A comeback after 10 years

AFTER almost 10 years without a new album since his first titled ‘asa ati aku’ was released in 1999, Kuching-born recording artiste Tuah Jili or TJ has sprung back to record his second single Iban album in September.

His first album with 10 songs were reportedly reproduced several times over because of overwhelming response from his fans.

TJ comes from a Malay family but is well-versed in Iban. Born in May 26, 1970, as the youngest in a family of seven siblings, he has been known for his versatility in cultural performance since young. He is a singer, dance choreographer, trainer and dancer all rolled into one.

thesundaypost recently talked with him about his career as an artiste and the recording of his second single album with TBC Productions in Sibu.

Q: It’s been 10 years since the release of your first album. Why make the comeback now?

A: It’s not really 10 years without singing — just 10 years with no new album. I have been performing here and there and many of my fans kept asking when I would be coming up with a new Iban album.

Actually, since my last album was released in 1999, I have been attached to the cultural section of the Social Development and Urbanisation Ministry. So, I have little time to think about making a new album till now.

Q: Anything special about this new album?

A: It’s a special gift to all my fans. I can promise this new album will be better than the first one. There will be a new concept and fresh ideas, including changes in songs and video clips.

Q: What is the concept of your new album?

A: Actually, it has two inter-related concepts — advice and community. The target listeners will be both teenagers and adults.

Q: Will your new album be better?

A: I keep learning to speak Iban with better diction. It’s the most important thing. Unlike the first album, I’m now in a position to understand the meanings and emotions of songs even better.

Q: What is your favourite singing tone?

A: I’m more to high tone because it gives me and my listeners some sort of energy and I can say this new album will be in high tone — a challenge to my vocal. There will be five fast and five sentimental songs.

Q: How long will it take for you to complete all the songs?

A: The soonest will be three days, at least. Three songs per day, and for the video clips, shooting will start in Sibu and Bintulu after Hari Raya.

Q: How about promotion?

A: It will be done in January 2010. There will be a live concert and meet-the-fans sessions in Sibu and Bintulu.

Q: You used to sing Malay songs during your younger days. Why record an Iban album?

A: Most people ask me this and the easiest way to explain to them is that if you find you have something extra in you like a talent rarely found in other people, then it should be nurtured and developed further. Am I right?

Q: Do you agree the Iban music industry is less risky, less glamorous and not very competitive compared to the Malay music industry?

A: Yes and no. To be a full-time singer, it’s important to be committed at all times, not only when you sing in Iban, Malay or other languages. It’s a life-long career for some singers but I’m not a full time singer.

It’s wrong to say the Iban music industry is not competitive. The ‘lagu terbilang iban’ pr ogramme in RTM, for instance, shows Iban music has been recognised as a unique industry, especially in Sarawak.

There are also some award events for Iban artistes here. Maybe, it cannot yet compete with the Malay music industry which has a bigger market, but Iban music is now well accepted by most Sarawakians, regardless of race, and not only by the Iban community.

Q: Can you tell us about the lyricists and the music composer of the songs in your new album?

A: Downey George contributed nine songs. He gave me the lyrics in 2000 but during that time, as you know, I had no time to do it. He is a teacher in one of the schools here but I have not heard from him for a long time. Still, I will do my best to express his ideas through the songs. The other lyricist is Dellixon Samat who wrote one song. The music composer is Jeffery Nyaloi who is also a singer under TBC Productions.

Q: Can you remember when you first got involved in this industry?

A: I have been singing since 1985 in Kuching at 15. I used to participate in singing contests, among them, the Majlis Bandaraya Kuching Selatan competition. There were several offers for me to do some entertainment shows in RTM Kuching programme and also Hari Raya programmes with RTM and many others. That was before I became a recording artiste.

Q: When was your last singing competition?

A: In 1998 in Sibu.

Q: Do you know how many Malay singers have ventured into the Iban music industry and come up with albums in Sarawak?

A: If I’m not mistaken, probably not fewer than 10.

Q: Is there any special reason for your return to the industry?

A: No, I just want to be part of the industry, support it with my involvement and make it more exciting. If I had the opportunity, I would like to compete with the rest of the great Iban singers.

Q: How do you see the competition among the new Iban singers?

A: No doubt, there are many starlets, especially among young Iban singers. I’m happy with the progress of the industry compared to my time. But of course, the new generation of listeners will give me new challenges and maybe also motivation to be more active in singing. Who knows?

Q: Do you think the rising young Iban singers will influence the success of your new album?

A: No. Probably, they sing because it is their career and they need to ensure success in their work. For me, I sing just for my fans. It’s one way for me to express ideas and give some advice. As for making money, I don’t really think about it. So long as my fans can accept my new songs, it’s more than enough for me. But I do hope my new album will be as success as my first.

Q: Any last word?

A: I hope my comeback will well received by them, and the new album will be successful.

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