Ramadan Music from Ungu and Opick

By : webadmin | on 8:11 PM September 06, 2009
Category : Archive

The month of Ramadan is often filled with music to celebrate the season and its associated feelings of harmony. In this country, the tradition of pop artists releasing religious albums during this time goes back as far as the pop boom of the 1980s.

However, the practice is not without controversy. Some see the production of these albums as a commercial, rather than religious, opportunity.

Pop group Ungu (Purple) and religious singer Opick have both released albums for Ramadan in the last few years.

According to their label, pop group Ungu’s August 2008 religious album sold 150,000 copies in two days and at least one million ring back tones were downloaded. Religious singer Opick sold 200,000 copies of his August 2007 album “Ya Rahman” and over two million downloads of the album’s songs were bought to use on mobile phones.

This year, both groups are serving up new albums in time for the month of Ramadan.

“Maha Besar”
Trinity Optima Production/Suria Records

With their third religious album released during a Ramadan season, pop group Ungu attempts to combine alternative pop with spiritual lyrics.

The result is another lighthearted pop record overlain with cliched lyrics about moral doubt, regret and awe.

The group, formed in 1996, has released four commercially successful albums, and after numerous changes to its lineup, it now consists of Sigit “Pasha” Purnomo Syamsuddin Said on vocals, Makki O. Parikesit on bass, Franco “Enda” Medjaya Kusuma on guitar, Arlonsy “Oncy” Miraldi on guitar and M. Nur “Rowman” Rohman on drums. Most of the songs are written by Pasha.

The latest album has only three songs and three extra instrumental tracks, labeled as “karaoke” versions.

The album kicks off with a guaranteed Top 40 hit in the form of “Hanya Kau” (“Only You”). The song has a compressed guitar riff before moving into a more rocking verse, complete with “oohs” and “ahhs” in the vocals. This catchy song would not be out of place in the soundtrack for an American teen movie. The lyrics of “Hanya Kau” seem to refer to either a lover or deity: “You make my life more alive.”

But the line: “You are the only one that is all-perfect, you created the universe,” is more religiously driven and suggests this is actually a love song for God.

However, the lyrics give the song a personal feel that is enjoyable enough, even for nonreligious listeners.

The second track, “Dia Maha Sempurna” (“He is Sublimely Perfect”) is a rock track with a Middle Eastern feel and heavy-metal guitar riffing. It begins with whispered vocals backed by a thumping drum beat, creating something of a classic-rock prayer. The song later bursts into a rock section, which displays the instrumental virtuosity of Ungu’s band members. The chorus of “Dia Maha Sempurna” evolves into a full-blown rock sound, before ending with a singalong outro that should keep the audience dancing and chanting at the same time.

The last track, “Maha Besar” (“Sublimely Supreme”), is Ungu’s forte — a slow ballad full of minor chord changes and guitar solos that is as melancholy as it is catchy, though it sounds similar to many of the hit ballads the band has written in the past. The lyrics of the song represent what Ungu does best: Praise — whether the target is a lover or a deity. “You are the one for me … nothing will ever surpass you,” singer Pasha croons.

“Hanya Kau” is inoffensive and should appeal to many fans of Top 40 music.

The record was also launched at an orphanage and some proceeds of the album’s sales will go to the institution — another good reason to go out and buy it.

Di Bawah Langitmu
Forte Records

The 35-year old Aunur Rofiq Lil Firdaus, more widely known as Opick, is a highly successful singer who specializes in religious Muslim music that combines pop melodies with Middle Eastern musical influences.

“Dibawah Langit Mu” (“Under Your Skies”) is Opick’s fifth release, having produced four other albums since 2005.

Opick used to be a rock artist and dabbled in pop music prior to the release of “Istiqfar” in 2005, but his earlier attempts never garnered much commercial success. Since his transformation into one of Indonesia’s better-known religious singers, there is no denying his connection with audiences who are eager for spiritual undertones in their music.

The album opens with a title track in which Opick momentarily evokes the vocals of Paul McCartney in throaty, hushed tones.

Throughout the song, Opick is backed by a choir. The track could be a lighter version of The Beatles’ classic, “Let It Be,” though the electronic percussion harks back to 1980s ballads.

The first single of the album, “Maha Melihat” (“All-Seeing”) came out in July. In this song, Opick duets with a songstress called Amanda. The song is heavily majestic, with emotional and prayer-like vocals and increasingly intense orchestration. If you like listening to Meat Loaf or Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” then Opick’s style may be for you.

“Allah Maha Cahaya” (“All-Shining Allah”) is an acoustic-driven ballad with moody minor chords, which set the tone for the rest of the album: Formulaic melancholy melodies, complete with tinkling piano sounds and predictable dynamic changes.

“Dengan Mu Ku Hidup” (“With You I Live”) and “Engkau Allah” (“You, Allah”) follow almost exactly the same pattern, with slight changes in arrangement, which could be appropriate for fans of Indonesian emotional pop, but not for fans of other music.

“Tak Cukuplah Semua” (“Everything Is Not Enough”) — like “Dibawah Langit Mu” — is appealing, although not a remarkable contribution to music, although with Coldplay-esque falsetto vocals, the song is easy enough to hum along to.

Opick’s last two albums found a better balance between religion and general appeal, suggesting he has the ability to write more striking, emotional pop melodies.

“Di Bawah Langit Mu” is a difficult album for nonreligious listeners to appreciate.