SPOTLIGHT : Evelyn Hii
There’s no denying that for Evelyn Hii – proprietor of No Black Tie, a charming bar nestled near Cangkat Bukit Bintang – music is equal parts life and passion. Hailing from Sarawak and clasically trained in the US, the spirited lady is wholly fervant about sharing her love for music with the local crowds through No Black Tie’s regular live performances.
Her story with No Black Tie began back in March 1998 when, after observing the lack of interaction between local classical musicians, she took it upon herself to organise classical evenings at the bar (then known as Breizh, under a different management).
“I thought it’d be fantastic to take classical music out from the concert hall.” she says. The need to make classical music more accessible to everybody is something that she recognised – not just the matter of the stodginess of formal concerts and venues, but also to alter the mindsets of musicians and audiences alike.
After a year of sopranos, violinists and brass quintets, the platform was extended to other musical styes as well, culminating in an opportunity to take over the lease from the original owners in 2000 – marking her transition from hobby to full-time job. Together with veteran musician Rafique Rashid (whose sound/equipment expertise and extensive musician contacts have been integral to NBT), she imbues the establishment with unique character, perfect for music lovers craving the sort of intimacy between audience and musician you’re not likely to find in larger concert halls.
They’ve since established a web of musician networks, by word of mouth from performers who have played there, making NBT an important destination for top-shelf artistes, as well as an avenue for less-exposed ones, bridging countries, genres and audience demographics.
“I’d like to keep No Black Tie for the rest of my life.” she declares of the bar’s importance to her. Aside from running the place, she also finds time to step onto the stage herself, performing on the piano with musicians from the National Symphony Orchestra, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as UPM students.
When asked why she makes all this effort to promote an accessible live performance culture, a simple, matter-of-fact answer sums it all up perfectly: “For the music.”