Saturday, October 31, 2009

Is this the sultry-voiced 18-year-old folksinger I met so many years ago?

Anna Salleh belts it out at No Black Tie (September 2002)

Portrait of a torch singer

Anna used to be in a Sydney-based a cappella group

Jazz is her passion now (photos by Antares)

I was introduced to Anna Salleh in 1983 by her proud father, the larger-than-life bilingual poet, columnist, actor and playwright Salleh Ben Joned (pictured left). Having just bought myself a guitar a couple of years earlier, I was bowled over when Anna picked up hers and played me a couple of her own songs.

You could say I was immediately smitten by her uninhibited spirit, her strong melodious voice, and her Eurasian good looks (her mother Ariel is Australian, married her father while he was doing his Masters in English literature in Tasmania).

Lat's classic portrait of Salleh Ben Joned as a bohemian poet

But, dammit, she had just turned 18. I was only 33 then but it did seem like a huge age gap (how silly of me to even think it!). At the time I was still part of a nuclear family with two lovely daughters aged 14 and 12; and, besides, the thought of having Salleh Ben Joned as a father-in-law lent the whole prospect a somewhat surreal, if not entirely absurd, dimension, much as I love the man. Anna mentioned, as if in telepathic response to an unspoken question, that she was dating a muso named Peter, who was into folk.

Anna and I kept in sporadic contact over the years. Peter and she were part of a commune called Magic Mountain, mostly populated by artists, musicians, organic farmers, assorted oddballs, maverick scientists, and visionaries. Perhaps it was Anna's description of life at Magic Mountain that inspired my establishing the Magick River community nine years later.

My first trip to Australia was in 1991 as a guest of the Department of Foreign Affairs who sponsored a 23-day tour of five cities. I had a fantastic time meeting musicians, filmmakers, theatre activists. mystics and high-tech shamans. During my brief stay in Sydney, Anna dropped in at my tiny hotel and we had a long, leisurely natter. At the time she was part of a professional a cappella group. She was also struggling to obtain her degree in some esoteric branch of biology, while holding down a rather mundane day job, I forget what. And she was still mesmerizingly beautiful. Indeed, I thought Anna had improved with age. Take a look at these videos recorded a few weeks ago at No Black Tie...

Black Orpheus (Luiz Bonfá and Antonio Maria) performed by Anna Salleh (guitar/vocals) and friends (Xiong on guitar; Badar on percussion; Wan Azfarezal on bass) live @ Kuala Lumpur's 'No Black Tie' (12 October 2009).

Semalam di Malaya (Saiful Bahri) performed by Anna Salleh (guitar/vocals) and friends (Xiong on guitar; Badar on percussion; Wan Azfarezal on bass) live @ Kuala Lumpur's, 'No Black Tie' (12 October 2009).

Summer Samba/So Nice
(Marcos Valle/Norman Gimbel) performed by Anna Salleh (guitar/vocals) and friends (Xiong on guitar; Badar on percussion; Wan Azfarezal on bass) live @ Kuala Lumpur's, 'No Black Tie' (12 October 2009).

What a smashing diva, don't you think? Anna's back in Sydney at her day job writing and producing features for ABC Science Online - but she says she plans to spend a lot more time in Malaysia exploring her roots. I think that's an absolutely fabulous idea, Anna!

Say, how about one more number from the delectable Anna Salleh, folks? And if you still haven't had enough, check out her YouTube channel.

So Danco Samba
(VinĂ­cius de Moraes/Antonio Carlos Jobim) performed by Anna Salleh (guitar/vocals) and friends (Xiong on guitar; Badar (R) and Toninho (L) on percussion; Wan Azfarezal on bass) live @ Kuala Lumpur's, 'No Black Tie' (12 October 2009).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


From Malaysiakini: 10.55am - Police have chased off about 80 supporters outside the building, back behind the security tape. The supporters obliged, but are taunting the cops, with some shouting: "1 Malaysia, 2 Perak, 3 Katak!"

RESPECT must be earned. It cannot be bought or demanded at gunpoint. Surely, the former Lord President and present Sultan of Perak knows this simple truth. If so, why does he not enlighten his friend, the Umno crime minister, Dato Seri Najib Razak (aka Pink Lips) about the responsibilities of true leadership?

Is the Sultan of Perak the victim of BN blackmail, as this controversial report in Malaysia Today suggests? Allow me to quote a couple of paragraphs:

Nazrin’s succession to the Perak throne depends on the goodwill of the federal government. But only if the state government is a Barisan Nasional government will there be this goodwill. If Pakatan Rakyat remains the state government, then expect Nazrin to pay the price when his time comes to succeed his father.

Furthermore, the Sultan and his family has asked for a lot of things from the Pakatan Rakyat state government, all of which they rejected. Umno will ensure that the Sultan and his family get whatever they want if Barisan Nasional takes over as the Perak state government.

If there is any truth to what Raja Petra Kamarudin has written, this nation is indeed in dire straits. It would mean that the symbols of highest authority in the land - the Sultans who serve as defenders and upholders of Islam - are as corruptibly human as you and I; and some may actually be no better than the third-rate hoodlums who have infiltrated Umno over the decades and taken complete control of the country's once abundant resources.

My personal take on the contentious issue of royalty is very straightforward. Since a very tender age I have been aware that some people I meet are naturally endowed with a certain quality I choose to call "noble" (as opposed to "base"). They make a point of upholding essential values such as honesty, compassion, generosity and wisdom; and they constantly endeavor to attain an inclusive and comprehensive perspective on the world around them.

These naturally noble souls have long outgrown narrow definitions of ethnicity and their allegiance is always to truth - not rigid religious dogma. They would never go along with a political ideology as patently false, petty-minded and self-serving as "Ketuanan Melayu." Indeed, they would be fully conscious that the word "Tuan" is a contraction of "Tuhan" (or "Lord" in English); and if anyone addressed them as such, they would instinctively flinch. Pretending to be superior to others is a silly child's game, unbefitting of any mature and intelligent soul.

Of course, the world is full of examples of idiots, pretenders and usurpers who have fallen into the trap of believing themselves superior. To reinforce their grand delusion, they invariably acquire the trappings of obscene wealth and become overly fond of pomp and circumstance. These souls are at best immature; at worst a parasitic infection of the human psyche.

By playing along with their foolish game, we are equally responsible for all the injustices and imbalances we constantly complain about. Only by consciously reclaiming our dignity, sovereignty and power as divinely inspired individuals can we free ourselves of this deleterious scam that has been inflicted on the inhabitants of this edenic planet since the advent of the "creator gods" who colonized the Earth many eons ago and whose "blueblooded" descendants persist in perpetuating this great hoax.

Are we still trapped in the limited worldview of a bunch of cannibals cowering before the arrival of White Gods in flying machines who sometimes bear gifts of colorful trinkets and firewater - and at other times rape our women and massacre us with their death-dealing weaponry?

Those are events that occurred many millennia ago, although the inertia of the ancient past continues to hold sway over our traditional hierarchies. We need not be ashamed that our ancestors were awed and shocked by the so-called gods' display of military might (thunderbolt-hurling deities can be very scary). In this day and age, despite the apparent might of the plutocrats and their puerile secret societies, we have the option of uninstalling dysfunctional software and upgrading our operating systems, so that we can step boldly towards the fulfilment of our glorious destiny as free and fearless kings and queens (and princes and princesses) of our own personal domains.

[Images courtesy of The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini, The New Straits Times and Google]


Published on Malaysia Today 28 October 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Asia Sentinel | Monday, 26 October 2009

It's best to be connected to the ruling national coalition

On July 16, according to the testimony of a Thai pathologist, Teoh Beng Hock, a 29-year-old aide to an opposition politician, was probably beaten during a marathon questioning session, sodomized, strangled unconscious, dragged to a window of the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission in Kuala Lumpur and thrown to his death.

The country's law enforcement establishment maintains that Teoh committed suicide by leaping from the MACC building after the inquiry was concluded into irregularities in his boss's accounts. But it is far from the first "suicide" in custody and what happened to Teoh happens all too frequently when the luckless collide with the powerful in Malaysia. His real killers are unlikely ever to be identified. As many as 350 people have died in custody since 1990. The privileged are rarely brought to trial.

The most infamous recent case before Teoh's is that of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a 28 year-old Mongolian translator who was murdered in 2006 by two bodyguards of then-Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. Altantuya had been jilted by Najib's best friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, and was demanding money from him.

Although numerous witnesses and evidence connected Najib to the affair, he was never questioned or put on the witness stand, nor was his chief of staff, Musa Safri, who Baginda said in a cautioned statement he approached about getting Altantuya to cease her harassment. His two bodyguards were convicted of the murder although one, in his confession, said the two men were to be paid RM100,000 to kill her. The court never asked who would pay the money. The confession wasn't allowed in court. Baginda was acquitted without having to put on a defense and promptly left the country and Najib was eventually named Prime Minister.

Such questionable cases go back to at least the early 1980s when Sultan Mahmud Iskandar of Johor (left) was dubbed the "killer king" by the British tabloids after he shot a trespasser to death on his property. He also reportedly assaulted and killed a golf caddy who was said to have laughed when the sultan missed a golf stroke and he maimed the caddy's brother. He later was alleged to have assaulted and injured a hockey coach, kicking off a constitutional crisis that led to former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's removal of legal immunity from prosecution for all of Malaysia's nine sultans, although Iskandar was never either arrested or jailed.

There are plenty more. In 1988 an attractive young woman named Mustakizah Jaafar, who owned a video rental business in Malacca, was found hacked to death by unknown assailants. Mustakizah reportedly was pregnant at the time of her death. She was believed to be having an affair with Megat Junid Megat Ayob (right), the onetime UMNO deputy home affairs minister, who died in January 2008 of cancer.

No one was ever charged with Mutakizah's murder. The widespread gossip about Megat Junid's connection with Mustakizah didn't do his political career any harm. He was ultimately named Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister in 1997 although he lost his parliamentary seat two years later and retired from politics.

[Read the whole sad and sordid story here.]