Lessons in surviving the local music industry by Kadazandusun’s best ever male vocalist, Evaristus GungkitMay 28th, 2008
In my opinion, he’s the best ever Kadazandusun singer. Better than even the legendary John Gaisah. Of all the local artistes, he’s the one of whom I have purchased the most original albums.
I first heard him back in 1992 when absolutely everybody was singing his biggest hit, and to me still is the greatest song ever written in the Kadazandusun language, “Kada Tilombuso Sinduolnu.” Unsurprisingly, his first album is still his best-selling ever.
I first saw and heard him sing live onstage during the 1994 Kota Kinabalu Unduk Ngadaus at the Community Hall. He was singing, appropriately the song “Unduk Ngadau” from his 2nd album then as he led the participants to the stage.
For once, I was entranced more by the singing than the participants! In fact, I thought that that performance was better than the studio version of the song in the album.
I have heard him sing various times since then. But the biggest thrills were when he sang “Kada Tilombuso Sinduolnu” live during a wedding reception, many years after I last heard it, when the hosts specially requested for it. Then there was that other occasion when I did not even realise that he was sitting in front of me at another wedding reception at Dewan Tun Fuad. The hosts called out for Evaristus, and there he was standing up and making his way to the stage. He sang the classic but overplayed “The Wedding.” In most cases I would’ve turned off, but I must say what I heard was the best rendition of that song since Julie Rogers’ original way back in 1965! Needless to say, when Evaristus returned to his seat, I shook his hand and profusely congratulated him.
Then just now I saw an article done by Valentine Sianggal Jr on my favourite Sabahan singer at kadusmusic.com, which was a great article on his experiences all these years.
He was born 1966 (now 42) at Kg Kituntul, Tambunan.
He was champion of Bintang Kaamatan 1991 (now known as Sugandoi Kaamatan). In fact he also competed in 1990 but did not get any placing.
He has produced 4 solo albums and a karaoke album:
- 1992: Kada Tilombuso Sinduolnu: sold very well, his best-seller
- 1994: Ika Tinongkiadan Ku;
- 1996: Rombituon;
- 2000: Sondukut
- 2006: Evaristus Gungkit Top 10 (Karaoke versions of his most popular songs)
He made it to the last 8 of Bintang RTM 1992.
In 1995, he won the Sabah State Civil Service singing competition.
He’s married to Hilda George Mool and has 4 kids.
When he first started out, he thought he could go professional. His experiences told him otherwise: being a singer in the Kadazandusun language does not provide enough income to justify doing it full time. Being popular does not mean a high income level. Hence, singing has been relegated to just a hobby, providing income on the side.
His first album, “Kada Tilombuso Sinduolnu” sold very well. He didn’t have to rely on royalties from the recording company because he marketed the album via his own label. He also paid for the making of that album with his own money. Demand from music shops were also good at that time. Unfortunately things went downhill for the next albums.
The sales of his subsequent albums generated just enough income to pay for itself in order to produce the next album.
This is a real eye opener and a very honest advice.
One saving grace is the fact that he’s still being invited to perform during functions, most notably by RTM Sabah and the Sabah Cultural Board.
His advice to aspiring artistes: explore all avenues to show off your talent. Be well prepared, including attending vocal classes. Do not rely on just luck.
… the sales figures would go up, keep your fingers crossed …