The members of local rock band Ramayan couldn’t quite explain what made them all decide to play together as a five-piece group. Somehow, it all happened naturally.
Drummer Muhammad Naquyuddin Azeem (also known as Que), 21, described the group formation back in 2014 as “instinctive”. Vocalist/guitarist Mohamed Syafi’i Nasir, 21, explained that he and Que were previously in a band called Remote. They only played English songs and felt that something was lacking.
“We had no bassist and guitarist. We had to start looking for more members,” Syafi’i said during an interview in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Bassist Omar Saifuddin, 24, joined the band, later followed by guitarist Amin Jali, 25.
“Then out of nowhere, this guy (pointing to piano/organ player Mohd Nadzrul Yahaya, 23) came and joined us,” Syafi’i said with a laugh.
Omar, Que and Nadzrul are students, Amin claims to be a carpenter while Syafi’i said that he had just started work as an Uber driver.
Then they needed a name. Que recalled how the band were jamming for a week as the no-name band.
“We gave ourselves one week to think of a band name. Eventually, Ramayan came as a combination of the words from Omar (Isorama) and Syafi’i (Jan),” he said.
Within months of getting to know each other, the band was ready to record its first EP. Perhaps having the same taste in music also helped the band members move forward easily.
Each member named the likes of Sweet Charity, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Sudirman as some of the influences they want to emulate in the band’s music.
Ultimately, Ramayan aims to create one unique sound. “In the end, we all have the same goal, which is to make music with a Malaysian identity,” Omar said.
The band of self-taught musicians opted to record the songs for their first EP live in the studio, based on advice given by Syafi’i’s long-time friend, a recording engineer simply known as Bear.
“He said it’s the perfect time for live recording. In this day and age, we have all the facilities and equipment needed for that. We play together. The chemisty is there. Whatever mistakes we make will also be there. But there’s also magic like the perfect moments,” Syafi’i enthused.
Or as Omar called it: “The imperfect perfections.”
Syafi’i also enlisted the help of older brother Yasin, drummer from local Nusantara outfit Pitahati to act as the producer for the EP. The three-day long process saw the band record five songs including what would become lead single Oh Dewiku. It was the last song to be recorded and surprisingly to the band, took the most tries to get right. Other songs like Gemalai and Akhir Kalam were done in about five takes.
“Maybe more than 10 times for Oh Dewiku. Perhaps, it was due to our energy level as it was the last day of recording,” Amin said.
The result of the recording process finally materialised with the release of a self-titled EP back in October. Que said he didn’t know that other processes, like packaging the album, would take a longer time than recording.
Now Ramayan’s music is out in the open, the band is taking whatever feedback they get in good spirits. Syafi’i has a read comment where someone questioned whether their type of music can appeal to a wider audience.
“This person said ‘boleh jual ke ni?’ (can this sell?). We try to make our music appealing by writing songs with universal themes like love and spirituality.”
Que acknowledged that it would be challenging for the band to break into the local mainstream music scene.
“I don’t expect too much. The rock genre that we play is not considered popular or expected to dominate the airwaves. We do it to fulfil our musical instincts first,” he said.
Omar quipped: “Someone said we should cut our hair to look better. But nah, we’ll just continue to do what we love.”