Singapore Malay Orchestra, also known as Orkestra Melayu Singapura (OMS) celebrated its 30th anniversary via a concert at Victoria Theatre in December 2021. Titled Langkah Gergasi (Giant Steps), it boasted performances from the likes of Datuk Ramli Sarip, Datuk Mokzani Ismail, Shabir, and Aisyah Aziz to name a few.
Conducting the celebration of the orchestras' tricennial efforts was none other than the music director of OMS himself, Amri Amin. We recently caught up with the esteemed musician, touching base on how the concert went down, championing Malay music in Singapore, fusing the sounds of military, pop, and traditional Malay music altogether, and what’s in store for OMS in 2022.
Hey Amri Amin! Orkestra Melayu Singapore (OMS) recently celebrated its 30th anniversary via a concert at Victoria Theatre. How did it feel conducting the orchestra during such a momentous milestone, to a sold-out crowd?
Being a part of something so impassioned, alongside these amazing and talented individuals, is such an honour as it is. To reach this plateau is incredibly humbling and tearjerking knowing the hard work of the musicians and management team, as well as individuals who have sacrificed their time to build OMS to where it is now; some that are no longer with us.
How was it like to have so many iconic artists of new and old from the likes of Datuk Ramli Sarip, Datuk Mokzani Ismail, Shabir, and Aisyah Aziz performing all in one place?
It is incredible to see that OMS has become a household name that is recognised for its efforts to preserve and progress the Malay musical culture. To have such renowned names acknowledge and appreciate our artistry on the same stage is a testimony of the work we have carved as an orchestra. It was something we had hoped to achieve.
View this post on Instagram
OMS has held a withstanding position in Singapore in terms of championing Malay music since its inception. How does your role as Music Director contribute to it?
As a music director, it was my task to ensure that the trajectory of the orchestra aligned and led to the overarching goal, which was to preserve Malay music and culture by fusing the traditional sound with our current generational ideal of sound.
You’ve also studied at the Royal Military School of Music in London, as well as being the former Music Director of Singapore Police Force’s Band - how do you translate these experiences for your role at OMS?
Kneller Hall (Royal Military School of Music) really moulded my perception and equipped me with the tools I needed to create the music I arrange. The main thing that was being ingrained is discipline. This enabled me to train and guide the musicians of OMS into dedicated members of our orchestra. Apart from that, from the knowledge I received, I was able to refine traditional music in a way that made it presentable from an orchestral standpoint.
Given your expertise, is it possible to interweave the sounds of military, pop, and traditional Malay music all at once? And how can that be done?
In a way, OMS has already embarked on this. OMS fuses traditional Malay music with modern elements. Traditional instruments such as the Gamelan is being made with chromatic scales to blend with western orchestral instruments. The horns section is one of OMS’s unique characters due to its origin of being a military ensemble. OMS also uses ‘big’ harmony to express the emotions of the music. The orchestration also includes instrumentation for a pop orchestra in order to play into modern repertoire. The most important thing is to have a proper balance and not to overdo the fusion of the different genres of music.
Lastly, what’s in store for yourself personally, as well as OMS, in 2022?
I hope to continue producing new original music with OMS. Since there is less opportunity for concert performances due to COVID-19 regulations, we will be working on virtual performance as well as supporting WGS programmes. For this year, we are planning a concert with WGS sometime in August and hoping to push for our EP Pulang to be part of NDP 2022.
Watch Langkah Gergasi in its entirety here.