Shh…Diam! on how the music for ‘To Which My Brother Laughed’ was birthed
By Faris Saad of Shh…Diam!
Our songs can come from anywhere. Some were divinely gifted while on the toilet, some germinated from Whatsapp messages, others appeared on the Malay-language tabloids. Inspiration never waits for you to have the perfect moment. It is that asshole you always end up forgiving. It blue ticks you all the time, never replies and then shows up at your party with the cutlery that no one thought to bring.
So when Jit (director Tung Jit Yang) asked us to join him in the creative process of To Which My Brother Laughed, we were intimidated. What if we couldn’t come up with anything useable? What if we sucked? Shh…Diam! had three months to come up with useful material which was a lot of pressure because until then we had averaged just 1.6 songs a year – a very poor record. We’d also never done anything like this before.
To come up with the scenes and music, we isolated ourselves for three months with the cast and Jit chipped away at our defences with the gentle precision of a bomb disposal technician. He’d ask how we felt about what was happening around us, drawing out our personal experiences and eventually linking them to the caning of the two women in Terengganu.
For the songwriting part, I’d been in a bit of a creative rut before we began work, but I found it really enjoyable to play off what the cast was doing. They would create movements and we would make music based on their expressions. Sometimes Jit would throw us a phrase or word, and we would build an entire song around that. For the track Intimaster, the word was actually ‘intimacy’. But we named it Intimaster because one of the actors Yon pronounced it that way.
I’m not an outwardly expressive sort of person, so writing such emotional songs was a refreshing change of pace for the band. We liked it so much that we might write a mushy song for every five (or six) drinky-shouty song in the future. Based on our new average of 2.1 songs per annum, you can expect the next mushy song by 2023.
The whole record was a collective process, involving every person who was a part of To Which My Brother Laughed.
We came out of the whole experience with a new appreciation for theatre and all the work that goes into the preparation, and we built some great friendships along the way. Memang tak rugi. We hope that the play, and our music, will help bridge the gap in understanding between what can seem like two completely different worlds.
The album, released exclusively on streaming platforms, features seven tracks, all of which were performed during the play by the band and cast members. The album can be streamed on Spotify, iTunes, Deezer, YouTube and Instagram/Facebook from January 22, under the title To Which My Brother Laughed (Original Theatre Soundtrack).
Inspired by the critical essay ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’ by Hélène Cixous, TWMBL was a devised theatre piece created in response to the caning of two women in Terengganu in late 2018. Directed by Tung Jit Yang, the play set out to break down preconceived notions of the LGBTQ+ community, and ran from February 28 to March 3, 2019, to great acclaim and sold-out crowds.
In light of the ongoing Syariah court case involving 11 men, it is crucial for the public to understand how the justice system has been designed to shame, degrade and humiliate. Those who are unfortunate enough to have to go through the system are already deemed guilty before being allowed access to a fair defence. They have lost their homes and jobs, all while being dragged through an unnecessarily long process. Donations are open to pay the cost of this ongoing court case.
The band hopes that the arts can be a channel for open expression and discussion which will lead to understanding and acceptance.
For further enquiries and bookings, the band can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.