Up-close with Amy Search

To Malaysians, particularly the Johoreans, Amy Search really needs no introduction.

Amy Search, rocking the stage at the Grand Opening
Party of Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast recently
But for the benefit of others, I must share a little about this Malaysian singer, songwriter and musician, best known as the lead vocalist of Malaysian rock band, Search.

Fondly known as Amy (which happens to be a lady’s name), it is the short-form of his name, Suhaimi. He is in fact a man named, Suhaimi Abdul Rahman.

Together with Search, Amy has released more than 20 best-selling studio albums, best-selling songs and singles and dozens of sold-out concerts.

As the group’s front-man Amy’s showmanship is legendary while his songs have been embraced as anthems.

Yours Truly, having a one-on-one chit-chat
with Amy Search [Right]
After a successful music career with Search, in 1996 Amy moved into a phenomenally successful solo career and has since been dubbed with the nickname, Amy Search.

His first solo album, Magic, was recorded while he was still with the band and his second solo album, Camouflage, was released after he had left the band.

Besides singing, Amy was also involved in acting, with roles in films like Street Artists (1986) and Phenomena (1990).

Search is among the longest surviving rock bands in the nation and went on to achieve greater heights of achievement when Amy reunited with the band in 2003.

Search and Amy are best remembered for their phenomenally successful hit song, Isabella, from their 1989 studio album, Phenomenon.

It’s haunting melody with beautiful lyrics by Bob Lokman, sung in Amy’s soulful style, is well-loved not only by Malaysians but also by fans in Indonesia, Singapore and around the world.

With Amy Search as the featured artist in the rock concert to celebrate the Grand Opening of Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast, I was among the fans who eagerly anticipated a live performance of Isabella.

During his set, Amy proved (once again!) that he could still rock the stage and work the audience with his Rockstar swagger.

When the opening bars to Isabella was heard the audience responded with a roar in recognition.

Then I witnessed how the audience – made up of different race and age groups – sang along with Amy with passion and filled in the blanks when Amy paused and encouraged them to sing on!

When the media met with Amy earlier that day in the Memorabilia presentation event, he mentioned that he had just returned from Indonesia where he was invited to participate in a television reality show.

Amy also has a massive fan base in Indonesia and one of the Indonesian media at the Grand Opening Party had arranged with Amy’s manager for a private interview after the show. I was also privileged to join them.

After his set, while the audience at the Grand Opening Party rocked on to the next band’s performance, a few media members and I slipped off to meet with Amy.

When I entered the meeting room, Amy was seated on a sofa with the Indonesian media member next to him and they were conversing in Malay/Bahasa Indonesia.

I sat down on the sofa opposite them, with a low table between us.

Amy had tied up his tresses (it’s longer than mine!) into a man-bun and was sipping from a tumbler of what looked like a chilled soft-drink.

He attention was focused but relaxed as they chatted comfortably while cameras clicked and a video recording rolled.

I listened closely (to understand what was being said!) and when my Indonesian colleague wrapped up his interview, I then had Amy’s undivided attention. He comfortably switched over to speak to me in English.

Strangely, I was not starstruck probably because we are fellow Johoreans and I felt a sense of familiarity probably because we are from the same JB “neighbourhood.”

The rock band, Search, was formed in JB back in 1981 with five members made up of drummer Yazid, guitarist Hillary Ang, bass guitarist Nasir, guitarist Zainal and vocalist Amy.

Amy talked about his family home at Kampung Bakar Batu (located near present-day Mid Valley Southkey Mall in JB) where his mother still lives and that she often travels to stay with her children in KL.

He reminisced about the early years of Search when it was trendy for rock band members to sport long hair and their hairstyle even caused the band to be banned…

While there was a negative perception to long hair, the band projected a positive vibe and Amy was determined to prove their critics wrong.

He recalled how critics would say, “Band boys have no future!” but it only made them believe in what they were doing and worked hard to become professional musicians.

Back in those days, the capital city was where bands could be “spotted” so Amy and Search were single-minded about making it BIG in Kuala Lumpur.

“We were trendsetters,” laughed the affable Amy as he talked about how the band chose to deck themselves in glam outfits complete with leather jackets and boots.

The band members would discuss the latest fashion trends to decide on their costumes because they knew that public image was important.

Amy said that Search developed organically, step-by-step based on the audience’s response to their first album before they decided on the next move.

Even when Search started to have a strong fan base here, they decided to appear on television only once a year – with their long hair tied up – just to maintain the image of being elusive and exclusive.

Jadi mahal,” Amy confessed with an impish smirk.

Amy [Left] still chatting at the close of our interview
The band had the idea to expand their music influence in a neighbouring country like Indonesia where the people spoke a similar language and when they did, the reception was so amazingly good that the only way was forward!

In fact, he was recently in Indonesia for a television show and just as it was since 1981 till now, Amy explained that he made the effort to look presentable.

Speaking of outfits, Amy declared that he felt deeply honoured to be among the musicians in the world who have contributed their personal items to the iconic Hard Rock music memorabilia collection.

In a separate event earlier that day, Amy presented a very smart jacket and a custom-designed microphone stand (complete with brass knuckle-dusters!) to this collection.

Amy went on to talk about how their hit song, Isabella, was the answer to silence all the negative criticism levelled at Search and him.

The phenomenal success of Isabella was clear proof of how people of all races embraced this song! [True indeed. We just witnessed it again at the concert!]

Looking back at their list of successful songs, Amy chuckled at how the band had a penchant for penning songs that feature the female gender.

He said this again, happened organically because they did not decide on the song titles until after they understood the story that unfolded from the lyrics.

A playful shot with the legendary rocker, Amy Search
It was an informative and interesting time as Amy chatted animatedly about himself and the band, replying candidly to my questions.

In fact, we could have gone on chatting in the privacy of this room, decorated with beautiful posters of Rockstars Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, but I knew this interview must end soon.

Finally, I asked if he had any plans to do a concert for his fans in Johor and he fondly recalled one of the band’s most memorable concerts at JB’s Larkin stadium some 30 years ago.

“As long as people want to see me…” he said modestly with a smile.

With the right venue, Amy will present a solo show simply dubbed, Aku Amy.

So dear fans, our legendary Rockstar clearly has no plans to retire but is still rocking on!

As we wrapped up our one-on-one chit-chat, there was still time to pose for the mandatory photograph with Amy Search.

Thanks Amy, for sharing your interesting insights. Rock on!

Photo Credits: Courtesy of HRHDC and Johor Bahru Collective Media (JOCOM) members

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