A timeline of tunes
Dama Orchestra puts on a show to take you on a musical journey through the last four decades. Rosheen Fatima takes a peek at what’s on offer.
Mention ‘Dama Orchestra’ to a theatre-going person and chances are that they will think of Chinese golden oldies, Chinese traditional music, and grand, finely-tuned musicals. Not that they would be wrong; these are, after all, Dama staples. But this October, they will be smashing these perceptions and taking a huge leap out of the proverbial box.
Their innovative latest offering, ‘In Perfect Harmony – A Malaysian Musical Journey’ celebrates the songs that have touched Malaysian hearts over the course of the last four decades, shaping the musical journey of Malaysia. These songs span genre, gender, race, language, generation and culture; bridging the gaps between Malaysians as they embrace the universal love of good music. With a list of over 40 songs, this production is set to be one of Dama Orchestra’s biggest yet and presents the songs in a way that has not been done before. Taking the audience through the decades, from the music of the psychedelic ’70s to the auto-tuned music of today, Dama uses a time-travelling radio station as the central narrative and a DJ as the tour guide.
‘We always wanted to do something that represents Malaysia. It was just a matter of timing,’ says the director Pun Kai Loon. The musical began with a list of over a thousand songs, which as you can imagine, was a daunting task to narrow down. Kai Loon explains that after compiling the list, they found that they had selected an older list of songs that didn’t necessarily represent the younger generation. ‘In order to represent all ages, we asked for feedback from youths,’ he explains.
The result is a repertoire that includes songs that Malaysians of any age will recognise. Half the songs are international English songs, and the other half consists of Malaysian and Asian songs, including ‘Lagenda’, ‘Getaran Jiwa’ and ‘Nobody’ (you read that right). The English list includes universal favourites, such as Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, and medleys from Michael Jackson and The Bee Gees. And of course, the title song, ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)’ by The New Seekers. One of the most dramatic departures from Dama’s past shows is that this production will not have a single instrumental number.
The production team consists of music director Khor Seng Chew, concert master Gan Boon Wee, composers and arrangers Loo Fung Chiat and Loo Fung Ying, costume designer Dominique Devorsine and choreographer David Lee. We are thrilled that David’s on board as he has been working in the West End since he was 17 – both as a dancer and choreographer). He has worked on productions such as ‘Miss Saigon’, ‘Fame’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’! ‘It is a great experience for me as a Malaysian to be able to learn the craft, bring it home, and share it with Malaysians. In terms of the songs, it will be tweaked, and done in our own version, so that they are different from the original and will have a “Dama” stamp on them’, explains David. Naturally, this will also be reflected in the choreography, which ‘will have a fresh interpretation and will twist into different genres’, he adds.
The cast is a veritable smorgasbord of Malaysian talent from the music and theatre industries. Tan Soo Suan, Chang Fang Chyi and Tria Aziz are the lead singers for the production and will be supported by a 20 personstrong ensemble. The cast also includes Patrick Teoh who will be narrating the show, and Douglas Lim who will be playing the DJ. The show will also feature guest artistes Zainal Abidin (Oct 6-9), Sean Ghazi (Oct 12-16), David Arumugam (Oct 19-23) and the acapella group The Seasons 4 (Oct 12, 16, 19 & 23).
With over 40 songs representing Malaysian music history, this musical promises to have something for all Malaysians from all walks of life, creating – with a single show – an audience that will come together in perfect harmony.