Meet Altimet and The Kawan Band, who brought Malaysian folk sounds, joget, and zapin to the international stage by mixing them with hip-hop
The band is led by rapper Altimet (Ahmad Abdul Rahman), who has been active in the Malaysian hip-hop scene for almost two decades.
The band also comprises of Timothy Toh (keyboards), Dean Sim (guitar), Omar Ibrahim (drums), Gideon Yogan (bass), Amin Fikri (percussion), Mohd Rizdwan (trumpets), and Faliq Auri (flute & saxophone).
Their idea to bridge the gap between traditional and modern elements by marrying Malaysian folk and hip-hop has brought them as far as Texas, United States, where they performed in the 2016 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival.
We sat down with them to talk about the roots of the fusion band, things Malaysians don't know about them, and the future of the local hip-hop scene:
SAYS: We love the Malaysian folk and hip-hop fusion! How did you guys come up with the idea to work together?
Altimet: When hip-hop first started out over there (in the United States), (artists) had always sampled stuff from their own folk music, which includes funk, blues, and so on. But our heritage isn't funk. Our heritage is joget and zapin. So it's just like, a parallel.
Omar Ibrahim (OI): Some of us were already working together on separate projects, but it was our keyboardist, Timothy Toh, who brought each and every one of us together.
SAYS: Tell us something people don't know about you.
OI: We had another percussionist, Ravinder Singh, who passed away two years ago. He was the heartbeat of the band; he decided and coordinated a lot of things for us.
Gideon Yogan (GY): He was the glue of the band, actually. Like a papa.
OI: Laughs Yeah, this (Good Vibes Festival) will be the first show we're doing without him, and we will be playing it for him.
Altimet: On a lighter note, we've also been invited to perform at SXSW again.
It's an open invitation. So we're trying to work that out as well.
SAYS: Altimet, as someone who has been in the Malaysian hip-hop scene for almost 20 years, what do you see in its future?
Altimet: It's (Malaysian hip-hop) at a very good space right now, I've heard a lot of well-written songs. Before this, it was just well-written lyrics!
We definitely have the potential for more collaborations, either cross-countries or cross-genres. It will only increase over time.
There'll always be people who aren't happy with what you do. They'll tell you either you sound too much like international rappers, or you don't at all.
You can choose to be affected by it, or don't.
SAYS: It's your first time performing at Good Vibes Festival. What should people be expecting from you?
OI: We always try to have as much fun as we can on stage, in hopes of getting the audience to feel the same thing.
GY: We want to try and get them to sing and dance along with us during our set!
Catch Altimet and The Kawan Band tomorrow, the first day of Good Vibes Festival 2018, happening on 21 and 22 July
They will be performing alongside SZA, The Neighbourhood, Majid Jordan and more at The Ranch @ Gohtong Jaya, Genting Highlands.
This feature is part of the #saysplaylist series, providing your playlist with a breath of fresh Malaysian air.
If you have any Malaysian bands, singers or songs that you think we should feature, let us know in the comments below!