Newsman wields pen to elevate Bajau culture through song


KOTA KINABALU: Like the wordsmith that he is, seasoned journalist Mohd Azrone Sarabatin is now using his passion to write lyrics for Bajau ethnic music.

“I like highlighting classical language (as a means) to expose the younger generation to a treasury of words, including idioms rarely heard or no longer used,” he said.

“I also enjoy showcasing culture and national identity in the lyrics of the songs I produce.

“I want to make songs a form of ‘edutainment’ for the community,” said the native of Kampung Labuan, Kota Belud, in an interview with Bernama.

Mohd Azrone, 49, decided to continue writing lyrics for Bajau ethnic music in 2022 after putting it on the backburner for 28 years.

Back then, he decided to “postpone” his involvement in lyrics writing when he became a journalist with Berita Harian in 1998.

He saw his “comeback” in 2022 as an opportunity to showcase the cultural aesthetics and identity of the Bajau people in every lyric he pens.

This also serves as a platform to educate and entertain the community, especially the younger generation of the ethnic group.

Three of his works have been approved for broadcast by Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) and are registered with the Music Authors’ Copyright Protection of Malaysia.

Last year, Mohd Azrone clinched the Sabah Ethnic Song Champion Award and the SABAHVfm Song Award, both in the Bajau category, with Endiam Sengkaban.

“I believe songs are the best medium to elevate ethnic culture, especially now when every song can be uploaded on social media platforms ... Its audience and viewership comprises Bajau (people) and other communities.

“This will undoubtedly raise Bajau ethnic songs to a higher level of entertainment for all,” said Mohd Azrone, who is now focusing on writing and producing ballads.

Reflecting on his involvement in Sabah’s arts industry in 1996, Mohd Azrone said that he mostly wrote patriotic-themed lyrics for youth and student motivation programmes in his hometown of Kota Belud.

“I also helped my cousin, the late Awang Rasin Momin, refine his compositions’ lyrics. He was a composer and producer of Bajau songs,” said Mohd Azrone, who also wrote Malay poetry then.

In the same year, Bajau composer and singer, the late AK Muhiddin, suggested that Mohd Azrone translate poems into the Bajau language to be turned into songs.

“This is where my interest in writing Bajau song lyrics began. However, I did not take it seriously at that time.

“I only wrote occasionally, not for album recordings but for youth singing events and student motivational programmes.

“My involvement in the arts was put on hold after I ventured into journalism from 1998 to 2020.

“Then, in 2022, I became active in this field again after being invited by composer and producer at S. Nazri Kausar Production, Nazri Saidali, to collaborate on writing Bajau song lyrics for recording,” he said.

He expressed his desire to incorporate traditional Bajau music and melodies into his lyrics, with intriguing rhythms such as “runsai”, “tinggayun” and “tigad-tigad”.

Mohd Azrone said he dreams of having popular local artistes record his compositions.

According to him, renowned composer Julfekar Ahmad Shah once contacted him for a collaboration.

“This is an opportunity for me to realise my dreams,” Mohd Azrone said.

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