which still exists between the nation’s present generation.
Moral of the story, the genuinely liberating kind of seni – of the type, reach and impact of Search – and rock, has always had a love-hate relationship with conservative Malaysia; it is rock’s job, in essence, to independently liberate. Just like it was Search’s job to appear in concert at Festival Belia Putrajaya last weekend. But not since Operasi Rambut Pendek in the early ’90s has the situation come close to such ignorance.
So overconfident conservatism rears it’s head again…but, you can never really kill rock music. And art will always be around. Yet for every generation born in Malaysia, there will always be non-rocking, killjoy squares who keep trying their mediocre best.
Perhaps Lukman and those who defend him would do well to read Mengapa Saya Masih Memetik Gitar, the book just released by Yusuf Islam, who to me is a missing link between the conflicting worlds of rock and faith, and one of the last real truth seers.
For now at least we are all reminded that this is what happens to those who mess with Amy Search and Search’s legion of fans, and in fact, the art community as a whole. To paraphrase many a wise seniman, “if you touch one of us, you touch us all.”
*Footnote:- The antagonist in this modern Malaysian rock ‘n’ roll tale withdrew his post(s), a step which Lukman claims was made only “on the advice of many”. For the next two days, a proper public apology for the patronising statement was still demanded by many offended professional rock musicians, fans and listeners of Amy and Search.
Late Tuesday, Lukman Muhammad finally caved in to public opinion and apologised, personally and publicly. Alhamdulillah.