Reggae is not a crime. Poe (Fauzi Ahmad), who made a name recording reggae solo albums and as the lead singer of live-outfits Nonama and Reggae Malaya, is still fighting the battle to get that freewheeling type of music accepted.
“Reggae is misunderstood. It’s always linked with marijuana. There’s a lot of depth to it that people don’t get. For instance Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry is a song about poverty which really means ‘don’t cry, woman’,” he said.
“The lyrics of the song are about sitting by the fireplace, sharing corn meal porridge and tales of courage,” he said.
Poe fell in love with lyrical landscapes of Bob Marley in his early 20s, which dealt with hardship and real life.
“Before that I was just playing blues harp,” said the dreadlocked Fine Arts graduate.
Poe has since recorded 10 albums, some on his own and some with the band Nonama, including the 1996 hit album Sahabat, with the hit Saman (a version of Inner Circle’s Sweat (A La La Long).
Nonama gained a live reputation playing at the now-defunct Traffic Lights in Damansara Utama in the early 1990s.
“People came to have a good time,” he said. The band even performed at Pudu Jail in 1990, a gig he fondly remembers.
“The inmates got to be entertained for a change. They responded well. They had not heard live music for a while,” he recalled.
Poe, now 59 and married with five kids, is still not tired of reggae. He has been playing it most of his life, barring a little detour into the restaurant business from 2008 to 2011, where he and his wife had an Italian cafe in Cherating for four years called Payung.
He has assembled a new band.
Poe sings and plays drums with a band that has ex-Headwind lead guitarist Zulkifli Kassim, rhythm guitarist Shamsuddin Sarip, bassist Nadim Zain and keyboardist Azmeer Hamzah, from the 1970s live band Scrapyard. The average age of the band members is 50 years.
The four-year-old band plays songs by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and does reggae versions of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and CCR’s Have You Ever Seen The Rain. These versions may be recorded and released in the near future.
Poe, who was born in Port Dickson to an army barrack storekeeper, is loyal to that era of music and may consider learning new songs but will politely decline requests for modern songs.
His band is currently taking a break but Poe usually jams with other bands at Kem Isi Rimba, Kemensah on Sundays.
“It’s a great atmosphere. It’s next to nature and bands play for hours in a natural surrounding. Any band is welcome to come and play there,” he said.
Acts that have played there include folk duo Hassan and Markiza, blues and rock band Purple Haze and Lord (of Ella fame) band N the Boys.
More information can be obtained on the Reggae Valley Facebook page.
“You can bring the family along to enjoy the forest and the river. Camping sites and chalets are available. Good food is also available,” he said.
Not to mention good music!