BY TERENCE TOH
After mostly performing in a record studio, the Taiping-born composer is doing a concert for her fans.
After nearly two decades of working behind-the-scenes, noted local composer and singer Imee Ooi is all ready to step into the spotlight.
She is set to take on a stageside role in the show series called Sound of Wisdom at Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur (July 30 to Aug 3).
Ooi is also featured prominently on the concert poster. While her face may not all be that familiar, many will no doubt recognise her music.
Ray of light: Ooi hopes her concert, Sound Of Wisdom, could be used as a platform for young people to use their talents positively.
Her calming voice and New Age compositions have been featured in over 40 Buddhist-inspired music albums. The best-selling album The Chant Of Metta (1999) is arguably her most famous work, released in Mandarin and English.
Apart from her records, Ooi, who was born in Taiping, Perak, is also responsible for composing many acclaimed local musicals, such as Siddhartha (1999), Above Full Moon (2004), The Perfect Circle (2005), Princess Wen Cheng (2008) and KITA (2010).
Sound Of Wisdom is Imee’s debut performance where she makes her first ever stage appearance in 18 years of music-making.
“You could say it’s by so-called ‘demand’. I have been invited to sing or do concerts locally and overseas over the past years, but I turned down those opportunities.” says Ooi with a laugh in a recent interview about why she has decided to take on a performing role.
“I thought I should first start in my own country. I feel ready now. I want to do a live performance to personally thank the people who have been inspired by my music.”
Does she feel nervous stepping into the spotlight?
“Close friends have asked me: are you sure about this? Are you sure you can handle singing to a large audience? You sure you won’t have stage fright?” says Ooi.
Though trained as a classical pianist, Ooi has expanded her talents through the years as a prolific composer. Her belief in her abilities allowed her to compose a moving score for Siddartha. The show’s success in 1999 spurred her to produce and distribute her own records. She has not looked back since.
She admits most of her previous singing was behind the closed doors of a recording studio.
Ooi has certainly come a long way. A former piano teacher, she found her way into the local music industry in the mid-1990s through an unusual source: supplying background music for local television dramas.
“I was watching these TV series and wondered why are they were using Kenny G or Richard Clayderman? Why not put on original music? I had a synthesiser, so I figured I could use it to create moods,” she adds.
She carted her keyboard to the various television production houses around Kuala Lumpur. Ooi gave them an offer they couldn’t refuse.
“I volunteered myself. I told them: ‘I can do the whole episode for RM150.’ If they don’t like it, they didn’t have to use it. If they liked it, then they could pay and use it,” recalls Ooi.
Ooi worked hard on television soundtrack projects and jingles. Later, she was called to compose theme songs for beauty pageants, talent quests and programmes for Astro.
In 1997, she opened a music studio I.M.M Musicworks in Kuala Lumpur, which focused on Buddhist music, building upon upon her faith and passion.
And as they say, the rest is history.
At present, Ooi is preparing for her Sound Of Wisdom concert, which she described as a contemporary “musical sermon”. The singer said she would be performing most of her popular tracks, divided into stories and scenes, as well as a few new compositions in English and Chinese.
“It is a sharing where my voice and music are a vehicle to send out the sound of wisdom and mindfulness.”
Ooi is hoping to produce her concert with New Age and non-traditional themes combined. Besides her collaboration with musicians, she revealed there would also be three major scenes, similar to those seen in a musical play. One would be titled Earth Store Buddha- Ksitigarbha, with singers and dancers acting out the story (with props).
“I’ve also formed a male vocal group, something like the Il Divo of the Dharma! It features nine local vocalists. I named them Jing Shi Jin Gang, meaning the warriors who cleanse the earth. Sounds like (South Korean pop group) Dong Bang Shin Ki, doesn’t it? They will perform another set in the programme. Something to add colour to the concert,” says Ooi.
■ Sound of Wisdom- Imee Ooi Concert 2015 will be performed at Panggung Sari Istana Budaya from July 30-Aug 3. Tickets are priced at RM350, RM250, RM200, RM150, RM100 and RM50. For more information, please contact 011-1287-9139,03-9222-8811, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.ticketcharge.com.my.