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Below the radar no more

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WHEN my former colleague Joe Lee called me up to ask me to write something about how the paper played an important part in putting local independent and fringe music into the spotlight for the masses, the first thing I did was to dive into my archive of newspaper cuttings.

Yes, I still have cuttings of every single story I’ve written that was published in the pages of the paper.

I’m a hoarder like that.

As I sifted through them, rereading what my partner-in-crime Terrina Hussein and I wrote in our weekly column, Below The Radar, the further I was taken away from what I was supposed to write about.

I did try to write something about it, such as on on the history of how the column first started on Dec 31, 2003.

Or of the many unknown acts we introduced who went on have successful careers such as Ahli Fiqir, Estranged, Couple, Pesawat and Bunkface.

How about the middle finger we gave to detractors when over 400 kids who attended This Year’s Final Threat, a 2016 New Year’s Eve gig at Paul’s Place in Jalan Klang Lama, were detained – but I couldn’t get past the first 300 words.

No, it wasn’t writer’s block.

I just didn’t feel the need to glorify what we both did and how important it was (of course in our opinion).

I just didn’t feel like being nostalgic.

If there’s anything I want people to remember, or know about that side of Malay Mail, (the only national daily that dedicated a weekly column to a subject very few really cared about for five years!) is the fact that rock and roll journalism exists.

While other entertainment stories were written like how they were supposed to be, Terrina and I were busy flexing our rock criticism muscles, and got away with it, freely and credibly.

I mean who else could slide in a three-page story on Kapal Selam, a totally unknown band, who only had a demo cassette out, into the cover of the Malay Mail entertainment pullout, Buzz?

How about a full page, 750-word review of Too Phat’s third studio album, Rebirth Into Reality?

Or dedicate two pages strictly to Malaysian backpacker rap led by a group called The Rebel Scum?

We did.

We were blessed to have an editor like Zainal Alam Kadir who encouraged critical story-telling.

We were lucky because the Malay Mail entertainment desk, during my time, was a collective of disruptors who were really good in their respective fields.

Really.

Terrina and I were journalists who had opinions on a lot of things, especially the ones that we felt strongly about, in this case, Malaysian’s independent/fringe music scene.

We truly believed in it and we felt that we had a responsibility to use our position to first bring to attention and hopefully educate and convert our readers about a subject that was so pertinent to shaping our music culture, yet so often overlooked.

These opinions and responsibilities would have not gotten anywhere beyond our minds if not for Malay Mail.

As much as we would openly deny it, we do feel proud to see what we wrote, make it to the pages of the paper.

Every published story felt like a certificate of achievement, we believe the subjects of our writing felt the same too.

Well, that was then.

Times have changed, and everyone has either migrated or will be migrating to the digital space.

But there’s a huge difference between reading a copy of what you wrote in your hands, and just clicking and scrolling to read it on a screen.

Adly Syairi Ramly partied with the Malay Mail from 2003 to 2008. He’s still partying today with Thinker Studios.