Joanna Funk

music, gardening and my dog

Book Launch Speeches — Video and Transcripts

Video and transcripts of the speeches at the book launch of SabahSongs: Contemporary Music in Sabah, at the Jesselton Hotel, Kota Kinabalu on December 20, 2012.

Speech by Datuk CL Chan (the publisher)

First of all I would like to thank YB Datuk Masidi Manjun for taking his very precious time to be here with us this morning. As you know this is the Christmas season, and the traffic is extremely bad. At short notice, he was able to agree to officiate the launch this morning, thank you very much indeed Datuk.

A very warm welcome to everybody, Datuk-Datuks, Datin-Datins, ladies and gentlemen, members of the music community in KK of which, I believe, most of them are here this morning.

I have been very privileged indeed to have been invited, or rather approached by Joanna, some two-and-a-half months ago. She came up with this idea of publishing a book about her blog, SabahSongs. Basically I’m not really a music person, although I listen to cassettes and I enjoy guitars and things, but to publish a book of this nature is something that is out of Opus Publications’ area of interest, so to speak.

But this lady, Joanna Funk, born in London, with her beautiful English, managed to persuade me – she is absolutely passionate about her blog. She’s not paid for it, of course, and I told her, “Look, I really don’t have much confidence about marketing this book. However if you are able to raise money, I will be happy to be your sponsor in kind, meaning I will be able to publish the book, with no cost from my end, and we will get the book out for you.”

I said, “Everyone who sees your passion must show support, if he is human, and we all are.” I’m very grateful that Joanna was able to put everything together, inspite of her busy schedule. She has been here for four years, but only recently had the idea of putting a book together and actually publishing it in hard form, rather than just leaving it on the internet as a blog.

I think it is very important to document the development of music history in Sabah. As I said, I’m no music person, but I can see all these cheerful faces in the book, and I feel very, very privileged and honoured to be associated with a book in which I have put in effort, and of course in particular, my son – who has done most of the job.

I am only saying a few words here this morning, and I can say that the book will be on the book shelves for years to come. Obviously, we don’t expect that the end of the world will come in a few days, but if it does, Joanna would have published the book before that! Let’s give her a big applause.

Before I end my very short speech, a very big thank you again to all of you, in particular the Minister of Tourism, for being here with us, to celebrate the birth of this very special book, SabahSongs: Contemporary Music in Sabah by Joanna Funk. Everybody who has contributed to the success of it; everyone who has been pictured, or featured in the book, has actually made history today. I”m very grateful that I am a little part of that, to have actually made it happen. Thank you very much and all the best to all of you.

Speech by Joanna Funk (author)

Well. Minister, ladies and gentlemen my honoured guests, and all the people working in music in Sabah who are here today, thank you very much for being here. This is a really happy day. I have many, many people to thank, people who have all played a big part helping bring this book together.

Firstly of course I would like to thank the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, YB Datuk Masidi Manjun, who was 100% behind this book, when I first approached him about it. Because of that support, he really paved the way for us to go ahead with this project, and I really can’t thank him enough. Thank you, Minister.

Next I would like to tell you just how wonderful the book publisher has been. Datuk CL Chan, director of Opus Publications, let me to talk until I was blue in the face about how great our local musicians were, and he said, “Ooh! You are so passionate! You remind me how I feel about my books! So I’m going to contribute to this by designing the book and laying it out for you for free.” So our project was on.

The thing is, we had a very short time period to do this, and the Datuk’s son – Chan Hin Ching – who is the graphic designer for Opus Publications, managed to lay the whole book out, within three weeks! This must be a record for sure in publication history. On my part, I had to edit all the copy to give to Hin Ching, and then go out and raise the money to get the book printed. But before I go on to talk about our life-saving sponsors, let me say once more, thank you very much to Datuk CL Chan and Chan Hin Ching of Opus Publications.

Along with the Minister himself, there is the Sabah Tourism Board – where are you? Ah, there. I really hope you enjoy the book SabahSongs, and that you enjoy sharing it with other people. I – and everyone who is in this book – we are all really honoured that you believe it is something that can represent the state of Sabah. Thank you very much to all of you.

For Mega Boogie – the father and son management team of Mega Boogie, that is Haji Barrie Laiman Diki, or Uncle Barrie as we know him, and his son Lazman, regret that they cannot be here today because they are in Singapore. However, I’m glad to say that the members of the Mega Boogie crew – who are Pian, Rizal and Izhar – are going to be representing Mega Boogie here today. I’m really happy about that! Mega Boogie introduced me to a whole new world in Sabah. A world all about lights and sound equipment, so I learned all these new words like “trussing”, “line array”, “PAR CAN”, expressions like “Front of House”. They also showed me a completely different way to live, because they are a very close community, very hard-working Sabahans who are so proud to be working for Mega Boogie, and their association with SabahSongs has really been an honour for me. So, thank you very much to Mega Boogie.

The Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival and the Society of Performing Arts in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (or SPArKS) are two organisations with a vision to build up Sabah – and Kota Kinabalu in particular – to be a cultural hub in the region. I approached the people who I know best, who were Roger Wang and Datuk Adeline, and they were so supportive of this book. But these organisations are represented by many dedicated people, and today they are represented by KK Jazz Festival Co-Organising chairman Jack Ong, and SPArKS President Cheong Kok Ann. They welcomed me to so many events over the years and provided SabahSongs with loads of material both for the blog and the book. So thank you very much to KKJF and SPArKS.

Sponsor Asian Supply Base (Labuan) is represented here by Director Datuk Uzair and his son Ben. The Datuk is a really cool, blues guitarist. He has a fabulous jamming studio at his home, and I’ve met about half the KK music community at that place. He also called me over to meet Dicken, who was the guitarist from Ranau who played with Man Keedal at Stompin’ Sabah a few years ago, and I did a story based on that. I also met Mega Boogie’s Uncle Barrie at the Datuk’s house, and he said, “Oh you’re the lady who writes about music. Come and see my studio.” I did, and well, the rest is history. Datuk Uzair’s studio is affectionately known as the “Ketiau Blues Centre”, is that right? So on behalf of all the musicians that you have supported, and for supporting SabahSongs, thank you very much Datuk Uzair.

The Sabah State Library has ordered 40 books, and I have to admit that when I heard that order I did cry a little bit. I mean, it’s the Library right? It’s like we really made history, and I couldn’t get over that! I sort of hope that students doing research about music history will read about all of you! That made me feel very nice. Also, my dad was a journalist, and he was Press Officer for the last British Governor here, who was William Goode. So my dad’s writings are in the Sabah Archives, and now – fifty years later – his daughter goes into the Sabah Library. So I feel that we have come full circle in a way.

Chef Leo! What can I say about my awesome friend Chef Leo, of Bella restaurant and Bombers Burger. He is a sponsor of our book, he is the sponsor of this book launch, and over the last few years he has employed local musicians including: Raimon, Sonny B, Momain Blues, Jiaja, Suhaimie Jamli, Alvin MY, Oswald Perera, Johnny Toft, JADEsisters, Papar musicians Fuad, Zai and Yon, and Klasik Elastik. He’s a dynamic, passionate Chef, who loves Sabah and is always looking for ways to celebrate food and music. So even though I am going away, I’m sure you will be eating his Bombers burgers to the sound of blues, or jazz, or Motown, or a capella, or rock ‘n’ roll. You stick with Leo, he will give everything back to you. He loves Sabah. Please give a hand to our Chef Leo!

I’m glad that the UMS (Universiti Malaysia Sabah) Music Department wanted to sponsor my book. Many of their members are in it! Agung Beat and UMS Big Band are also in it. I hope that UMS students will be inspired to read about the determination and the passion of our local talent; to learn from their struggles and identify with their bravery, and maybe even seek them out for research or for their advice. Choosing Music is not an easy path, and everybody tells me that their relatives say this thing: “Boleh cari makan kah?” (Roughly translates to “Think you can earn a living?”) So you better go and study at UMS and get a good music foundation! Thank you very much, UMS.

My book supporters are: Leslie Chin, director of Sabah Property Magazine, Johnny Lim, Director of Juara Media and Entertainment, and Grant Colbron of GALC. Leslie is going to run an ad about our book, Johnny is going to run an ad on the big LED screen above the stage at BED (nightclub) on the waterfront. Grant has been advising me on projects which could link Sabah and Australia; so all these people are really helping SabahSongs, so please give them a big hand.

So for those of you who don’t know much about this book, and there are a few, it comes from a blog I started writing in 2009. I came here and saw many, many talented musicians, and when I looked them up on the internet, I couldn’t find any information about them. So I thought I would change that and I started to write about them. Little by little, one person would say to me, “Do you want to meet so-and-so? He is a great guitarist, or this one makes musical instruments, or this one is a composer, or a great mentor of musicians.” Things like that. So it ended up being quite a big blog.

I have to blame the book idea on my Gang of Three, who are: Roger Wang, Yap Keng Vui and Chris Pereira. Basically, they knew I was leaving, and Yap said, “You need to make a SabahSongs book. This blog is part of our history and we need to be able to keep it in a book. They were very excited about this and by the time Roger joined us, it was like a done deal already. “Oh, just go and talk to Datuk CL Chan, you can make a book.” Just like that, huh?

Anyway, when you read this book you will enjoy it, because there are people you know in it. It’s their lives, and their voices. The band Momain Blues says, “What comes out of a Sabahan’s mouth gets put into our songs.” Well, they have won awards with their songs, and what came out of Sabahans’ mouths also went into a blog, and then a book. So you obviously have a lot to say, right? And it’s interesting too.

You really have your own voice. I hear some people, some musicians say – they talk about West Malaysian or overseas musicians being in a different class and stuff like that. But you know, I really disagree. On the rock stage, for example, I think Nazri Ji could shine anywhere in this world. He and his brother Naza Aja, they don’t try and be like anybody else, or sound like anybody else, they have their own voice, their own statement, and I really hope one day the whole world will get to hear about them. (And then I get the exclusive interview, right?)

I have to say goodbye, so I’m going to say it with a song, because that’s a nice way to do it. I’m going to do a short, one-and-a-half-minute song with my Klasik Elastik partner and my dear friend, Sophie Van Aerde. So we will just do it here, and we don’t need any mics.

So, thank you very much Sabah. It’s just been great!

Klasik Elastik plays “Speak Softly Love” theme from The Godfather, on melodica and violin.

EMCEE Agnes Agama announces:

Ladies and gentlemen, to now officially launch the book SabahSongs, let us put our hands together for our guest of honour, the Honourable Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

Speech by Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment (Sabah), YB Datuk Masidi Manjun

Good morning. Firstly it is an honour to be here. It is difficult to say something nice after the good music, it was a good one wasn’t it? Although the theme was somewhat, not on the heavy side, but a bit sad. I think we are here to celebrate a very important occasion!

It is the first time that we have a book on Sabah music. Now, Joanna is persistently nice…she keeps on sending me emails about this or that event. Unfortunately I was not able to attend due to my very tight schedule, but when she emailed to me about this project, I did not hesitate to support her because I think she is doing something that all of Sabah should be very, very proud of.

We all know that Sabahans are musically-inclined people. We are very nice people and I think we should not underrate ourselves. We should be proud to say that among all Malaysians, we should easily be the best among Malaysians, at least in terms of musical creativity.

The issue is basically that we don’t have much opportunity to shine. We are only a state of three million people, and there is only Kota Kinabalu and a few other cities which are places for us to shine, unlike in West Malaysia, where apart from Kuala Lumpur you also have Singapore and Penang for you to shine. So musicians do earn a better living when they live in Semenanjung. But in terms of their musical creativity, sheer talent, and the persistence to work hard, I think you can never match the Sabahans.

They continue to do music, even as a profession, notwithstanding that the income is hardly sufficient to cover their costs. I know many musicians who live from hand to mouth, so to speak. But they’re very persistent because they really love their profession. That is really what makes us better in Malaysia. We do it because we love it. That is really the foundation of all that is excellent – doing things passionately because you love doing it, you can never go wrong and you will always do well.

Now, you know, in Sabah, there are various genres of music, obviously there will be some contentious issues on certain music, but in the end I think we should accept the music as it is. Music is something that transcends race, religion or even nationality, and we should contnue to do that. We are fortunate in Sabah that we have a number of people who continuously churn out good music for us. You may not be aware of this, in our small city Kota Kinabalu which is just half a million people, we have two symphony orchestras, many jazz groups and other musical groups of course, and I’m happy to tell you that a contractor has started renovation work on the Sabah Cultural Centre in Penampang, for it to become a Centre for Performing Arts. This new facility will hopefully be ready next year, then we should be able to provide musicians in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah with a better place to do their stuff. Hopefully this, in a way, will improve the music scene in Kota Kinabalu.

Now, there are many cities in Malaysia, but as some of you may have already heard, the next Hard Rock Cafe is going to be in Kota Kinabalu. It is scheduled to be opened some time in September or October next year and in fact the merchandise shop is already here. That is the sort of symbolic confidence investors have in us, I think that is good for the music scene in Kota Kinabalu. I believe it will be in the new KK Waterfront complex, and although obviously people will have different views about it, it will make the city of Kota Kinabalu more cosmopolitan and more attractive to international travellers.

For you Joanna, we are grateful to you actually. Her ancestors were Sabahans, they migrated to the UK and she was born in London, but her heart remains very much Sabahan. I think that’s the reason why she took all the trouble to produce this book. Because she is mesmorised by the sort of rich culture that we inherit here in Sabah. In fact I keep on telling people over and over again, if there is one thing that makes the people of Sabah stand out in Malaysia and even the rest of the world, it is our cultural diversity, and our sense of tolerance and integration. Nowhere in Malaysia are Malaysians more integrated and more tolerant than in Sabah. That is something that we can celebrate, and that really gives an impetus to creativity. In Sabah people never talk about race or religion, in that when you meet a Sabahan they never ask you first, “Are you a Chinese? Are a Kadazan? Are you Bajau or Suluk? Are you a Muslim? We never, ever – if you are a true Sabahan – we never ask this question. That makes us great, makes us better Malaysians than other Malaysians. When you read about racial conflicts all over the world, tribal wars, I think – thank God – in Sabah we are spared from all these things because we think of ourselves as Sabahan, not as a Christian or Muslim or Chinese. We should make sure that it continues to remain that way.

Now Joanna, you are going off to Australia but Australia is not that far away from Sabah. From Perth it’s only about five hours back to Sabah. (Now I’m promoting Sabah as Tourism Minister!) I think all of us, in one way or another, are related to Australia. My daughter is in Australia, married to an Australian. So people are always coming back.

You have done a great, marvellous job. Although my Ministry initially pledged to order 100 copies, I believe we are going to order more, because this is going to be one of the souvenirs we give to people. This is also a symbolic way of supporting local artists, because yes, you may not be residing here but I think your work will continue to shine here among Sabahans, and I think all of Malaysia should be able to get a copy of your book.

There are not many people who would dare to publish this book simply because – as I was telling Datuk Chan – financially it doesn’t make sense. Honestly, it’s a financial burden, to say the least. But you have persevered, and I think we are proud of your work. One day, when our children or the children of our children want to see and want to learn the history of our Sabah music they can just go to the Library and read your book. All will be there. Thank you Joanna. And because of that I think you will continue to be an Honorary Sabahan even though you are a UK citizen.

To all our local artists, I say be proud of what you have and what you do. Despite the odds against you, you have done fairly well in your profession, honestly. (Speaks in Malay directly to the musicians). But the fact that you are here and have resilience, I think you have what it takes to be very successful musicians here in the future.

Joanna, congratulations. We owe you. Sabah owes you. I hope you will continue to come over here, not just to see the fruits of your labour, but perhaps to give us a second book. Also related to music, the second one can be on Traditional Music. Maybe that is something you can think about, in the future.

Datuk Chan, thank you very much for continuously supporting local publications. I know it’s not easy, I’m sure your son has sleepless nights trying to balance the books, but I tell you it’s worth all the trouble.

This is the sort of legacy that any Sabahan would want to leave for the future generations. It’s not just about money, it’s not just about a huge monument. The biggest legacy we can give to the generations is a monumental achievement. Something that every Sabahan will be able to relate to and say, “Yes, that is me, in there.” What is that? It is the feeling that we Sabahans, we may be from a far flung part of the world, but we stand tall. We say to the rest of the world, “We do it. We can do it because we are Sabahans.” This is the sort of legacy we should continue to give to the younger generations, to make them realise that they are people of excellence. Although we may be few in number, we continue to make good work for the rest of the world to enjoy.

So terima kasih, on that note, it is my pleasure to launch SabahSongs: Contemporary Music in Sabah by Joanna Funk.

, Book Launch Speeches — Video and Transcripts

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About Joanna

Joanna is British Australian. She worked mainly in financial news in London. In her forties she moved to her parents’ birthplace, Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, where she became a pianist in a hotel and wrote a blog about musicians. The blog became a book before Joanna came to Australia in 2012. In this blog she writes mostly about music, gardening, and trips to Sabah. Oh, and Wookie the Havanese.

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