I was told that I will be able to meet two members of the Public School collective at the famous Pasar TTDI. Luckily, I was a fan of wet markets – because hey, if you want to see leaders of your neighborhood households marching about with the freshest items one can find, this is the place. But the question that was playing in my mind was, why are they operating at a Pasar?
My colleague and I wandered around until we saw a young female in her 20s, who may not look like she was there to buy groceries. We took the gamble to approach her and thank the heavens, it was CT Selecta herself, one of Public School’s finest. We then sat at a small gerai overlooking the shoplots with a couple of teh tariks or two, waiting for another member, Naj Frusciante, to sit down with us.
So let’s start of with the obvious, and I’m sure you have anticipated this question: why is Public School operating at a Pasar?
Actually it was an accident – it started from when Edy from Gerhana Skacinta, he owns a record shop on this floor, just around the corner (points at the corner). A little studio-ish place, but he doesn’t use it. So Uzir asked if we could rent out and play it was cheap as well. It was organic how it started playing and we were all in a whatsapp group, discussing what we should do. And we were toying with the idea of doing gigs in the Pasar
and then Uzir, Ruud – two guys in Public School and they went all out and bought equipment – spent shitloads of money buying equipment and then go la, we just selamba la.
So Uzir and Ruud bought all the equipment and here we are now. We’re all in the group chat and we all kind of know each other from the music scene but we play different stuff.
In terms of classifying all of us in a genre – you can’t really do that. We’re all vinyl collectors, so we wanted to see what we can do collectively if we pulled our resources together, our knowledge of the music scene – put our stuff together and see what we could do out of it. Because i guess people were getting tired of performances at clubs. It’s all about taking the music out and making it more accessible to all people instead of a certain demographic.
What’s your demographic like?
Personally, I’m like a DJ kenduri kahwin – that’s what I call myself. When I play I realize it really does affect a broad range of ages. The old people love it, and there’s there young people who go “Holy Shit this is awesome!” and they want to learn more about it.
Pasar is where usually everyone –
Yeah! It’s where everyone usually congregates, aunties and uncles and budak budak kecik. It’s interesting to see people our age hang out at the pasar as well, when it’s normally somewhere you get dragged to go to.
It’s something fresh la. You’ve done a lot of events at Under 9 before, that was Ronggeng Sound System.
That’s where Uzir brings a lot of Reggae. I don’t think there’s ever been a gig where they played local music. Because Under9 is the techno dub scene, so i guess that’s another branch of Public School. The part where I’m in, is making records – playing at shows. The great thing is that we pool our resources. Sometimes there’s a gig where a few would like to provide exposure, like me and Naj – we’re like still new to this whole scene so it’s great. It’s better to work collectively.
How did Public School come about? Ruud and Uzir are the founders right?
Yeah. It just started very innocently in a group chat. They basically started like realizing they wanted to play for a larger demographic, a different venue and I guess they wanted to see what they could do to fill that gap. They pulled in people that they found had diverse tastes in music, or are collectors themselves, or who were music enthusiasts. Half of them were like me, first timers.
They put together a group as music lovers and we just really wanted to start making a difference to how people consume music.
It is some sort of educational platform, given the name?
Tak jugak la nak sekolahkan orang (HA HA). It’s just about showing people what is a hidden gem in music.
The vinyl industry, do you see it reaching the mass market? Or more of a collectors kind of thing?
There is like the perception of buying physical music is redundant because of [platforms] like Spotify. But with this vinyl resurgence, people realize there is a [different] kind of sound, unlike digital recording. You can differentiate between repressed vinyl that comes from a CD versus one that comes from an original recording. I guess people are becoming more and more appreciative of the whole process of how vinyl music comes about. There is a lot of work that goes into releasing one vinyl. To answer your question, where its a niche – i guess that’s the beauty of digging music, you can still find 5-20 vinyl music. So if you like a specific genre then it can get expensive and it becomes a niche market, but if you just enjoy digging and collecting music, you end up finding great gems you find yourself grooving to.
Would you encourage Malaysian bands to go vinyl? For instance, Pitahati.
Yeah definitely if you have the resources why not. Vinyl really lets you feel out the crowd, and the ambience of the day.
How did you come from collecting records to spinning it?
I always collected although i didn’t own a record player until 4 years ago. My first gig was at Muzika and Publika. I started talking about some of the records I found and some of the collectors were like “Come la, spin! Show the people the kind of music you have.” The encouragement and support of the people really made me stick with it and gigs started coming in, little by little. But I still regard myself as someone really new and still belajar.
You call yourself CT Selecta, how do you recall your first gig?
It was at Muzika! It was daunting, because i’ve never played a gig before. But the good thing was it was at the market, so people had their stacks and stacks of vinyls and I was in the background, so that made it better. And I did fumble up a bit, but it was good! People were encouraging and asking questions – that was a distraction. [HAHA]
That’s why I like playing at weddings more. People can just take their time.
Normal weddings put on generic wedding songs, your usual Maher Zain, Rabbani, and maybe if you’re lucky, Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years. So when you come out with your music – what’ s the reaction?
Most of the time, old people would be like “huh, lagu apa ni?” So i play while they eat, while they mingle, and they really enjoy it. And I get a lot of requests but then again, it’s not something you pluck out of YouTube – so I’ve got to [reject] [sad]
Naj Frusciante right? I love your name. I know you play a lot of funk, i think Malaysia needs more funk.
N: I think the Malaysian perception to funk is rather one dimensional. There’s a lot of melody, emotions and you can actually put funk into any type of song not just party songs. Even if its a breakup song you can put funk in it.
My journey to funk actually comes from jazz. So that was like my basis. I don’t know why people would always relate me to only funk, but it’s too early to tell.
You play Motown as well?
N: Yeah, and a little bit of reggae. My collection of reggae is not much but i’ve grown to like it a lot since high school. I’m more to dub though.
There are two generations of reggae, the Bob Marley era, and the modern-dance one, like Magic’s Rude. Do you think reggae is being restructured?
For me, reggae is one of the few music genres who will always be in the music charts no matter what. People will always infuse reggae with any type of music. When you hear Drake or Rihanna for sampling it, I always think it’s a good thing because you’re opening up people to different tastes in music. But because reggae comes with culture, that’s where you have to be careful. The representation of it. Fusing it is not an issue, but once you take it on stage – that’s where the thin line is.
What about Malaysian reggae?
N: At the moment i think it’s very stagnant. A lot of people who are propagating reggae music have been very quiet. I’m very happy to be in PS because Uzir is one of those guys that love to showcase more reggae in clubs. But in life, i feel reggae is very stagnant. So yeah, i would like to see more tabs of reggae music done by Malaysians because they tend to focus more on Ska and all. I would like to more Malaysian artists doing dub, or even dancehall.
What are you favourite tracks to play?
Some of the more rock steady stuff like Elton Ellis. Ninjaman, that kind of stuff. I would love to play Yellow Man’s stuff.
Will you both play together for Good Vibes?
Yeah! And the both of us complement each other because I (CT Selecta) am very disorganized, so we work well together sebab seorang tu lagi organized, kalau I main seorang, berselerak. We’re trying to make the flow of the playlist work, ease into genres and not suddenly.. [throw them into the deep end?]
Any hints of the tracks? Drop a few names?
CT: Uji Rashid! expect a lot of oldies stuff.
Naj: I’ll be bringing some of the new stuff, like Solange. Balance it off.
Public School is a very different kind of DJ collective – do you guys have any plans to expand?
We are expanding, in fact we have our own publication arm. Uzir has plans to come out with our own ‘zine. We do have our own writers to do that. Fono and the Public School has plans to have sessions where people come by and record their playlists – sort of like those tiny desks concerts. We’d love to have people report at FONO. There will be a launch of the building on the 29th of July, so come come.
Good Vibes is interesting because on one side you have artists like Phoenix, and then on the other side you have Killeur Calculateur, and then on another side we have you guys. Do you think Malaysia benefits from this kind of diverse festival?
Yeah, because they want to mix everything into one event right? Well we can’t really go niche because the population is too small to do that. in countries like Sg, they are able to do niche events because the buying power is there. They have the currency and the venues. So in a way its good to pile up everything for one or two days where people can experience the talents, but in some way – it also gives pressure to certain artists. When you’re listed [on the programme] with the big guns, [you know] people will only go for that, and at any other time the show is quiet.
Any acts that you are looking forward to?