GEORGE TOWN LITERARY FESTIVAL : WORDS MUSIC. It’s about time we did our second feature on this year’s George Town Literary Festival (25–27 November). The bookshop – together with Penang Institute – is sponsoring a performance of fathers and sons, words and music in a unique four-hander.
For many decades, both A. Samad Said (Pak Samad) and Cecil Rajendra have been acknowledged as leading Malaysian public intellectuals. They have produced poetry that is at once expressive and socially engaged, equally affecting when performed aloud or read on the page. Here they present poems in alliance with their musician sons, the composer guitarist Az Samad and the didgeridoo player Yasunari Rajendra. A fresh exploration of lyric and rhythm that will beguile its listeners.
A. Samad Said (Pak Samad) was born in Singapore in 1932. His first job was at Singapore General Hospital, but six months later he moved to Kuala Lumpur to work for the newspaper Fikiran Rakyat. He then joined Berita Harian, a national daily and became its editor. At the same time he was also made special assistant to the group editor of the Straits Times Group. Samad left the group in 1987, and since then has been a full-time writer. He is renowned for his poetry, novels, short stories, essays and plays. His major works include Salina, Hujan Pagi, Cinta Fansuri, Al-Amin, Warkah Eropah and Lantai T. Pinkie. His most recent anthology of essays is Ilham di Tepi Tasik. He received the Southeast Asia Write Award in 1979 and in 1986 was accorded the Anugerah Sasterawan Negara (National Literary Award), Malaysia’s leading literary honour. He was the co-chairperson of Bersih 2.0.
The guitarist-composer-educator Az Samad graduated from and taught at the Berklee College of Music, USA, as well as completing a Masters in Music (Jazz Studies) from San Jose State University. A versatile musician, he has recorded with Grammy winners Flaco Jiménez and Max Baca; performed in the United States, Europe and in many Asian countries; and appeared on 22 albums ranging in style from Tex-Mex and contemporary jazz to solo acoustic guitar. He has also appeared as a soloist with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. His works have been described as ‘richly textured, poetic and atmospheric’. Previously based in Berkeley, California, Az now lives in Kuala Lumpur. In addition to performing and teaching, he also records, writes music for short films and mentors aspiring musicians. As a writer, Az was a columnist with The Star for the column ‘Beats & Bytes’.
Cecil Rajendra is a lawyer by profession but a poet by compulsion. Despite being in active legal practice, notably in human rights cases, he has published over 20 collections of poetry and written a highly acclaimed biography of Asia’s striptease queen Rose Chan, No Bed of Roses (2013). His poems have been published in over 50 countries and been translated into several languages. A collection of poems to celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of his first book – Personal & Profane – was published in 2015. And his new collection – Shakti Symphony: Love Lyrics – came out earlier this year. Cecil Rajendra has received multiple awards for his poetry and human rights work, including a Malaysian Lifetime Humanitarian Award in 2004 and a Danish International Visiting Artist award in 2011. In 2015 he was declared a Living Heritage Treasure by Penang Heritage Trust.
Yasunari Rajendra holds a degree in fashion design from Middlesex University, United Kingdom. But his real interests lie in exploring the natural universe through various creative disciplines. He has produced music albums, films and documentaries, fabricated didgeridoos, created murals, and designed posters and book covers for Malaysian and international publishers. He has collaborated in multi-arts productions with cultural icons such as the photographer Ismail Hashim and dancer/choreographer Aida Redza. Some of his film work has appeared in productions for the Discovery Channel and 20th Century Fox. As a senior partner of Friends of Artistes Liaison he has also organised and participated in several musical events and is currently with the Kim Haus group.
Supported by Penang Institute and Gerakbudaya Bookshop Penang.