Judges back for season three

CELEBRITY judges (above, from left) David Foster, Anggun and Jay Park are returning to the judges’ table for the third season of Asia’s Got Talent.

The casting team concluded its pan-regional open audition tour in July this year and has shortlisted over 150 acts from 17 countries in Asia.

The three judges will now have to decide who gets to go through to the final to compete for the crown and the grand prize of US$100,000 (RM413,000).

Foster, the 16-time Grammy award-winning producer, said: “Asia remains my favourite part of the world for discovering new talent.

“The cultural diversity is truly breathtaking and I love seeing such a rich tapestry of acts making the stage their own.”

International recording star and World Music Award winner Anggun added: “As an Indonesia-born performer, I know what it takes to pursue a career in the performing arts. It’s an unwavering belief in your ability to succeed and a drive that gets you up every day to take the next step towards your dream.

“During the auditions, my heart is on stage with every single act, and I can’t wait to be inspired yet again by season three’s new generation of budding stars.”

Park, the award-winning, multi-platinum recording artiste and entrepreneur, added: “I was so inspired and had so much fun last year that I wanted to come back and do it again alongside the great David Foster and lovely Anggun.”

Asia’s Got Talent season three is expected to be aired sometime in the first quarter of 2019 on AXN (Astro channel 701/721).

Finding herself musically

FOR SWISS singer-songwriter Veronica Fusaro, home was where she was first inspired to make music: “Singing was always something I loved doing as a kid.”

Originating from the tiny picturesque city of Thun in Switzerland, the 21-year-old recently made her debut performance in Singapore for the Music Matters Live 2018.

Her second EP, Ice Cold, was released in early February It includes the song Better If I Go, a track she also performed at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Fusaro started busking and playing initial shows with the first guitar her non-musical parents bought her, and like many emerging talents, posted covers on YouTube.

She was already writing original songs but the hefty costs of renting a studio meant that the then 16-year-old had to rely on recording and producing original music in her basement.

It was also right around that time she appeared on her first big stage, The Voice of Switzerland, Fusaro said in a recent email interview from Singapore.

The stint on the Swiss version of the popular singing show provided her with a platform to showcase her skills, and while brief, the appearance only solidified her dreams of singing professionally.

While that show gave her an opportunity to grow as a person, Fusaro insisted it did little to affect her musically, since she was already working on her own songs.

She said: “It really just gave me the kick to prove that I don’t need their platform in order to become a musician.

“I was able to find myself musically, without having too many people telling me what to do.”

Now touring the world as a young musician, the Swiss Music Awards 2017 Best Talent nominee is not only able to share her sound but also use the platform to explore her curiosity about varying cultures.

She said: “I want to understand the world, and in a world full of differences, it is very nice to see that there are also many similarities between people.”

The simple Ice Cold cover art depicting Fusaro with a drippy white and pink cream popsicle evokes somewhat similar qualities to her expressive brand of pop.

Detailing the genesis of her second EP’s title, she said that it means “various things” to her.

“Sometimes people are ice cold, and they break your heart. The world seems to be an ice-cold place at the moment, and love has a tough time to come through.

“But at the same time, on a hot summer’s day, all you really long for is an ice-cold drink, isn’t it?” she playfully posed the notion with a winky face smiley.

When Fusaro shares her world through the writing of her music – each track like narrating a chapter in her life – it is usually an affair penned by herself.

Which is why the singer says working on the single, Better If I Go, “was a very interesting experience” for her.

That track was written in a session with three other writers in the studio, and “was one of the first times [I] got to write with other people”.

The end result is a contemplative and moody vibe to the song.

Fusaro explains: “The track talks about, really, any situation in life where you don’t feel comfortable any more – you feel bad – and this might be because of another person.

“In a situation like this, you should be able to speak up for yourself and be brave enough to leave it all behind.”

Even though she enjoys performing Off You live with her band, she shares that an upcoming song, Venom, is one that she’s “extremely excited about” .

Preferring to let her music do the communicating, the anticipation of new music from Fusaro is teased simply with its title and the Oct 19 release date on her social media accounts.

“I’d describe that song as a contrast between feeling very alone, vulnerable, and self-conscious at the same time,” she divulged about Venom.

“It definitely has some attitude to it …”

But she added: “I find it hard to talk about music. I’d rather let the music do the talking [for me].”

Catch the fastest piano player live

INTERNATIONALLY -acclaimed Hungarian virtuoso pianist, recording artiste, composer, and producer Peter Bence will be performing live in Kuala Lumpur for the first time on Oct 5.

This holder of the Guinness World Record for fastest piano player be giving a one-night-only performance at the Plenary Hall, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, as part of his Fall Tour.

Bence first took the internet by storm with his piano arrangements for hits by artistes such as Michael Jackson and Queen, among others.

Over the past two years, his videos have been viewed over 500 million times, with his all-time best being his version of Despacito.

Bence’s edgy style has blurred the lines between classical and popular music. He has toured and performed in over 40 countries on four continents, and even opened the BBC Proms in the Park 2017 at Hyde Park, London to a crowd of over 50,000 people. 

His concert here, organised by Starline Production, will attract those who enjoy current pop songs arranged in a unique style for the piano and executed with verve and energy.

For more, visit the Facebook page of Starline Production Asia.

Wiro Sambleng: Pendekar Kapak Maut Naga Geni 212

WE OFTEN use the idiom greater than the sum of its parts to describe something that is better than we expected.

Wiro Sambleng: Pendekar Kapak Maut Naga Geni 212 (Crazy Warrior: Master of the Fire Dragon Death Axe 212) is the exact opposite of that.

The parts were good but when put together, it didn’t come out as great as it should.

Based on a series of novels-turned-comic and live-action TV series, Wiro Sambleng (which will be known in international release as the less cumbersome 212 Warrior) follows the story of the titular hero (Vino G. Bastian) from the night he became an orphan to the night he confronts the man who murdered his parents in cold blood.

The movie is packed with interesting and unique characters, wonderfully choreographed silat fights, and is a beautiful sight to behold. I have never seen an Indonesian movie, set in a fantastic-looking 16th century, look so glorious.

Characters like Sinto Gendeng (Ruth Marini), the old hag that taught Wiro martial arts, ruthless villain Mahesa Birawa (Yayan Ruhian), and even a side character like Dewa Tuak (Restu Triandy) are fun and memorable.

But, all of them were underutilised.

Wiro Sambleng is the first collaboration between an Indonesian studio with Fox International Production. In other words, the source material is rich and the production value is high.

However, where the movie falters is in its execution.

Wiro Sambleng is a mischievous character, a la the Monkey King.

This humour sets the tone of the movie, but at the detriment of pacing.

Many scenes that could have been used to develop character is wasted on misplaced comedy.

I really wanted to like this movie.

It was really charming.

Nevertheless, the lack of character development and the rushed story telling, despite the 123-minute run time, puts this movie firmly in the realm for children and fans of the original source material.

Those who grew up on the original TV series would recognise Herning Sukendro, the original actor who played Wiro Sambleng in the TV series in a cameo appearance, and children would appreciate all the silly jokes and action scenes.

For the rest of us, Wiro Sambleng looks like a missed potential.

Note that there is a mid credit scene that sets up a sequel.

Wiro Sambleng: Pendekar Kapak Maut Naga Geni 212 opens in cinemas nationwide on Sept 27.

Argento sex accuser Bennett opens up on Italian TV

ROME: US actor Jimmy Bennett, who accuses Asia Argento of sexually assaulting him as a teenager, said in his first television interview since the allegation emerged that they had a “complete” sexual relationship.

Argento, who shot into the headlines for accusing disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of rape, reportedly paid Bennett money after he said she had sex with him in a California hotel room in 2013.

The actor and rock musician was 17 years old at the time of the alleged assault. The legal age of consent in California is 18. Argento was 37. She has denied having sex with him or paying hush money.

“It all happened very fast,” Bennett told Italy’s La 7 channel, accompanied by his US lawyer, Gordon Sattro.

“She started kissing me longer and longer … and it started to feel to me that it was less of just a friendly thing and more of something she was trying to push or explore,” Bennett told sceptical interviewer Massimo Gilletti.

“It turned into her placing her hands on me and following that was when she pushed me onto the bed and took my pants off,” he said.

Asked whether it was a “complete” relationship, Bennett confirmed that it was, implying they had sex, but declined to go into detail.

Bennett was seven years old when he played Argento’s son in the 2004 film “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things”.

“The power that she had over the situation made me feel powerless in a way,” Bennett said.

The New York Times reported in Aug that Argento paid Bennett US$380,000, (RM1,568,792) after his lawyers launched legal action, a month after Argento’s accusations against Weinstein were made public.

Argento says she only gave Bennett money to help him out during a difficult period. — AFP

Beginning of the end

All good things must come to an end, and just like other hit comedies over the years, Big Bang Theory will end with season 12.

For diehard fans, they will definately want to see what life after marriage is like for Sheldon (Jim Parsons) after tying the knot with Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) on season 11’s final episode.

They might also want to know what’s going to happen to the others in this close-knit group: married couple Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco), still looking for love Rajesh (Kunal Nayyar) as well as married-with-two-young-children Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), and not forgetting Stuart (Kevin Sussman), their always-sad friend who runs a comicbook store.

The 12th season of Big Bang Theory will premiere on Sept 25 (same day as the US) at 8.10pm.

This will be immediately followed by Sheldon’s younger days in East Texas in the season two premiere of Young Sheldon at 8.35pm.

Subsequent new episodes of both Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon will be aired on Fridays, beginning Sept 28, at 8.10pm and 8.35pm respectively.

For fans of Lethal Weapon, the third season kicks off with Detective Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) partnering up with Wesley Cole (Seann William Scott) who replaces Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford).

How the series will continue without Crawford who was fired from the series in real life is still up in the air.

Tune in for the premiere on Sept 26 at 9pm to find out.

Classics resurrected

RECENTLY, to commemorate Malaysia’s 61 years of independence and Malaysia Day, the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) held a sold-out tribute concert to celebrate musical icons from our country’s illustrious past.

The Semalam di Malaya concert began with the titular song, a piece composed by Saiful Bahari and rearranged by Leonard Yeap, which was sung by Liza Hanim making her debut at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas.

Liza next delivered Zubir Said’s Sayang di Sayang, which was rearranged by Ahmad Muriz Che Ros, the conductor of the concert.

Her third song was Ahmad Jaafar’s Jelingan Manja, with a new arrangement by Yeap.

Here, Liza showed her skill as a powerful vocalist, matching the orchestra in every note.

After the interval, she appeared more relaxed, a fact she confirmed at a press conference after the concert.

A medley of Saiful’s patriotic songs followed, with the audience quietly singing along to his Berjaya and Prajurit Tanah Air, rearranged by Luqman Aziz.

The orchestral arrangement gave the songs an epic feel that was befitting the soundtrack of a cinematic saga.

Composer Tan Sri Ahmad Merican’s Tanah Pusaka, rearranged by Vivian Chua, was the only other instrumental piece at the concert.

Pop singer Wan Aishah Wan Ariffin, better known as Aishah, made her presence felt in her second appearance on the MPO stage with Luqman’s arrangement of Zubir’s Setangkai Kembang Melati.

There was not a single dry eye in the concert hall when Aishah sang the Ahmad Jaafar track Ibu, which was rearranged by Ahmad Muriz.

She said in a later press conference that even though the song was simple, the hardest part was to convey the emotions in it.

Aishah’s last solo piece was Jimmy Boyle’s Jauh Jauh, with Ahmad Muriz giving it a new arrangement.

Of course, who could ignore the most celebrated composer in Malaysia at that time, Tan Sri P. Ramlee. Doing the honours was none other than Musly Ramlee, a top Ramlee impersonator who also played the maestro in the 2008 theatre production of P. Ramlee the Musical.

Musly brought Ramlee to ‘live’ with renditions of Hujan di Tengahari (rearranged by Syed Sharir Faisal Syed Hussain), and a medley comprising Nak Dara Rindu, Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti, and Kwek Mambo (rearranged by Ahmad Muriz).

For Rachel Guerzo and the Rachel Guerzo Trio, the opportunity to play the songs composed by her late grandfather, Alfonso Soliano, with an orchestra was a dream come true.

Together, they performed the jazzy medley of Airmata Berderai, and Gadis Idaman rearranged by Jenny Chin, and Tunas Kasih rearranged by Ahmad Muriz, that would not sound out of place in a spy movie.

Rachel’s ability to sing, play the piano, and watch for cues from the conductor all at the same time was amazing.

Everyone, including Ahmad Muriz, the Rachel Guerzo Trio, and the MPO, should get credit for making Tunas Kasih sound so awe-inspiring.

The evening ended with the quartet of Liza, Aishah, Musly, and Rachel singing the Ramlee number, Joget Malaysia, rearranged by Luqman.

As a surprise encore, the four gave a rendition of one of Ramlee’s greatest hits, Getaran Jiwa, with a new arrangement by Vivian.

The song turned out to be the highlight of the evening.

According to Musly, they had only one day to rehearse and harmonise together as a quartet on that song, and the end result was testament to the skill and talent of these singers.

Semalam di Malaya brought back the music and songs of some of Malaysia’s most celebrated composers from the past, which were reimagined by a group of talented musical arrangers, performed by the country’s premier orchestra, and sung by some of the country’s best vocalists.

Indeed, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those who were there that night.

Barbados appoints Ambassador Rihanna

NEW YORK: Rihanna is now Ambassador Rihanna, after her home country tasked her with promoting investment and tourism.

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said that Rihanna — real name Robyn Rihanna Fenty — has been conferred the title of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary.

While the singer will not be formally accredited to another country, Mottley said that Rihanna — whose more colorful songs include “Bitch Better Have My Money” — would be in charge of bringing investment as well as encouraging education and tourism.

“I couldn’t be more proud to take on such a prestigious title in my home country. Every Barbadian is going to have to play their role in this current effort, and I’m ready and excited to take on the responsibility,” Rihanna said in a statement dated Thursday.

Rihanna, 30, grew up in a troubled home in Barbados and was propelled to fame after visiting US producer Evan Rogers recognized her talents.

The singer, who since achieving stardom has lived primarily in Los Angeles and New York, has scored 14 number-one singles on the US Billboard chart, more than any artist except The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Mariah Carey. — AFP

Barbados appoints Ambassador Rihanna

NEW YORK: Rihanna is now Ambassador Rihanna, after her home country tasked her with promoting investment and tourism.

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said that Rihanna — real name Robyn Rihanna Fenty — has been conferred the title of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary.

While the singer will not be formally accredited to another country, Mottley said that Rihanna — whose more colorful songs include “Bitch Better Have My Money” — would be in charge of bringing investment as well as encouraging education and tourism.

“I couldn’t be more proud to take on such a prestigious title in my home country. Every Barbadian is going to have to play their role in this current effort, and I’m ready and excited to take on the responsibility,” Rihanna said in a statement dated Thursday.

Rihanna, 30, grew up in a troubled home in Barbados and was propelled to fame after visiting US producer Evan Rogers recognized her talents.

The singer, who since achieving stardom has lived primarily in Los Angeles and New York, has scored 14 number-one singles on the US Billboard chart, more than any artist except The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Mariah Carey. — AFP