Ms Boo Su-Lyn, in our definitive music column, White Noise, debuts on LoyarBurok with a lyrical review of MyConstitution’s (superb, first-of-its-kind album, period, no doubt about it) “Radio Demokratika”. Is there any reason not to get it even if there is some “forgettable rock mish-mash”?
Condensing an intricate document like the Federal Constitution into song seems like a monumental task. The Constitution covers a myriad of topics from something as relatable as fundamental liberties to more complex stuff like federal and state relations. Radio Demokratika focuses on the essence of the Constitution, which is basic human rights that the supreme law of the land has guaranteed in our democracy.
Radio Demokratika brings the Constitution out from a dusty legal library to young people who only have the slightest idea about the existence of the most important document in Malaysia. Without being preachy, the album speaks simply of our powers to shape the nation as we want it. It contains some teenage angst at the big, bad world, but hardly sinks to hopelessness and despair.
The first song by barcode titled “MyConstitution Is Mine” sums up the raison d’etre of the Constitution, which is the supremacy of the Constitution above all other laws and which governs the country. Instead of feeling helpless amid a myriad of laws like the ISA and the OSA, the song tells us to reclaim our freedom in the Constitution. Light and breezy, it calls on us to step up instead of merely complaining against injustice.
Another notable song is the “Low of The Land” by Azmyl Yunor, a melancholic piece about the harsh reality of Malaysia that sharply contrasts with other more hopeful pieces in the album. Sung in a deep, gravelly voice, the Low of The Land evokes wastelands ridden by poverty, and the banal lives of people who have nothing to look forward to till the day they die. It’s a reminder that no matter how vociferous the cries for rights and freedom, many just want to eke a decent living without caring much for such urbane, philosophical ideas. Arguably, one of the most memorable songs in the album with its saturnine mood.
“Shine A Light” by Thin Izzy nicely lists out the various liberties enshrined in the Constitution, like right to law and due process, right to freedom of expression, right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and others. The chorus is catchy, though the song sounds mostly clumsy with big mouthfuls of words like “subjugated” and “castigate”.
One of the two songs with a female lead, “Lip Service” by The Sounders, is a strong, in-your-face piece that slaps the powers-that-be for breaking its promises of freedom. Raw and emotional, the song easily expresses the frustration of many Malaysians who are often fed with empty pledges made by politicians at opportune times.
“Moral Bankruptcy” by MC Stiff is an excellent rap piece with an effortless, distinctive tune. It captures one of the most pervasive and destructive problems in Malaysia: corruption. From corrupt leaders to political patronage and rigged elections, Moral Bankruptcy easily summarises the biggest obstacles preventing the progress of the country. It blends the philosophical idea of power struggles to actual battles on the ground for our basic rights to lift Malaysia from sinking into a failed democracy.
An upbeat, cheerful piece, “MyConstitution” by Rule of Rock calls us to jump to our feet and change the world, or rather, Malaysia for a start. It tells us to spread the message of the Constitution with the religious fervour of evangelists. MyConstitution is one of the most optimistic pieces in the album with its relentless push for quick action.
The only Malay song on the album, “Joget Melayu Liberal” by Panda Head Curry? is a rather amusing piece that pokes fun at lawyers for making the Constitution a recondite document and cheekily suggests that engineers would have made it simpler through numbers and charts. It also admonishes those who complain without bothering to cast their vote at the ballot box. Catchy and funny, Joget Melayu Liberal stresses the importance of voting, saying it differentiates us from animals like jellyfish and seals in the North Pole. One of the funniest lines is telling people not to complain that they can’t buy beer or visit massage parlours if they don’t bother to vote. As a fitting end to the album, the song calls on us to know and hold on to our rights.
Radio Demokratika is a bold effort at making the Constitution attractive to young people who are mostly indifferent to politics. The messages are sharp and simple without sinking to mere angsty whinging, though some songs seem rather far-fetched from the overall theme. Some clever and inventive gems lift this album from descending to forgettable rock mish-mash.
Ms Boo is an idealist who believes there is still some good in the world. She can’t live without writing stories, whether fictional pieces or in her line of work as a reporter. Psychology is her pet topic and she has published a preliminary qualitative study on the work experiences of people with mental illness in Malaysia. She has also written short stories and poems – “City of Flesh” in an anthology called “Urban Odysseys: KL Stories”, “Raped…Or Not?” and “Adam, Eve or Me?” respectively in an anthology called “Young Women Speak Out”. She has only just discovered the truth about Lord Bobo, and is hooked.