Saturday, December 4, 2010

Artistic Front Line Asia - Message To The Messenger

"I am Pete...
I am a singer...

Pete Teo, 
Tokyo Time Out, Nov 25, 2010

I have finally get the chance to meet the guy!

It wouldn't be surprising to see many of us asking, "Pete Teo who?" Allow me to put it in one simple line. Pete Teo to me, can be considered the sifu of Malaysian independent music and films. Even heard of a music video entitled "Here In My Home", which was a hit back home about two years ago? How about the 15Malaysia short film project, launched as recent as last year? Yes, you got it right. Pete Teo is the main behind those two projects. A rare talent who is known for his quirkiness, his humours, and most of all, his sublime artistry.


I first came to know about Pete Teo coming down to Tokyo from my senior Andrew. Pete was among the delegate members representing the film "Year Without A Summer" at this year's Tokyo Filmex International Film Festival. I didn't manage to watch the screenings of that film; nevertheless, I got to know that he would be doing a live gig during his one-week stay in Tokyo. I know chances like this do not come often. It was a great opportunity for me to catch Pete performing, what's better than to see him live in Tokyo. So, I didn't even have to think twice whether or not I should attend the gig. The decision was obvious.

Call it a coincidence. His gig was held on a weekday, Thursday to be precise. It was so happened I do not have any classes on Thursday; just perfect for me to go to Tokyo to see him performing.


The venue was Time Out Café & Diner, Tokyo, which is just a few steps away from JR Ebisu station.


It was a building with simple designs that one may mistaken it as a warehouse!


The ticket to the live gig, which comes with a drink.

Andrew couldn't make it to the gig, but I met up with another senior of mine there, Clement, whom I believe is quite a big fan of Pete Teo. Perhaps it's because both of them came from the same part of the country. Just like how Pete put it, they call themselves "brothers" as the two of them came from East Malaysia; one from Tawau and the other from Kuching. (This doesn't mean I am stereotyping people from the East Malaysia. No offense to people coming from Sabah and Sarawak, alright?)

We spotted Pete instantly when we stepped into the Liquid Room on the second floor. Pete was busy doing some final tuning to the instruments while talking to several fellow Malaysians who were there to catch his performance as well. Clement and I went to grab some drinks first and played with our cameras to find the best setting for photos later that evening. However, one unexpected incident happened to me. An unlucky one.

While sitting on the bar stool, I let my left arm resting on the table. But my chimpanzee-length-triple-XL long arm accidentally hit a cup of beer. If that was my cup, I wouldn't mind at all, but I saw my cup was still sitting handsomely on the table. That means it was someone else's cup. I turned around and saw a mini beer waterfall, flowing from the table all the way down the floor =.=

I apologised to that guy immediately and quietly  cursed myself for being such a clumsy guy. My unlucky victim was a middle-age guy, who was dressed smartly in a suit. Fortunately, he didn't lash out at me for my carelessness. Instead, he went to look for tissue to clean up the mess with me. However, from his facial expression, I could feel that he wasn't really happy with what had happened. That, was the beginning of a mistake that I should have avoided.


Miyake Yohei started the gig at eight sharp. He is the vocalist in the band Inushiki a.k.a. Doggystyle.


He was accompanied by Peace-K, who played the percussion.


Peace-K introducing an instrument that look like a saucer and told us that its sound will make everyone sleepy haha!

My guess that he wasn't completely happy with that incident was correct. After a while, he came to me and said, "You spilled my drink just now, so aren't you getting me a new one?" To be honest, I was clueless on how should I reply him at that very moment. I gotta say it was my wrong as I shouldn't have waited for him to say that to me. I should have gotten his drink replaced with a new one.  So, I got him a cup of Heineken and he accepted it graciously. The next unexpected thing to happen right after that was, he started to chat with me in a really friendly way, as if we are friends. The waterfall incident was forgotten.

I found out that Mr Tatsurou Ueda is a manager for two rock bands - Kenso and Ryo Okumoto. These bands tours around Europe and USA regularly and he works for them on friendly basis. I initially thought that he was a Malaysian from his physical look and also his great command of English. I have to say his accent is just like a native American. However, I was later told that he is a pure Japanese, which made me feel awkward and look kinda silly for thinking that he was a Malaysian all those while haha!


Pete standing among the crowd with his drink, while watching Yohei and Peace-K performs.


Just like his band, noted for its blend of reggae, rock, and funk as well as its revolutionary politics and lyrics, all these elements were evident during his performance.

I am not gonna talk much about Pete, as you can read his details on his Wikipedia page. I will instead, talk stuff that isn't found elsewhere. Stuff that he shared with us during the live gig that evening. It was the power of social networking site that brought this two Asian talent together. Pete got to know Miyake through Twitter! It was through only a few exchanges at Twitter not long ago, that they decided to meet up and ended up doing a live gig in Tokyo.

Although the style of the two are different from each other, one thing that brought them together was the quote - "Music is not just about entertainment; it can become a far more tremendous thing if the artists in Asia come and work together". When two great talents from Malaysia and Japan team up, the result is just beyond description. You get something special, something that makes you forget everything for a moment but just to chill and relax. I don't think it would be an understatement to say that they were just simply brilliant. Their ability to connect with the audiences through their songs is one thing that makes them special.


Pete takes on the centre stage.


He is quite a joker at times. Before he started his show, he asked us if he is allowed to swear lol!


Part of the Malaysians sitting at the front row. All wanted to get as near as possible to Pete to prove that they are Pete's penyokong setia haha!

He revealed to us on his initial plan with his manager that he wanted to have a sad and depressing setting for this gig. He had planned to prepare several boxes of razor blades to be distributed to his audience to use! It was to suit the atmosphere and his songs - quiet, sorrow, gloomy kind of feeling. If you have heard Pete's song before, you would get what I mean. However, they decided that it was not a wise idea after all and he put away with that plan.

Still, he gave us an early reminder to try not to fall asleep halfway through his show haha!


Tongue out. Perhaps that was directed to some "idiots" he described to the audiences that evening.


Most of Pete's song are manic depressive, brooding, bittersweet and epic to the point of being cinematic.


He has a wonderfully intimate voice and runs you through the whole gamut of emotions from euphoria to melancholy with his lyrics and tunes.

In the words of Marco Werman, Pete Teo is "not your typical singer-songwriter". He has written music for TV and documentaries on the UK's Channel 4 TV, which included composing the theme music for the show. He has taught Social Theory at the London School of Economics. He has led a Cantonese pop band - Mid Century in Hong Kong. However, a series of mishaps prevented Mid Century's record being recorded, and the lure of big money and family took him away from the music scene for nearly ten years. He gave up music. He revealed to us that it was not because he hated music, but because he was disappointed the industry.

Pete then became a financial analyst in Kuala Lumpur, and later, a project manager. Along the way, his marriage broke down. That was the turning point because an old friend and record producer Leo Fung came over for a visit. The result is a sensational award winning indie record by the name of "Rustic Living For Urbanites",  Pete's first solo album that has since spawned a Top-10 single in Malaysia and garnered rave reviews all over the world.

His voice is a soft vibrato that gradually pulls you into his reflective, deep, and sometimes pensive storytelling. The best way to put his music into a specific genre would be to say that it is an entertaining form of alternative-folk. This is an art form expressed from an individual's soul. The man is a poet, a true artisan developing his craft in every composition.


Pete was so into his music that his guitar string snapped at the end of his singing session.


He had to change the string before proceeding to the next session jamming session with Miyake and Peace-K.


Miyake's lyrical poetry style is unique as it express his personal and emotional feelings that carries deep meanings.

Through his songs, I could sense his frustration and disappointment on how good musics and local talents are often overlooked in Malaysia. But it was not only about that. It's also about other problems that plague our country like education, freedom of speech, racial discrimination, religion, corruption, censorship and the list just goes on.

"Malaysia is a really beautiful country, but there is a small group of people who are poisoning her".


Pete reacting to some funny lines from Miyake.


The audiences at the live gig. The number was way more than I initially expected and Pete actually has quite a huge number of fans in Japan.


I wished that they would just continue singing through the night. Watching these two talents made me hoping that the show will not end.


The late Yasmin once told Pete, "If there's a few more like you, perhaps we might turn this country around."

Towards the end of the jamming session, Miyake revealed about his earlier plan to perform the song "I Go" with Pete as the final song of the evening. That was the first song from Pete that Miyake came across at Youtube when he searched for Pete's song and he thought it was a very beautiful song. I cannot agree more. It is a hauntingly beautiful work of art, a deeply moving song, a serious tear jerker. The melody and the lyrics just blend perfectly.

Pete was very well aware that his fans were hoping him to sing that song on that evening as well. Besides being made the cover version for the late Yasmin Ahmad's fifth and final film, "Talentime" last year, its Malay version "Pergi", sung by Aizat won the Song Of The Year award for 2009 at the Anugerah Juara Lagu 24.


Both of the performing the last song of the night entitled "Blue", and the crowd went sigh. "Don't worry, it's a long song," Pete reassured them.


It was a exceptional live performance from Pete and Miyake. Pete giving that sign to the audience.


And a deserving hug to Peace-K. 

However, Pete rejected that idea to sing the song "I Go" in respect of Yasmin's passing. The relationship he shared with the late Yasmin was alive were more than just working partners; they were really close with each. However, as both of them were always busy with their own commitments, they do not meet up much and only communicate through short messages in each others cellular phones. So, it was understandable that he decided not to sing that song on that evening.

In fact, he refrained himself from talking much about the late Yasmin that evening because he knew he could just break down. To make up for that, he sang the classic song, "Blue" from his first album. The song was written upon a theme of "departing person and those who were left behind" and literally is a song that is appropriate for the finale of this event.

Pete revealed that the two of them have agreed to do another live performance early next year, around the end of February. This time, it will be in Kuala Lumpur and I am already looking forward to catch them again. Oh by the way, remember Mr Tatsurou Ueda, the beer guy? He told me at the end of the gig that of the three live gigs by Pete that he has seen in Tokyo, this one is no doubt the best of all.


Clement and I spent some time chatting with Pete.


For all the fame he has, I gotta say Pete is such a down-to-earth guy whose friendliness could be felt instantly. He would talk to you like long-time friends even though you just meet him for the first time.


"Malaysians have one great skill when taking photos: making funny faces" - Pete. But I think it's more suitable to call my face a weird, rather than a funny face haha!


Got Pete's first album autographed!

This live gig by Pete Teo and Miyake Youhei was indeed one with full excitement. Miyake and Peace-K gave an energetic performance, while the songs by Pete were set in depressing tones. Their combination of "action" and "static" tones in their performances gave the live show a great contrast, which the audiences enjoyed it a lot. All the songs that Pete sang on the evening were in English, while most of the audiences were Japanese. 

However, just like Pete put it, "Even thought we do not understand the language, if it is a good music, it will still reach the heart".


CLF said...

next Feb in KL!??!? I'M ON!!!

nice post up Calv!!

calvin said...

@ cliff clf:
yup! initially, it was just an idea but they have finally decided to have a live show in kl next february. hopefully, i can watch that them again =)

do check out pete's facebook and blog for the details ;)