The revered rocker commemorates his musical journey with an anniversary concert next weekend.

It was a sight to behold. The minute Datuk Ramli Sarip stepped into the building for the interview, he attracted a number of people who wanted to say hello to him.

The security guards even waved him in without the usual signing-in procedure. As the photoshoot started, more fans stopped by to meet the legend, who is fondly referred to as “Papa Rock”.

His fans are made up of all ages ever since Ramli co-founded the rock band Sweet Charity in 1969. But one thing that is clear is that fans not only love this Singaporean’s music but his demeanour as well.

Despite his rocker image – long hair, raspy vocals and his hard rocking music – there is a quiet calm about Ramli. This he credits to his faith; his late father’s advice that a hedonist lifestyle is not necessary in order to be a good artiste and the realisation that forgiveness is crucial if one wants to be at peace.

“I thank God every day for all the success that I’ve received. Our journey in this life is only temporary, and every compliment I receive belongs to God. So I don’t have any place for ego or anger in my life, rather, I just respect and share this gift that I’ve got,” explained Ramli.

Natural selection: For his upcoming 45th anniversary concert, Ramli Sarip plans to perform for three hours. ‘The biggest challenge about the concert was finalising the songs,’ Ramli says.

He does exactly that with the upcoming Ramli Sarip: 45 Years Anniversary Concert to be staged at Panggung Sari at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur from Oct 17 to 19, and Concert Hall, Esplanade Singapore on Oct 21.

“With this concert, I want to share my stories, my experiences, my feelings and my life through lyrics, music, melody and musical instruments. Each song has its own backstory, which captures what was happening either to me personally or events of the world.”

For the concert, he plans to perform for three hours, singing a selection of 23 to 25 songs. He didn’t reveal the list at the interview, but it’s worth noting that Ramli has 12 solo albums and seven albums with Sweet Charity.

“The biggest challenge about the concert was finalising the song list, so much so that the production people gave up on me,” he confessed with a laugh.

Well, Ramli has gotten the list in order and, according to him, the musicians he brought in for the concert are excited about performing these songs.

Among the musicians are Man Kidal (on lead guitar), Tom Anuar (drums), Fauzie Zain (bass), Roza Rasul (keyboard) and Boy Razli (flute and gambus), with a guest appeareance from Indonesian artiste Achmad Albar.

“It’s not a regimented list, performances are going to be kept loose and spontaneous – allowing us to jam during the concert and making it different each night.”

At the concert venue, there is also an art exhibition of the singer; five artists from Angkatan Pelukis SeMalaysia will be interpreting the concert in their own individual style. The art work will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to Tabung Palestine.

Incidentally, the first date of the concert is just two days after Ramli’s 62nd birthday – which he said is a fair coincidence. No doubt, though, as he has collected a vast amount of stories and experiences.

To him, music is life and no matter how trying it is, he holds on to the strong belief that he cannot give up. One of those trying times was when RTM imposed a ban on him, barring him from performing on air for seven years in Malaysia, due to his long hair.

Ramli referred to that moment as a thing of the past, but clocked it as part and parcel of his beautiful journey. “I had the right to be angry, because there was nothing wrong with my songs, but I did not receive airplay. That was when faith and prayers gave me strength to not get angry.

“I had to do club gigs because I still needed to earn a living to pay my bills. But I stuck to my principle to perform with long hair. It was my choice,” said Ramli.

Ramli, with his signature long hair, performing in Kuala Lumpur in 1991. — The Star

The singer’s long hair was also an issue back in Singapore during his younger days. “When I was doing the National Service, I had to put on a wig as I didn’t want to cut my hair. A trainer there who knew me would pick me for sports, so I was safe. When I was not playing games, I would stand guard at the gate.

“At the end of my training, I didn’t know how to march properly,” he said chuckling. “I had to do a lot of crazy things, just to be who I am. It’s my right.”

Experiences like these and his love for music are what push him to peservere.

In the near future, he wants to release recordings of his live performances, and also start on his autobiography.

“The media asks me when I want to retire. I always say to them there is no retirement scheme outlined for this journey. That’s why there is no stopping for me. If I am tired, I take a break and then continue.”

>> Watch The Star‘s exclusive video of Datuk Ramli Sarip singing and talking about his upcoming concert here.

Tickets to the Ramli Sarip: 45 Years Anniversary Concert are priced at RM83, RM133, RM203, RM263, RM323, RM383 and RM443. Go to www.ilassotickets.com or call 03-7957 6088. For the Singapore concert, visit www.sistic.com for more information.

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