Non-Stop Don

7 Nov

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Busy days are ahead for Sasi The Don, besides a new album in Tamil. HIZREEN KAMAL talks to the raggae star who loves collaborations.

POPULAR local reggae artiste Sasi The Don is known for his many collaborative efforts with various local and international artistes on his albums.

“I love collaborations. It makes a song even more interesting,” he says, quickly admitting that it attracts fans of both artistes.

Sasi, whose real name is Sasidharan Chandran, recorded hits when he collaborated with Kashmir Stones (one of the biggest local Indian rock bands), Amy Search, Zainal Abidin, Atilia, Apache Indian (from the United Kingdom) and recently, with up-and-coming local hip hop group KLG Sqwad.

This time around, the 29-year-old who is in the midst of working on his fourth album, a Tamil one to boot, is again teaming up, with two big local music names — powerhouse Jaclyn Victor and popular nasyid group Raihan.

He will also work on a number with Dr Alban, the African and European superstar of the 1990s whose hits include No Coke, It’s My Life and One Love. He now lives in Sweden.

Why them?

Sasi who has never collaborated with a female singer before, says Jac would be the ultimate female singer he would ever want to work with.

He says people adore her for what she has achieved to date.

“We have known each other for the past seven years when we used to live in Kepong. On top of that, we are under the same music label (Sony BMG).

“So, I thought that it would be amazing for her and I to do a Tamil song together, since she has not recorded a Tamil number before,” he says, adding that, the song is ready but he has yet to give it a title.

“I think our voices go down well with each other. Imagine Beyonce and Sean Paul,” he says, laughing.

On Raihan, Sasi who has been a fan of the nasyid group since they first burst on the music scene more than a decade ago, says he is impressed by their vocals.

Reminiscing about the first time he heard them sing, he says it was 1996, when he was studying in a college in Kuantan when Raihan came to perform.

“At that time, being a recording artiste never crossed my mind. Seeing them perform for the first time, I was in awe… the words that came out from their mouths seemed so beautiful.”

Later on in life, when Sasi entered the music scene, they met again, while recording their albums at the Platinum Studio in Kelana Jaya.

“We got to know each other and became close. To me, it’s an honour to work with them even for a single track on my album,” he says, adding that they will be singing his composition entitled Insan.

Sasi is a fan of Dr Alban, and been in contact with him for the past two years via the Internet.

“We exchanged thoughts on the reggae scene and I even asked him to listen to my songs. He told me that he enjoyed them very much. So, when I proposed a collaboration, he agreed to do it.”

Sasi who will be leaving for Sweden after Christmas to record the track with Dr Alban, is also planning to bring the latter to Malaysia next year to shoot the music video.

He is also looking at working with an artiste from India. “It’s a surprise. We’ll just have to wait and see,” he quips.

Sasi who has shared the stage with artistes like Bhangra deejays Bally Sagoo (UK) and Stereo Nation (UK), Sukhbir (solo Bhangra artiste from UK), Jay Sean (UK), Shaggy (US), Sean Paul (US) and Maxi Priest (US), to name a few, says he is serious about getting his album off the ground. Not just because of the collaborations but also because the album celebrates the independence of the Indian community in Malaysia.

“I am very serious about this album and this will show my vision and mission statement to everyone to recognise Indians on their achievements, besides embracing the beauty of the Tamil language,” he says.

Aptly entitled Back To My Roots, which is due for release in April next year, it comprises 10 Tamil tracks and an English and a Malay number each. Of the 12 tracks, eight are new songs, while the remainder are English tracks taken from his third album An Asiandancehall Revolution.

Four songs will be translated to Tamil. “The songs are all composed by me,” he says, adding that, he is very particular about finding the right melodies and the music arrangement.

Having a strong music background, Sasi who composes his songs on the piano says he does not take too long to come out with a brand new track. “It’s all about hitting the right keys and just playing around on the piano, and suddenly, you just get the right melodies, that you think will work.”

Sasi’s effort in releasing a Tamil album might make others think he is frustrated with the mainstream music scene. On the contrary, he relishes what he has achieved so far, with a fan base across race and religious beliefs.

“I enjoy every single moment of my career,” he says.

This is his second Tamil album; the first in 2001, was Manitha Piravi, made while he was studying engineering at the University of Malaya. It created a lot of curiosity at that time especially for the Indian market, and went on to sell over 23,000 copies.

“There were some bitter moments too when some of my songs were banned because of my Tamil proficiency, well lack of it actually. Because of that I decided to cross over to mainstream. Even then I was not sure if I would last since I was just doing it for the fun of it… Thank God, it worked though,” he said.

“I think I speak Tamil better now, and that is one of the reasons why I have decided to come out with a second Tamil album. This will be my approach to return to the Indian music scene.”

He handled most of the production work for the album together with the young and talented producer Navigator (real name Navin Kumar). “We work together very well and he is very passionate about his work,” Sasi says. Navigator is the name behind several hit songs, and he has produced for hip hop and rap group Too Phat and Singapore’s rap group Ahli Fiqir.

Sasi also sports a new look — dreadlocks instead of his usual curly hair. “This is my new look. Do you like it?” he asks. Why the change?

Sasi, who is also an ambassador for South Asian and Malaysian Reggae Music, says dreadlocks represent reggae and was apt.

“It’s easier to manage though, as I don’t have to use a comb. The only thing that I dislike is that it takes a longer time to dry.”

Asked whether he has an interest in entering the acting world, Sasi says he has had offers from producers and directors in Malaysia, Singapore and even as far as Mauritius; he’s just holding on for the right story and role.

“I don’t want to make a mistake and regret later,” said Sasi, whose third album eight months ago has sold more than 5,000 copies.

Sasi, who has a full time job heading the music and entertainment division of an advertising agency, wants Malaysia to be known for its music and its entertainment industry.

“We have a great pool of talent but if the industry could be further recognised and made important by the government, who knows, it could be a new channel of revenue for the country’s economy.

“I can tell you that there are many Malaysian musicians and artistes who are ready for the global market. For me, I want to keep on going and contribute as much as I can to the development of the industry.”

His dream is to travel around the world performing, and developing more local talent.

Early next year, Sasi will be involved in a reality programme to discover young talented Indian entertainers. In March, he will perform at two reggae festivals in Jamaica.

Then comes the KL Raggae Sun Splash he is organising in June, at which international artistes like Sean Paul, Diana King (US), Shaggy, Bounty Killa (Jamaica) and Wayne Wonder (Jamaica) will perform.

“It’s all about my great passion for music. A lot of work but Sasi The Don will never stop!” he says.

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