Joe Siva, a pioneer in the Malaysian independent music scene, record producer and deejay, died on April 26 after a short battle with lung cancer. He was 61.
Throughout his career, Siva worked to create and establish a solid foothold for homegrown hip hop, club and remix culture in local popular music.
Siva, who was known for his baseball cap-wearing look, started his deejaying career in Kuala Lumpur in 1976.
In his early days, he played the disco circuit and organised club shows nationwide, before finally taking on the record-making challenge in the late 1980s. The Seremban-born entertainment maverick remains best known for his work as a label boss, producer and later the artiste & reportoire (A&R) manager at Kuala Lumpur independent music label Valentine Sound Productions (VSP).
In 1989, Siva began his production career with KL deejay/rap-based group Krash Kozz, one of the pioneers from the local hip hop scene.
“Sad news. The guy who taught me how to mix back when I was a teenager, just passed away. I will always remember him for the good teacher he was and and a DJ who was ahead of his time ,” wrote Jake Abdullah, Astro Radio CEO, on his Facebook page.
Jake, who deejays under the name Jakeman, and was a member of the early incarnation of Krash Kozz, first met Siva in the mid-1980s.
As a key figure in early local hip hop, Siva also introduced the concept of homegrown deejays producing their own mixtapes.
Two locally produced dance/hip hop mixtapes – Pump It! (1990), with Krash Kozz, and Rap It! (1991), with DJ Black Stallion, – set the tone for Siva’s early “radio dance party album” productions at VSP.
Siva produced two more Krash Kozz releases – a self-titled dance-based EP in 1992 and the New Jack The Streetbeat album (1993).
Exposing homegrown talent and helping various charity campaigns were also part of Siva’s music-making mission. In 1991, he was responsible for the Save The World compilation, featuring 16 local deejays, to benefit the Malaysian Nature Society.
“He was a very straight-talking individual. No nonsense. I think he saw the importance of giving the deejay community more opportunities – in terms of recordings, improving their skills and pushing into the mainstream back then,” says Bernard Charles, a veteran deejay.
At VSP, Siva also helped to broaden the label’s roster of acts. In the 1990s, he went on to scout, sign and license independent releases, most notably the early recordings by Cromok, Slumscums, Sil Khannaz, Carburetor Dung, Passion, FTG, Xtroverts, Suffercation and Lost Souls.
“As the label’s A&R person, he wasn’t afraid of signing bands that went against the grain. Joe didn’t discriminate when it came to music genres. He welcomed Sil Khannaz to VSP and helped us to get our debut album to a wider audience,” says Jaie Jokkhannaz, Sil Khannaz frontman, who recalls how Siva got the label’s marketing team behind the band’s debut album Conception Of Madness in 1993.
In 1994, Siva broke further ground in Malaysian club culture when he gave local deejays a chance to participate at the DMC World DJ Championships, the world’s largest DJ competition. As the director of DMC Malaysia, Siva held the competition’s franchise rights and built a strong base for turntablism culture here.
“Joe opened the eyes of many local deejays. He gave us a platform to dream. With DMC, we could take our careers further. If it wasn’t for DMC, I wouldn’t have had the chance to deejay in places like Rome, New York and Paris. The deejay scene here has lost a true hero,” says DJ Ken, who won the DMC Malaysia championship in 1996 and 1999.