Malaysia Day Tribute: Alex Peters, Malaysia's Rock Machine

In August 1969, as the historical music festival Woodstock came to a close, Jimi Hendrixwould leave yet another indelible stamp on the face of rock music; letting loose with a grunge rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Better known to American citizens and people around the world as the familiar tune trumpeted by marching bands or sung reverently ala Luciano Pavarotti, Hendrix instead reinvented the classic tune by turning up the decibles on feverish amounts of amplifier feedback and sustain, mimicking the sounds of dive bombers, sub-machine guns and grenades.

Jimi Hendrix -Star Spangled Banner live at Woodstock, 1969

The performance was unquestionably controversial although scholars could never quite put their finger on the message Hendrix and his screaming guitar were trying to deliver. Hendrix calmly stated [on The Dick Cavett Show], “I thought it was beautiful.”

In an act of homage to the King of Rock [Jimi Hendrix] musician extraordinaire Alex Peters coolly delivered an impassioned and fierce rendition of NegaraKu, the Malaysian national anthem - giving it an almost similar treatment, only this time with copious amounts of [Brian May] echo/delay and guitar distortion. Although not quite as controversial as Hendrix’s “blasphemous” performance, Alex became the first among his Malaysian peers to follow in the fingerprints of Jimi Hendrix.

Alex Peters - Malaysia's National Anthem - Call me the Breeze


This can hardly be news, not when he paved his entire career being the forerunner in innovation and creativity on stage - from mastering the gruelling art of pre-recorded backing tracks [bass, synth & harmonies], emulating a DJ scratch effect with his axe on overdrive [Rockit! System of Survival] to brewing his very own infusion of Indian Ragaa aptly naming it, Ethnic Alternative Rock, or E.A.R. [on an acoustic guitar, no less!] 

Although frequently tooted as the unsung hero, Alex does not rightly belong in that category because despite having disappeared from the local pub/club circuit and being entrenched in studio work, tongues are still wagging among friends and enemies alike. One stark example is the blatant exclusion Alex experienced during the death tribute organised by local musicians in honour of the late Paul Ponnudorai. It was this despicable act that prompted long-time fan, Farah Walters to speak up via Facebook in his defence:

"Surely, no one forgot about him. I have not had the opportunity to see him perform in over 5 years, still, I was shocked to hear he was uninvited to pay his tribute. It saddens me to say that it appears, even in the light of an event that was meant to promote an appreciation and a sense of kinship through means of music, the green roots of inadequacy have planted itself in the soil of your hearts. What a shame. I see no way in which our dear Paul would cherish such sentiments."

Needless to say, it is never too long before he makes an appearance like objects in your rearview mirror - whether in person or in an ethereal state - closer than they appear.

pix by Kathleen de Cruz @ Flatfish Studio

In a report published on June 5, earlier this year, BBC News Asia raised concerns about the brain drain pandemic that has plagued our nation over the last decade.

This Malaysia Day let us remember the remarkable individuals whom have chosen to remain in the country, blessing us with their masterful art and inexhaustible talent.