The hair is shorter and the missing wisps are evident of a bowl cut that hardly seems capable of billowing in the May wind exposing a face more gaunt . Man Bai saunters in, his body having lost the swingin' gait of a musician wallowing in self imposed glory (shock sendiri) like in the case of most of those involved in the crazed and glamorous world of stardom.

He looks a trifle bit miffed at having ripped his favourite jeans while taking a spill on his bike just minutes before. Hearing that, a thought strikes my mind, a glancing blow: here's a man whose entries and exits have been rather dramatic.

Born Abdul Rahman Osman, his life reads like a fairytale where at some point at the height of success the going got tough, he overcame the hurdles and forged a successful comeback.

Did I say fairytale? More like an inspiration for a blockbuster movie! His successful career trail blazes back to when he came into public consciousness, achieving teen idol status singing in Gersang, grouped with other strange bedfellows Man Greng, Jojet and Kid. The band concentrated on playing progressive rock.

In 1988, the band released Masih Ku Terasa which hit platinum. A year later, their second release, Suratan Takdir, followed suit in achieving platinum sales and they were fast becoming the party hearty, genre busting rock band of its time.

Just as the group was reaching heady heights of success and reaching new levels of mainstream acceptance with their third release, B-29, Man Bai's vocal chords were heading for trouble. A visit to the doctor confirmed it.

"He told me that I should give singing a three-year break after the tonsillitis operation," he says with a voice that has lost its 'partied too hard' rasp.

A three month break may be easier to endure but a three-year break sounds like a pilgrimage to the Himalayas.

"I was clearly shocked," he divulges. "But I didn't panic and go 'Oh, my god! What am I going to do? This is my livelihood!' I just decided on what I wanted to do next." He couldn't help but be brutally optimistic. Furthermore, he didn't relish the prospect of laying idle.

A two-month stint studying audio technology came to an abrupt halt when he met up with Roslan Aziz.

"I aspired to be like him; producing albums the way he does, so I followed him around watching him work," he recalls, looking shrimpier, quiet but with darting, mischievous eyes.

"But Roslan told me not to waste my time and his."

Perseverance paid off when finally, Roslan gave in to his persistence and ferocious ambition. He was employed as a member of his production crew.

"When he came to me, saying that he wanted to learn all about studio engineering, I was initially sceptical. He didn't have the reputation of an angel exactly," recalled Roslan. "I told him that there was only one way of teaching him and that's how I learnt the trade myself - the hard way."

The hard way it was as he had to do menial tasks like wiring up the equipment, coiling up the electrical cables after use and became a 'fetch it' boy.

"I did everything from lifting equipment and setting them up and dismantling them for other musicians' shows."

Having been in the forefront under the bright stage lights - belting out songs that made many a young heart whoop with excitement, and now being reduced to a stage hand, didn't affect his morale one bit.

"I didn't think that I should be up there singing instead of carrying speakers," he said. "I knew that my time would come to take on the stage again."

Though he missed singing, he didn't have the confidence. But gradually he built it up with a lot of arduous vocal training on his own. In the meanwhile, he had to settle with being part of the production crew for Roslan Aziz Productions.

Musicians in Malaysia tend to play up the glamour but in reality being able to sing and not do anything else isn't going to do much for self development. It is essential to know the technicalities of this business in order to make it workable and in this industry exploring the various creative landscapes would hone one's creativity further. Man Bai was totally aware of the fact that he would not be there in the limelight at the age of 50 or 60.

"One should have another mission in life."

Like when plan A fails, plan B is at hand to fall back on. Otherwise who's to pay the bills? Besides having just tied the knot with Shahriza, an air stewardess, responsibilities accumulated. His passion for music was so strong, that even if it meant starting from scratch, he'd endure it for as long as he stuck to the one thing that is closest to his heart.

"I cannot go back and work as a clerk. My creativity lies in music and I was fully aware that I could diversify and make something out of it," he explains. "My wife's support helped tremendously in easing the difficulties of adapting to my new life."

And so his stint with Roslan took off to a positive start. Even the meagre salary of RM350 a month didn't deter him one bit as he knew that the experience he'd gather would be immeasurable in dollars and cents.

"The support I received from fans from Gersang days and fellow musicians has been tremendous and most motivating."

There were times when his perseverance was put to test when in front of 8,000 people, testing the microphone for an artiste's show, the crowd would urge him to sing.

"I just instilled in my head that I am the crew and not the artiste, making note mentally that my comeback would be soon. "He put his ego aside and worked as hard as he could for Roslan, who in turn didn't pamper him because of where he came from and his old star status.

"When I was with Gersang, I didn't know much about life. It was all about having a good time then," he admits in retrospect. "After going through so much, a lot of which was painful, I see things differently."

The experience has evidently humbled him very much as it involves some dangerous tasks as well.

"There are the dangers of getting electrocuted and falling off scaffoldings," he says. "I was afraid at first but as time went by, I became more accustomed to the various techniques of doing things carefully and dilligently come rain or shine."

Then the fateful day came. Roslan advised him to find some more material in addition to Kau Ilham Ku which was recorded as a demo in 1992 and urged him to take on the controls and produce his own album.

"Hearing that from someone whom you regard as your sifu, I felt mixed emotions ranging from panic to that of pride," he divulges. He sought advise and gained input from his 'master'. He wanted to create music without fog and props; deviating from the Gersang sound.


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