Joe PV


Keep On Movin’, the first solo album by contemporary Malay reggae artist Joe PV, of the band PureVibracion, emerges to fill a gap. Reggae music in Malaysia has been very much a fad, a movement, a lifestyle at most. That kind of life which could only exist literally on tropical islands, certainly not in the noisy, metropolitan middle. The kind of love which Joe takes from the island life and brings to the city, and through the noise with clarity.

From underground survivor to universal peacemaker

Making his first lead vocal appearance on the 2003 Gerhana Ska Cinta song “Love” with rapper Altimet on the band’s Boss Sounds album, Joe did so with the confidence earned from almost a decade of backing the hardest underground bands from Koffin Kanser to Republic of Brickfields.

To his old comrade Aru, the charismatic singer of both those bands, Joe courteously played sideman and observed. In time Joe would step up to sing with his friend, on Koffin Kanser’s local reggae/metal classic Positive as well as RoB’s Ganjaran album for the memorable “Generasi Bundle”. One magic touch leads to another and more

calls for collaborations with various other local and international names accumulated.

PureVibracion remained active throughout, culminating in the successful campaign to share the album Love & Peace in 2008. The two, three touring years over, Joe had a grace period to meditate on an even more specific mission. At last a legitimate solo artist, Joe PV’s slow but sure path now brings to mind the journey of Jimi Hendrix from faithful sideman into the great guitar icon of the ’60s.

“In my teens I dabbled in everything from hard rock, punk rock, metal, nu metal, ska…butreggaechoseme,nottheotherwayaround. Thisisthemusicthatfitsmy soul and my person,” he says.

In 2014, Joe who was there at the beginning and now lives it from a deserved vantage point has outlasted most of his ’90s underground reggae brethren into a deeper commitment – to the music, the spirituality and the philosophy of reggae living. Joe, born Izal Jamaluddin, a former corporate visual designer who walked away from it all for the island bliss of Redang and Langkawi, is today one of the most visible symbols we have of living reggae here in urban Malaysia.

Grindin’ out the songs and the sound

‘Joe PV’ is the natural solitary extension of PureVibracion’s inclusiveness, positive vibes and the communal experience of their live participations. Only now the challenge is in the solo pursuit – all the pressure is absorbed by the soloist and, with greater power comes greater responsibility.

“This album can hopefully open up some people’s minds to see and feel my music in a different style,” says Joe genuinely. “‘Cause many inspiration comes from many different people, many different kinds.”

“It can go really deep,” Joe continues. “Spiritual and healing, relaxing and cleansing. Realizing is the most important thing.”

“If we are sincere surely our deeds will be continued and adopted by the coming generations. It’s never popularity that is searched for but a cause that is beyond personal.”

Keep On Movin’ suggests an ongoing quest, but the album itself already symbolises a breakthrough in Joe’s musical history – for once in his dozen-year career, it’s not just reggae music per se but a new and open form also adapting local folk traditions and the world’s latest hot sounds. Joe PV the reggae warrior has now turned peacemaker. And in exchange, he is now a proud owner of a pop record.

Co-workers towards this vision were producer/musicians Izal Vibracion – Joe’s guitarist in PV, Jason “Berd” Voo (an arranger and MD extraordinaire), Saiful Ridzuan (Duan, songwriter/frontman of Seven Collar T-Shirt), as well as Jeffrey Little – Jeff – the talented drummer out of Ampang (most officially of Prana and Joe’s PureVibracion), and together the close-knit group made what is at the moment the most varied Malaysian reggae album.

Primarily a percussionist and an audio engineer, the musician/entrepreneur also runs Greenhouse Studio where the album was produced under the Laguna Music label, which he also co-owns. For Keep On Movin’, he was solely in charge of designing the beats which drove the album.

“It was me and Berd making the record with Joe and Izal, with Duan writing one song and adding guitar on a couple tracks. Again it was a lot of experimenting, only us realising that this was our first fully reggae project. For all the well-known love we have for reggae, we have only really made rock albums before. It’s one thing to say what you want, and another to sit down and write it. It was challenging and a

day-to-day process,” Jeff says reflecting on the making of the Joe PV album.

Jeff had conceptualised a straight-up reggae backdrop for one of its early songs, the standout “Good Love”, with Joe coming in and putting in his interpretative flavour with the lyrics and hooks. “Babylon Down”, meanwhile, the dub-step song, was a Jason Voo special, while Duan’s guitars peppered the first single “Lucy Lou”, a tune Joe himself had brought in as a strong guitar-vocal ditty. Joe’s PureVibracion comrades Izal, taking on multiple roles as co-producer, player and album artwork designer here, and Miyan were around to contribute guitars to all the songs, while the team brought in super session player Kelly to deliver some choice bass tracks.

Making authentic reggae

Though lifelong fans of reggae and rocksteady, nailing an authentic reggae vibe took some time, while scrapping styles, endless listening and re-listening, on top of dealing with the new electronic/programming approach. “It can be very midi-sounding,” summarises Jeff from a technical angle, (in large part thanks to Jason’s work) of the end-result which took a period of 36 months.

After all the tunnel vision and tedium, and all the painstaking studio labour, the hope was that, at the end waiting for them would be a radio-ready record. A bona fide pop album with dancehall, hip-hop and even a touch of dub-step decorating the streamlined reggae effort.

“Lucy Lou” was released online at end of 2013, six months before official album launch in August. The team of friends followed-up with a one-off Raya single in mid-year right before the launch, called “Manisnya Dunia (Reggae Raya)”, a festive one contributed yet again by the prolific songsmith Duan. These two tracks set the course of the sound they were all going for in respect to the Joe PV mission.

Relationships behind the album: PureVibracion,

Greenhouse Studio and the Laguna Music family

About the current status of his original band, Joe says that it’s “always there when we are all ready”. For longtime followers, PureVibracion may be to Joe just what the Wailers were to one his eternal role-models, Bob Marley.

“(But) It’s hard to sustain that big of a band, with everyone dispersed into their own individual commitments,” explains the benevolent leader.

With PureVibracion, Joe had emerged from a considerable mainstream experience. Without them, Joe PV acknowledges that he wouldn’t have come to his natural evolution towards the more assured solo path he is on at the moment. This was the band whose lively performances and varied following led to it being honored in 2006 with the ‘Duta Aman’ title for Peace Malaysia. Thus ‘PV’ is still very much an essential part of Joe’s current makeup, and will always be, as his ongoing search for peace and positive vibes in the music makes continues.

Positivity once more became the theme this time, with guest singers King Lhota, Nadhirah and his hip-hop namesake, Joe Flizzow all enlisted – polished urban performers who were far removed from the brittle underground bands of Joe PV’s youth and musical upbringing. These connections are immortalised on the tracks, “Herbalize”, “2 Times” and the killer title track, “Keep On Movin” respectively. Having already collaborated with another Kartel Records heavy-hitter Altimet with PureVibracion, one of the urban label’s newcomers Arabyrd also gets down on Joe’s aggressive “Propaganda” track here.

On his close kindreds at Laguna today, specifically his go-to producing team Jeff, Jason, Izal and Duan, Joe openly stated during the album’s release that there was “trust, comfort and understanding in the music (we) produced together”.

In the back-and-forth chemistry Joe shares with the ever-present Jeff, who cuts the records and drums on the songs and joins the shows; and Jason, who co-writes, arranges and treats the songs with fancy sounds; as well as Izal, Miyan and Duan, who lay down the guitars and are ever ready to play it all live when need be, Joe PV and his inspirations clearly belong to a peaceful and conducive long-term brotherhood.

There was another driving force behind the album, summarised in the title. Keep On Movin’ was a theme of reconciliation and strength in togetherness after loss – the Laguna family were mourning its original talisman, Jeremy Little, founder and brother of Jeff who passed in early 2014.

“It isn’t the same without my brother there, he was the only one as passionate as me and all of us,” shares Jeff. Dedicated to his memory, this was the first album released by the Laguna family in Jeremy’s absence.

When we see the light: exodus

From Ibiza to California, from Koh Lanta to Bristol, from Perhentian to Tioman, Joe has observed first-hand from onstage, the difference between international audiences and ours. “International crowds, of course they are more open to something that is good, interesting and unique.” Joe PV’s music is this time around aims to retain this exotic appeal abroad.

Keep On Movin’ and the music inside perhaps owes a spiritual debt to a regular haunt of Joe’s on Langkawi Island – the cosy Babylon Mat Lounge – where homeborne reggae bands play nightly to enthusiastic foreign fans who are always up for more.

Before he and Jeff went in to record the songs to make his mark as a solo artist, Joe

had acknowledged that he and his band PureVibracion were still considered “fresh in terms of talent compared to the music industry as a whole in Malaysia”.

Keep On Movin’ was a chance to dress his craft and manifest his music in a more universal fashion. Creating and delivering the music was a process which took a lot of thought, manual hours in the studio and again, three years to complete. The rough material was eventually distilled into eight tracks as a “love letter to fans” for their loyalty to Joe PV’s music.

True to reggae, a rastafarian musician can only promise visions of freedom, tolerance and peace on the planet – if you look hard enough for it. Through the lyrics to the pulsating, forceful “Keep On Movin”, Joe’s wild essence conveys another reminder both timely and timeless: to “never forget to live the positive side of life”.

“You’ll find the feel of the reggae rhythm and spirit that came from PureVibracion and Joe PV is different. It was a lot of sacrifice to get to here, but the mission continues and I’m at peace and have faith with whatever that I offer.”

On the value of experience, Joe says: “The further we go, the wider our horizons are. Toseekfreedomintheheartandmindandnotjustoneyesandearslevel.”

“With maturity of course, you wish to be more meaningful, more representative of yourself, more accepted and understood, more known. I also know I have to be bolder now, daring to try things never tried before, and even more open than I have ever been before,” adds the musician, singer, ambassador, whatever you need to call him.

Joe could not mind less – he is always on the move, from island to island, community to community, concert to concert, meeting kids, being closer to family, like his heroes and predecessors, like his father tuan Jamaluddin, and his prophet,

Muhammad, pbuh; like Bob Marley, P. Ramlee and Mahathir Mohamad, and the rest were with their artistic lives.

“I got abang and heroes too – I’m just continuing with their work. I hope I contribute something good to music and to my country.”

With this album, Joe PV shows that he is willing to walk the talk, sharing on record the beginning of this positive journey he has devoted himself towards. May this music represent not only Joe’s open world, and the passion for musical vibes shared among Jeffrey, Jason, Duan and his infinite comrades, but also a hope and belief in these visions for a contemporary Malaysia.

~ {I. Shah, October 2014}