Organiser 'heartbroken' by KL concert deaths
There were six deaths, suspected to be drug-related, at a music festival organised by his company.
The shocking incident left him "heartbroken", said Mr Iqbal Ameer, chief executive officer of The Livescape Group.
The Malaysian music and creative events agency had staged the-three-day Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) at Bukit Jalil Stadium, near Kuala Lumpur, in March.
Tragedy struck on March 14, the second night, with a suspected drug-related death after the showcase A State of Trance in the stadium.
Another five people who were at the festival died later from suspected drug overdoses. All six were Malaysians.
The Livescape Group cancelled the third night of the festival and was slammed by thousands of disappointed festival-goers, some of whom had travelled to Malaysia for the occasion.
An estimated 85,000 people would have attended the RM15 million (S$6 million) three-day festival.
Mr Iqbal, 28, told The New Paper last week: "We did a lot of work and put a lot of effort into it. What happened was way beyond our control.
"It could happen anywhere and it happens everywhere. For us, we had to lick our wounds, be better and stronger as well as learn from our experiences."
His friend, Mr Jason Kong, 30, who is also Livescape's public relations head,said: "To say that he was heartbroken is an understatement. In the time we have worked together, I have never seen him like he was that night.
"He was very strong but I knew it was only a front and only because he was the leader. But it hit him more than anyone."
Mr Kong said the company lost RM4 million as a result of cancelling the last night's event as they had to reimburse the affected acts and refund ticket-holders.
Mr Rudy De Rozario, the managing director of Singapore concert promoter Live! Empire, said the losses are considered small for such a large-scale festival.
"Considering the production costs, which can amount to a lot, as well as the quality of their acts, I had expected them to lose at least twice that amount. But any loss, $2 or $2 million, is still ultimately a loss," said the 38-year-old.
Grammy-winning acts such as US singer-producer Pharrell Williams, US hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Malaysian singer Yuna were slated to perform on the third day.
The overseas stars had arrived in Malaysia to find out the festival had been called off "in the interest of public safety" following advice from the authorities.
Fifteen foreigners and 14 Malaysians were arrested on site and 16 people were taken to hospital for suspected drug overdoses.
Mr Iqbal said his team had taken all necessary safety measures, including bag and security checks, a functioning trauma centre with medical personnel, police posts and plainclothes police officers on the festival grounds.
"To be honest, whatever we did then, we went above and beyond what any event organiser would have done for a party of that scale," he said.
"Days before the festival, the authorities came to make sure everything was in order and we ticked all the boxes. We did everything in our power to ensure we had a great space for people to enjoy the music."
But still it happened.
A two-week investigation cleared Livescape of any negligence, Mr Iqbal said.
"We found out that a bad batch of drugs from the Golden Triangle (a region that covers parts of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand) was going around.
"As much as we wanted the show to go on, if someone else was to die on the third day, I don't think we could have had that sort of blood on our hands," he said.
Despite the tragedy, Mr Iqbal is planning Future Music Festival Asia 2015 and has booked headlining acts, which he is keeping secret.
His focus now is on a music festival at sea called It's The Ship - an event on board a newly refurbished Royal Caribbean International ship, Voyager of the Seas, in November (See report, right.)
Mr Iqbal stressed the importance of drug education, especially in Asia: "We can't do this alone. Everyone needs to come together and acknowledge that (consumption of drugs at festivals) is happening and we all need to work together to curb it. You can't stop the music," he said.
3,800 expected for music fest at sea
A cruise vacation and music festival all rolled into one - that is It's The Ship, a 5-day/4-night event in November .
An estimated 3,800 people, with 60 per cent expected to come from outside Singapore, will board Royal Caribbean International's newly refurbished Voyager of the Seas here on Nov 21 and sail up the Strait of Malacca to Langkawi island, Malaysia.
The music festival will run from 8pm to 5am daily.
On Nov 23, there will be a beach party on Langkawi.
"We always try to up the ante and do something unique.
"We've had a lot of friends who go on vacations in big groups to places like Ibiza (an island in the Mediterranean Sea), for instance, to see different acts," said Mr Iqbal Ameer, chief executive officer of The Livescape Group, a Malaysian music and creative events agency.
"We thought, 'What if we coupled those two things together?'"
Phase 1 of the musical line-up, which was announced at a press event last week, includes US rapper-producer Lil Jon, Scottish synth-pop trio Chvrches, British DJ-producer Alex Metric and regional acts.
More acts will be announced in the coming months.
The cruise ship's main pool deck and an ice-skating rink will be converted into the two main stages, with temporary bars serving as live music venues, for the US$4 million (S$5 million) event.
The Voyager of the Seas features 14 guest decks, a royal promenade, a Vegas-style casino, a 3D cinema and a FlowRider surf simulator.
Mr Iqbal, who wants to keep the festival drug-free, said: "It's about drug education. People need to know what they are putting into their bodies.
"They should also know that they don't need that to have fun. Music gives you a kind of euphoria on its own."
PHOTO ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL
It's The Ship
Royal Caribbean International's Voyager of the Seas
From US$430 (early bird) to US$4,000 per person. Register at www.itstheship.com
WHAT HAPPENED AT FESTIVAL
The third day of the Future Music Festival Asia near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was cancelled after six drug-related deaths.
KL police chief Senior Deputy Commissioner Mohamad Salleh said they were locals aged 19 to 28, the New Straits Times reported.
In the first two days of the concert, the police arrested 19 people - seven locals and 12 foreigners from Singapore, Australia and Indonesia - for drug possession.
Singaporean Chua Wen Hu, 26, was among three people who collapsed at A State of Trance, part of the Future Music Festival Asia which had moved from KL to Ancol Beach in Jakarta, Indonesia.
He later died in what the Indonesian authorities called a drug-related case.
Two Singaporean men who were at the festival faced drug charges in a Malaysian court.
Mohamad Redzwan Sali, 27, was charged with drug consumption after a positive drug test and Ng Teck Ming, also 27, with possession of cannabis.
A Singaporean woman was released on police bail.
Cheras police chief Assistant Commissioner Mohan Singh Tara Singh said 15 people, including Malaysians and foreigners, had been charged in court for drugs.
Of the 16 people taken to hospital, 11 were Singaporeans.
The police arrested 15 foreigners and 14 Malaysians at the festival site.