Oh Abby, can we have ‘Gerak Khas: Edisi pilihan raya?’ — Shazeera Ahmad Zawawi
JULY 25 — Recently, we have witnessed our local artists’ growing interest in joining politics, either with BN or Pakatan. Imagine the excitement of actually getting up, close and personal with some of the national celebrities during political forums! Some of us may now pray that Aaron Aziz becomes a de facto member of the political party of their choice. That’s one ceramah to look out for, should it ever happen. On a more personal level, I’d say songs and artwork are two of the main sources of inspiration that fuel my belief and passion for change.
As much as yours truly supports the artists’ involvement in politics, she is without a doubt, slightly perturbed by some of the developments arising from the phenomenon. Earlier, Zunar, highlighted the roles that artists and musicians can effectively play in politics. His “spot-on” remark was when he asserted that artists and musicians should not be constrained by their political beliefs (read: parties) and be allowed to practise their trade freely. Artists and musicians should be able to bring a different dimension and approach to politics rather than follow in the steps of other politicians and focus their energy on say, political ceramah. Apparently, his view was not very popular among these artists. Zed Zaidi and Abby Abadi have already come to the fore, responding to Zunar’s view. Abby, for example, said she chooses only to be active in the film industry only after the BN government has been toppled by Pakatan. She argued that she will only return to acting if the film industry would be “syariah-friendly”. Anticipating a more Islamic entertainment industry after BN’s downfall, she indicated that the intended change cannot be done now and can only be realised after Pakatan has taken over the country. Zed Zaidi, who chooses to be with Umno, demarcated politics from art. To him, the reason why artists and musicians join political parties has nothing to do with monetary gain or career advancement; it is, however, to do with their shared political beliefs with and trust of their chosen political party.
I respect both opinions only to the extent that they have ideological reasons for becoming part of politics. I am, however, not buying into the premise that change or reform in the country should be postponed until the election is over. If artists and musicians want to contribute more to the struggle, they need to do so in the way that they know best: through their chosen craft, be it acting or singing. If we were to learn anything from the Arab Spring in the Middle East, for example, in Egypt, cultural and art practitioners, including musicians, artists, singers and filmmakers not only became an integral part of the political movement but they also were the spokespersons and activists for the Cultural Revolution. In the midst of speaking to the people and gathering with the masses at Tahrir Square, the majority actively used art and music as a popular and effective tool for communicating their views as well as the message of revolution. In fact, they continue to express themselves creatively during the general election in Egypt. Singer-songwriters can be heard singing their praises as well as voicing their concerns about the future of Egypt to all the political figures; from Amr Moussa to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohd Mursi and leftist candidate, Hamden Sabahy. From the days of Rami Essam urging the Egyptians to stand up and reclaim justice to the call for stability, hope and peace by Ahmad Figo and Sadat Al-Alamy, artists and musicians in Egypt continue to inspire the people from the time of the uprising till now.
Nevertheless, Bob Lokman’s concern that the government’s control of performance permits and airtime does affect the activities of an artist is true, but this is where the artists and musicians concerned should not succumb to self-censorship. With the support of their fans and rakyat as a whole, they should see this as a long-term fight for their freedom of expression as well as resistance against political censorship in the entertainment industry.
Besides, if Zed Zaidi is sincere with his comment that there should be a line between political affiliation and art, SENIMAN should then, at all times, be proactive in defending artists who are faced with censorship or discriminated against by the industry because of their political ideology. In addition to that, the four Pakatan states, as Zunar reiterated earlier, could initiate artistic and cultural projects where the skills and passions of their new creative members can be fully utilised. I believe many of us are actually looking forward to how art and culture will be integrated into Pakatan’s national agenda as the “government-n-waiting”. Should the absence of a syariah-friendly environment for the film and music industry be of concern, this could be a timely opportunity for these artists and musicians to work with PAS-ruled states in envisioning the future film and music industry of Malaysia. Yes, some of us might think, with the general election around the corner, we need to focus our energy and brain towards ensuring that the political parties of our choice will win, but there are 1,001 ways of getting there. As we have more local talents joining the cause, be it for or against the government of the day, I believe we have now, before us, a more vibrant, lively and relatable political movement in the country.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.
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