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PUBLISHED: Jul 26, 2015 3:30pm

A moment with jazz pianist Michael Veerapen

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By:
Sharifah Arfah

Michael Veerapen will be acting as the music curator at the mega DiverseCity 2015 festival, a platform that gathers local and international musicians to showcase their cultural diversity. — TRP pic by Arif Kartono.

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MUSIC accompanist, producer, record studio head, and mentor are among the recognitions Malaysia music guru Michael Veerapen gathered in his career since the early 80s. The Seremban-born Veerapen is credited with promoting the appreciation of jazz and contemporary music in Malaysia, and helped form the regionally-renowned fusion funk band Asia Beat.

He is the music curator for the upcoming performing arts festival DiverseCity 2015 that will take place from late August to early October this year. Of ambitious scale – involving at least 200 musicians in the Music segment alone — the festival is designed to highlight Malaysia’s cultural diversity and explore ties with ASEAN nations. The Rakyat Post (TRP) catches up with the multi-talented man on the upcoming festival.

TRP: Can you remember the earliest instance of your involvement in music?

Veerapen: I started playing the piano when I was 4-years-old. I remembered listening to some music then, as well.

TRP: Who inspired you take a more serious career approach in music?

Veerapen: I listened to the likes of Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, John Coltrane and Oscar Peterson. This somewhat shaped my move to study contemporary music at Berklee (College of Music) although I was into classical music prior to that.

Jazz and contemporary music is Veerapen's passion and forte. — allaboutjazz.com pic
Jazz and contemporary music is Veerapen’s passion and forte. — allaboutjazz.com pic

TRP: What do you think of the local appreciation towards Jazz and contemporary music? Has there been any noticeable increase in interest in these genres?

Veerapen: We (jazz and contemporary musicians) are small but thriving. I think we have very good acceptance rate, in terms of the number of people coming to listen to jazz, compared to our neighbouring countries. So I’d say although the numbers are not great – they’re never that great for jazz – the number of places we get to perform at and the number of fans who support us are high in the ASEAN region.

TRP: You mentioned a few places (for music) such as No Black Tie. As a music lover, where do you go for your music fix?

Veerapen: I go to YouTube. Everything you want is on YouTube.

Veerapen started playing the piano since he was four years old. — No Black Tie pic
Veerapen started playing the piano since he was four years old. — No Black Tie pic

TRP: What can you say about music appreciation among young people today? Has music literacy come a long way?

Veerapen: A huge way. When I was starting out, there was no such thing as music colleges. But after having come back from Berklee in 1982, I started a career in music. I think more people started seeing that you can be successful in music. The image of musicians — from junkies to professional — slowly transformed. Nowadays, parents are considering music as a viable career option. So you got UCSI, you got International College of Music, UiTM, UM, UPM and USM all offering music courses, and some of them have very good pop and contemporary music programmes as well. It is a very viable career. The fact that we can actually be trained in Malaysia to the highest level says a lot.

TRP: What do you hope to achieve as DiverseCity 2015 music curator?

Veerapen: I hope to give local musicians a platform to showcase their talent. Yes, there are international acts in the festival but my focus is to highlight local musicians. That’s why we have over 200 participating musicians. My vision is to get them featured in a festival of such magnitude to show that local musicians are very talented. Last year Dasha Logan charted at number one in the UK Billboard Soul Chart. Gerard Singh reached the US Billboard chart. Which Asean country can boast of a similar achievement?

TRP: What are your hopes for the music industry in Malaysia?

Veerapen: I have the highest regard for my friends in music at every level and I hope more Malaysian musicians will gain recognition for their talents. I’m a product of Malaysia and I grew up here, so I’m very mindful of the fact that we have great musicians. I hope to display as many of them possible in this Asean festival. I’m a ‘kacang yang tak lupakan kulit’ (A peanut who doesn’t forget its shell). I know my roots and origin.

Note:

Expect to see performances from musicians such as Dasha Logan, Bunkface,Gerard Singh, Datuk Khadijah Ibrahim and the National Symphony Orchestra at the DiverseCity festival. Regional greats such as legendary Filipino songstress Kuh Ledesma and Indonesian crooner Marcell Siahaan will also make their appearances. For details on the event, visit www.diversecity.my

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