“Not many people know this but I was first a woman music deejay, along with (Datuk) Yasmin Yusoff, in Malaysia. Music is my first love, and this festival is me going back to that interest,” says Susan Lankester, the 54-year-old who made her celluloid mark with Mekanik in 1983 and on television’s 2+1 series in 1989.
She was most recently on the silver screen with Redha.
Recalling her salad days as a music DJ in the 70s, the 54-year-old says: “I was spinning 45rpms, vinyl man! Mixing, and everything. I had just returned from boarding school in England, and was going out at night to the discos, and clubs… I was approached to learn to become a deejay.
“So, I went to the clubs in the afternoon, learnt all about the equipment, how to mix, adjust sound, and was started at afternoon tea dances. I co-deejayed that with a professional DJ before I got to spin at the clubs at night. Where did I spin? It was mainly at the underground clibs, like Godown, Where Else (at Hotel Malaya)…
“I didn’t do the Tin Mine (at the then Hilton Hotel) because that was Yasmin’s turf.
“This was before Mekanik (the movie). I was young, maybe 18,19. So, yes, music with The Gardens festival is like coming full circle for me.”
Being in the movies was also another accidental occurrence for Susan, as she tells it. “I never thought anything of it when I went for casting. (Director Othman) Hafsham saw something in me, bless him.
“He had enough faith in me to send me the script. I told my mum I was going to be in a Malay movie, and she said, ‘What? Malay? But you don’t know Malay, and you can’t act.’ I said, I know!
“But I thankfully didn’t have a lot of dialogue, but there was that one line that I am still remembered for!”
Her face alight with nostalgic recollections, Susan laughs at her memories, crediting Othman for moulding her into an actor.
“I taught myself Malay but learning the street language first. Then I would look up the words in the dictionary.”
After Mekanik, more movie roles started coming her way. But Susan hardly says yes to movie and television scripts these past decades because they are the same. “Matsalleh woman, comes to Malaysia maybe to teach, falls in love with a Malay man, has to covert… again, and again. There are just too many of those kind of scripts.
“In the 80s and 90s, there was better quality scripts in RTM and TV3, compared to today.
“But after the movie roles, I didn’t get a chance to do music.”
The Gardens Music Festival is keeping the award-winning Susan busy, along with her other work which includes theatre and scriptwriting, interior design, and landscaping, among other activities, under her Catwoman Productions company.
The Gardens Theatre was opened in 2013, and has since several concerts including Aubrey Suwito’s Christmas show in 2014. Located at Mid Valley City, it has 320 seats, and features state-of-the-art acoustics and lighting, with an experienced team of professionals offering technical and support services.
As the consultant for the festival, which runs May 25 to June 5, Susan has put together a “lovely amalgamation of music” and has added speakers to the theatre so that the sound is warm.
The music runs the gamut from R&B and jazz, to folk, soul and contemporary genres. “So that, people will have a choice,” she explains, looking trim and lithe in a tee and pants.
The artistes will each be backed by their own band or accompaniment. They each have their own theme. One can expect covers as well as original music.
Among them are jazz outfit WVC, who will also back other performers, Bihzhu, Junji Delfino, Elvira, Chelsea Ng, Janet Lim, May Mow and Evelyn Feroza.
Penang-born singer-songwriter Bihzhu, the stage name of Nicole Foo, has been on the performance circuit in Malaysia since her days with the pop-jazz duo, Rhapsody, and dub outfit Layan Sound System. Since going solo in 2011, the 32-year-old has released her debut album and taken on a role in a musical.
Junji, 56, the jazz darling for many music fans in Malaysia, broke away from doing solely club performances when she held her first solo concert in 2010, followed by a musical tribute called Lush Life! in 2012. Junji will be performing her Boh Cameronian-winning Broadway show with David Gomez on piano.
Elvira, 36, has wowed many with her rich voice, and impassioned delivery of age-old songs, ranging from the blues to soul to jazz and even rock.
Ng, backed by an all-girl band, will see 90s covers while Lim will perform Shanghai jazz numbers.
Says Susan of the festival: “It will be an immersive experience. Come relax, and enjoy what KL talent has to offer. The talent is incredible.”
Given the range on offer, the music promises to send you on own special trip.”
For more information, visit www.gardenstheatre.com.my or follow The Gardens Theatre on Facebook for the latest updates on events.