Business

Saturday February 23, 2013

Carlsberg Malaysia’s Soren Ravn raps like a professional artist

My Other Business
By CHERYL POO


Born to rap: Ravn (right) performing to entertain his guests at a Carlsberg function in Kuala Lumpur. Born to rap: Ravn (right) performing to entertain his guests at a Carlsberg function in Kuala Lumpur.

This managing director raps like Eminem. No kidding.

In fact, call him T Bone Ortega, which was his rapper ID in his youth.

Watching Soren Ravn perform, which happens regularly at company functions, you get a sense of his unabashed personality, the daring of this six-footer Danish expatriate who goes all out to entertain his guests.

At the beverage company dinner earlier this week, Ravn entered the hall dressed as a Chinese emperor yellow robes, head gear, gong, the works.

“In Europe, business comes before relationship building, contrary to what happens here in Asia. Clients here appreciate the relationship first. Then, business follows naturally,” Ravn shares.

It is an insight that many foreign CEOs reveal, and in this case, a glimpse into Ravn's business savvy.

People who deal with him talk about his energy and candour.

“He's frank and sharp. He speaks his mind,” a business associate says.

Ravn grew up in Aarhus, a sleepy town east of the peninsular in Denmark, as the only child of a local bank director and a scientist.

Role model: Ravn is a good sport when he he showed up as a Chinese emperor at the Carlsberg annual Chinese New Year dinner. Role model: Ravn is a good sport when he he showed up as a Chinese emperor at the Carlsberg annual Chinese New Year dinner.

It was a safe environment, Ravn recalls, and he needed an outlet to channel out steam.

Steam? Were you an angry kid?

He laughs.

“No, no. Well, maybe yes. A little.” About what exactly, he obviously wouldn't say. But it's safe to deduce that gregarious Vikings and pedicured environments don't go well together, especially when the former hits puberty.

Ravn took to hardcore rap, connecting with rappers who pushed the comforts of society with songs that described their feelings towards authority and the perceived injustices of life.

“I never knew such emotions up till then,” he says.

He started practising, his nimble mind serving him well to release long reams of lyrics in English and his native tongue.

He was about 13 then.

A decade later, he teamed up with two friends and performed at a jamboree for young artists.

Sony salesmen there spotted the trio and easily convinced them to cut an album that year itself.

He had completed his tertiary studies and begun work, and his parents were supportive of their ambitious fledgling gaining exposure.

Just live, they told him.

Months later, they debuted with Kid Rodriguez, an album of about a dozen tracks featuring Ravn in three of them.

“Kid had a Mexican theme for some strange reason,” he says.

The band toured major cities in the country, selling about 500 albums that year.

“I think that's the lowest sales that Sony had ever hit,” an amused Ravn says.

It was an enjoyable run for him, who was making headway in a Carlsberg subsidiary as a salesman before assuming the role of supply chain manager in Carlsberg Denmark.

His two friends went on to become a movie director and founder of a consultancy firm, respectively.

Ravn was at the start of a long and promising career with Carlsberg, and music to this day continues to alleviate long days at work.

In the evenings, he dabbles with drums and learned that he could very well produce the same effects with his vocal pipes and a mic.

These days, he does the human beat box to music by Kanye West, 50 Cent and homegrown bands such as Medina and Malk De Koejn.

You might find him belting out songs with friends and work associates at karoake outlets twice a month.

Occasionally, the 39-year-old attempts Chinese tracks.

He vocalises a brief sampling of the latter and breaks up snickering.

His Chinese “sound” sounds anything but.

“You saw what happened tonight,” he says, referring to his earlier standup performances, “we're not afraid to embarrass ourselves. It's just for the fun of it. People love a good surprise.”


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