Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Thank you for the music

Arif receiving his best student (music) at his
school year end concert.
I have a confession. I am musically illiterate - I can’t sing, I can’t play any instrument and I can’t read any music note. Well, I can play the piano with one hand. One second thought, make that with one finger. I can find the key for many songs just by ear, but that’s about the only thing I could do with the piano. That is beyond using the piano as firewood for my BBQ pit!

My kids would laugh at me whenever I play the M.Nasir’s ballad “Andainya aku pergi dulu” on the piano. Anyone can play that song – just pound on the 'A' key incessantly for about 10 times and everyone would recognize the song you are playing!

I have always loved music. I guess that is in part due the fact that that was the only source of entertainment in our household. What do you expect when we didn’t even have the television until well in the 80s? We only have the record player in the 60s and 70s and I guess on special nights, we would listen to the vinyls. It was the keroncongs, and SM Salim for aruah Bapak, or if Mak was playing them we would be able to listen to A Ramlie or Ahmad Jais or yang seangkatan dengannya. Of course my siblings and I have our own choice in music with Abba, or the Bee Gees taking over the airwaves at our home in Aulong.
Arif on the violin playing Falling Leaves

I remember learning the guitar on my own while I was at high school. On rare occasion you would find a guitar lying on the bed without anyone playing it. So I took the opportunity to ask say MatRaman to teach me some guitar chords, be it Gm or F and I would strum along some selected songs. I thought I was doing well – may be I could ‘play’ a couple of pop song, until one day another classmate said to the following effect, “Man, mu doh blaja gitar ene bule, dok pandai pandai lagi!” That did it for me. I had never touched the guitar again. 

You are right Matj, I can never be Carlos Santana!

So I have always wondered about my two kids. Arif is now a Grade 7 pianist, and a Grade 5 violinist, while my youngest Akmal is a Grade 4 pianist and is in his second month on classical guitar. Our home is filled to the brink with classical music from Bach to Beethoven to Mozart and everyone in between. In fact unlike other teenagers who follow Britney and her contemporaries, my kids would follow this philharmonic and that philharmonic or some balding violinist or dead pianist.

Don't get me wrong - I am pleased that they have no interest in rock music, hip hop or black metals, though sometimes I do wonder on where did I go wrong as they are not turning up like normal teens!

Anyway recently (Dec 06) Arif was asked to back the Felda HQ choir during the farewell dinner for the retiring Felda director general. With less than a week’s rehearsal, we weren’t sure if he could make it. But he pulled it off beautifully and in the end performed two songs for the occasion. One was the haunting melody of 'A comme Amour' (Richard Clayderman's) which is a standard tearjerker background music for many Malay drama.
The view of the farewell party - Arif can be seen on the
big screen on the left, but he is actually located on the right.
The other song is the Indonesian ballad 'My Heart'. I thought he played like a pro on the beautiful melodic song by Melly Goeslaw, which was originally performed by Acha and Irwansyah. We spent hours even at home playing this song to death to provide the background for him to practice and get the feel of the piece.

It was great for boosting his confidence in performing in front of an audience of 1000, including the Felda chairman, Tan Sri Dr Yusuf Nor, while getting paid handsomely for his effort – for a 15-year old kid that is.

You can barely see Arif on the right of the picture.
It was only a year before that he performed at his music school’s concert at Sedaya University College hall in Connought and getting away with the Most Outstanding Performance award. On that night in Nov 2005, he had performed the piano solo (Go the Distance), violin solo (Falling Leaves), violin duet (Careless Whisper), and a group violin piece. In a recent recital in Nov 2006, Arif performed 'Puck' and later on went on a duet on the piano with his brother Akmal.

Looking back when I was his age, beyond getting good results in exams in school, I have not achieved much - much less getting paid for my effort. Sure, I got a ringgit for getting perfect score for my geography class test on Japan and another for getting A1 in geography for SRP (God bless you, Cikgu (Dr) Fatanah) but that was nothing compared to what Arif had achieved.

Then again, even in the 70s, we do have Simon Cowell in our midst at MRSM KB. My musical career never took off the ground, rightly so too!

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