Composer aims to give Buddhist concert experience a contemporary edge

by - 15:11

Imee Ooi, a Kuala Lumpur-based music composer, producer and vocalist, will be the first to tell you that “healing” does not necessarily mean a medical prescription or remedy.

For Ooi, healing can also mean transferring spiritual and meditative vibes to an audience through music.

This theme is central to Ooi’s upcoming Sound Of Wisdom 2 – Heal concert, which will be presented at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre.

“I believe the younger generation and even older music fans do share some things in common. They want music that is applicable and relatable to their daily lives. It can be tiring being subjected to the relentless pace of today’s pop culture,” says Ooi, 53.

Ooi, a passionate music composer, has been producing and making Buddhist music for the past 20 years. She has released over 50 albums since 1999. Her first album was called Prajna Paramita Hrdaya Sutram (the “Heart Sutra” in Sanskrit).

In the upcoming Sound Of Wisdom 2 – Heal, Ooi reveals that there will be three major scenes in the concert, almost similar to a musical show, but in a modest way. The arrangement of songs and performances in the scenes will revolve around the concepts of “Restore, Rebuild and Rebirth”.

There is also a part of the show where she will be supplying vocals while playing the piano, and sharing words of wisdom from sacred texts.

Ooi wants to engage with the audience and see them enjoying the interactive experience from the concert.

“The purpose of the show is to touch people’s hearts. I’m hoping some of the messages in the songs will ring true (in their minds) after they leave the concert hall,” says Ooi.

Ooi is a firm believer that music connects people, and this connection leads to a form of healing.

“There shouldn’t be a distance, I feel, between the performance and the audience,” she mentions.

“The right music and concert atmosphere can truly renew us, helping us to feel relaxed and rejuvenated.”

Ooi doesn’t discount the fact that the concert itself can serve as a self-healing instrument. She shares a humbling experience from a past concert.

“A couple wrote in to thank us after they attended the concert. Through the concert, they found a way to end their unhappy relationship peacefully. This is how music works to heal,” she reveals.

Ooi will revisit her vast music songbook and give some songs new arrangements for the Sound Of Wisdom 2 – Heal setlist.

“Some people said they loved the original versions. However, I want to give the show a good balance. So I rearranged some of the songs. Some of them do remain close to the original versions and some are given a modern twist.”

Eventually, the award-winning music composer plans to take this concert series to a bigger stage.

“I want to see Buddhist music evolving and becoming a genre of its own. For some people, they probably think Buddhist songs are still confined to monasteries and prayer sessions. I want to push the music ahead and let people know it can be very young and vibrant.”

In 2015, Sound Of Wisdom debuted in Istana Budaya. Since then, Ooi and JSJC, a male choir group formed by her, have been touring regionally, visiting places like Singapore and Indonesian stops in Medan and Jakarta. She is also working on JSJC’s debut album.

“A lot of people are not aware that a Buddhist concert can be presented in a contemporary style, with all the concert trimmings. Some people still have this fixed impression that Buddhist music is very solemn. But I think that way of thinking is changing,” she concludes.

Sound Of Wisdom 2 – Heal is on at KLPac in Kuala Lumpur from Sept 1 to Sept 3. Tickets are priced RM150, RM100 and RM70. For more info, visit:

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