Kembara’s (and M Nasir’s) music happens when you mix music with literature, philosophy and some spirituality.

Nobody makes music like that anymore.
* * *

I had the opportunity to attend Kembara’s Hati Emas concert last night. It’s a band that was set up the year I was born, yet I knew most of the songs played, as I grew up with them. We used to travel around a lot, and my father always played their songs in the car, along with other names like Ramli Sarip, Alleycats and Search.

Their music is one of those few that you can listen to time and time again without fearing that it might corrupt your soul – as it is deep and makes you reflect on the purpose of this life and its journey.

Well, “kembara” means journey in Malay. The general theme of their music is journey through life’s ups and downs; while trying to reach your destination of eternal happiness, there are many obstacles that would try to distract you, obstacles that are more of a mirage than true happiness. Deep inside, understanding that these are just distractions, you soldier along, knowing that eternal freedom is the most important thing for you.

From the song Kupu-kupu (which he sang in almost a trance):

Yang benar tetap benar
Walau dipertikaikan
Yang salah tetap salah
Walau diselindungkan
Dari itu jangan kau tangkap aku
Aku di sini hanya sementara waktu

It says,”Truth prevails, even when denied. Whatever is wrong would still be wrong, even when it’s hidden. So don’t catch me, I’m here just for a moment.”

They started with Ekspress Rakyat, a song about the train they took between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur when they first started out. The rest of the earlier songs were about the places they stop or pass by, like Di Perhentian Puduraya, Bas Nombor 13, and Sesat di Kuala Lumpur.

Then the were a few songs that I barely recognise, but the words, I could relate and reflect. Somehow it reminded me of the things that I have done, or I have not done, those people I have met, patients I have seen…and all the way to the oil price hike which will make the poor get poorer. We’ll be seeing more and more of desperate faces trying to make ends meet while making sure that their already ill health do not deteriorate further.

I have always felt that M Nasir’s music could be seen and painted, that the music could be felt and that we could visualise the things that he experienced – the green and endless paddy fields, the hustle and bustle of bus and train stations, the tall buildings and the dusts of Kuala Lumpur, the still of the night that he had inspiration upon inspiration from.

This is taken from the song Malam (The Night):


Bila rinduku bertambah dalam

Kau datang lagi dengan kenangan

Oh betapa dinginnya malam ini


It says, “At night, when the loneliness deepens, you came again in my memories, oh such a chilly night.”

The use of metaphors made us wonder, contemplate and reflect on our own lives and the things that we see around us, the people that we meet everyday. The words indirectly shows us the way our lives has turned out, and encourage us to gather strength to go on with this challenging life.

Gelora jiwa ku
Dalam perjuangan
Bagai musafir yang sedang kehausan
Inilah masanya aku mempertahankan
Apa yang selama ini milikku

It meant, “The struggle of my soul in its fight, like a traveller in need, this is the time for me to fight for what’s mine all this while.”

The use of flowers in their songs would usually signify love, or loneliness. Last night they sang Bunga Bakawali (the flower Moon Cactus/Queen of the Night), Kiambang (in English this flower is called floating fern), and Sekuntum Bunga Plastik (A single fake flower).


Kau mekar di pinggir kali,

Ungu warnamu berseri.

Walaupun baumu tak seharum mawar,

Namun kau masih tetap menawan.

* * *

None of their songs sounds the same. They could be keroncong, country, pop and ballad, or Malay traditional like joget. Their creativity rendered their songs timeless.

Watching M Nasir perform on stage with the band was amusing. He is not as good a dancer as a singer, and he’s not as good a singer as he is a songwriter. Nevertheless he seemed to have enjoyed himself, dancing haphazardly to the tunes. He did not only communicate with the audience, but he also turned his back on us and faced the musicians – I assumed he made eye contact to all of them as he appreciated the fine music they produced. He felt deeply into each song, and at times he appeared as if in a trance.

They tried to close the concert with the songs Hati Emas (Hearts of Gold), and the hall lights were switched on after that. However, the audience refused to budge, so they shut the lights off again and the band sang their final song, Gerhana.