No point keeping talents in the closet

I FEEL very sorry for Paul Hannam from Kent. He is a regular visitor to our country and he has been hunting high and low for a Malaysian football jersey, without any success.

Paul, in his letter to The Star last Thursday, says he simply wants to get the Malaysian jersey to wear with pride. He has even written to the FAM 100 times by email but did not get a response.

Yet, everywhere he goes, he can easily find jerseys of Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and even England.

It’s all about supply and demand.

There are multiple channels devoted to the English Premier League (EPL) and Malaysian football fans – the ones who don’t usually go to the stadium to watch a local match – can probably rattle off the names of every player in the EPL.

That’s where the demand is, so the people who provide the accessories – from jerseys to key chains – know how to supply the market.

Even the entrepreneurial Petaling Street vendors know that if there is no demand, they need not bother with supply.

But this little lament from Paul got me thinking about what is the real Malaysian brand.

If you go to New Zealand, for example, you can easily indicate you have been there by bringing home an All-Blacks jersey. The same applies for your trip to the UK, never mind if all the jerseys are made in China.

So what is it we give to our friends from overseas to signify something that is quintessentially Malaysian?

We have our talents no doubt. Over the years, I have sent out CDs of P. Ramlee, Roger Wang, Sudirman and the Alleycats.

When I listen to Apo Nak Di Kato by the Blues Gang or Lagenda by Sheila Majid, I wonder how easily they would achieve international stardom if the stations in the West play their music as often as our local stations play theirs.

In more recent times, I have been captivated by the musicals of Tiara Jacquelina and the comedy of Comedy Court and Harith Iskandar. When they are available in CD or DVD, I always buy a few to keep on standby to give to friends overseas.

The standard I use is simple. Whoever this Malaysian may be, whatever the race or religion, as long as he or she can reach out to all Malaysians, then he or she becomes a Malaysian brand.

I was at the Sheila Majid concert recently. All her songs are in Malay, of course, but her conversations with the audience, and her banter with the MPO conductor Kevin Field, was in English.

I looked at the composition of the orchestra and I can’t help feeling that most of them do not know what the lyrics mean. But music is such a universal and uniting language, so it does not really matter.

So sending a Sheila CD to an American friend, for example, would be the right thing to do. He may not know what she is singing, but he will appreciate a real Malaysian diva.

Another real talent is Tiara Jacquelina.

After watching Puteri Gunung Ledang The Musical, you just get the feeling that not only is it an excellent production, but it is also quintessentially Malaysian. Just look at the cast and the audience and you will understand what I mean.

And here is where I see business opportunities. As the Malaysian Talent Corp reaches out to bring home our talents, we should do our part to showcase our talents to the world. Let’s not only get into the international press for all the wrong reasons.

But in the case of football, we need to push up our world rankings first. Then Paul will surely have no problem finding a Malaysian jersey.

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