MY MUSIC ODYSSEY

Friday, April 4, 2014 at 11:24 PM

Music was no longer driven by energy alone. It had various elements that require intellectual intervention. Everything had to be synergised like pieces of puzzles - chord arrangements, melody, genre, beat, lyrics, types of instrument and the most epitome ingredient, the "feel"


USIC has always been a significant part of my life. Not because I grew up with music, but because I made a conscious effort to have interest in it. I grew up in a typical conventional traditional Malay family where the ultimate focus was being put on education and religion. Music was never part of that. It was all about tuitions for the core subjects like maths, English and the like. Music class was unknown in my family. I wanted to become a fine artist but responsibly pursuaded otherwise by my father. I became an Accountant instead. Having said that, where did the opportunity to love music came from? My father do listen to music but it was not fresh enough for the liking of a kid like me (back then). We are talking about names such as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole alongside the local counterparts such as Ahmad Nawab, Syed Agil and of course, who cannot resist, P. Ramlee (Tan Sri). The radio scene was also quite limited to Zainal Din Zainal or Nuramin from Radio Malaysia Ibu Kota (popularly known as RMIK).
 
So what had opened my eyes (or rather my ears)? It was a few names as listened from cassettes bought by my father - Alleycats (Kerana), Kembara (Duit-Duit) and Sudirman (Chow Kit Road). This showcased music as a point of interest to me. The point where I begin to request my father to buy more cassettes of those artists. On the foreign influence side, Michael Jackson was at that time winning all trophies possible via Billy Jean, Beat It and of course, Thriller. The first foreign cassette I'd ever listened to was the compilation of 1984 Grammy Award winners simply because Michael Jackson was on it. This exposed me to more good tunes such as Uptown Girl (Billy Joel), Telephone (Sheena Easton), All Night Long (Lionel Ritchie) and many more. But soon, foreign influence (on me) depleted as the popularity in school (primary) was heavily fuelled by Search (Rozana), Lefthanded (Tiada Lagi Kidungmu) and a few more Malay Rock'n'Roll bands.

Secondary school was a bigger pool of musical experience. We were having super bands from both local and foreign scenes assimilating into our hungry sponge for entertainment. Search (Fenomena album) continued being the No.1 band in Malaysia and Wings (Hukum Karma album) rouse up to be of equal strength to Search. The guru behind Kembara (whom I was listening to initially) now decided to expose himself as M. Nasir storming Malaysia with his solo album featuring Mustika. On the English path, along came Guns'n'Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi, Manowar, U2, Helloween, Sepultura, Nirvana and many more. During that time I begin to learn how to play the guitar. That opened the gate to a new realm of music, the instrumentalists such as Yngwie Johann Malmsteen, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. As you can see, my musical inclination moved away from the Pop genre that Grammy Awards was dominated by, to Rock'n'Roll and Heavy Metal.

By the time I left for Australia for my tertiary studies, I had made a myopic decision to only accept "Rock" as my preferred genre and closed the doors to any other genre. Being a rocker was cool and that accepting other genre was pathetic, or at least, that was what I was thinking. Metallica became my favourite band and I begin to do a retrospective journey tracking the roots of "Rock". From contemporary (at that time) Heavy Metal bands like Metallica, I managed to trace musical influences to the grandfathers of Heavy Metal, namely Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. These bands had strong blues influence. That led to the discovery of a softer "Rock" such as Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Double Trouble, the Police and of course, The Beatles. These bands introduced me to great musicians such as Ozzy Osbourne, Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page, David Gilmore, Dr. Mark Knofler, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Sting and Sir Paul Mcartney. Of course I knew Elvis Presley is the king of rock but I never went that far. He did not fit in into my appetite. What did fit in naturally was and still is, the modern Rock King, inventor of freakish blues, Jimi Hendrix.

Occasionally I do enjoy some pop songs but it was more because of the sexy girls singing - Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Shakira, Spice Girls, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and the list goes on. Hip Hop was not in my DNA except for Will Smith. At that time the Rock influence was deeply embeded especially when jamming sessions (I play the bass guitar) were filled with Rock songs, or, if not, derivative of Rock, such as Alternative or Grunge. That myopic dimension was soon broken when I met Ahmad Izham Omar, a Malaysian song writer and producer (who produced Innuendo's albums). We talked about music. We strategised genres to capture audiences when he was the CEO of 8TV and radio stations such as Hot FM, Fly FM and One FM. We had some jamming sessions, of which, some of it involved stars such as Amy Search and Jacklyn Victor. He was well balanced in his interest. He appreciated both "Rock" and "Non-Rock". He simply appreciates music... full stop.

He (Izham) provided me with a new realm of discovery - music was no longer driven by energy alone. It had various elements that require intellectual intervention. Everything had to be synergised like pieces of puzzles - chord arrangements, melody, genre, beat, lyrics, types of instrument and the most epitome ingredient, the "feel". It is as if music is supposed to give some transcending enlightenment. As a result, I started listening to  Chick Corea, Kenny Wayne Shepard, Jeff Buckley, John Mayer, Mike Stern, Tracy Chapman, Living Colour and had intensified my listening to Izham's favourite, The Beatles. I learnt a hell of a lot about music from Izham. It gets interesting when he makes fascinating observations on song structure. For example, most songs have even bars in a verse (eight or four) but the song Yesterday, by the Beatles, has seven. He also gave me insights on how my bass guitar playing should fit in bridging the beats from the drums to the other instruments and laying out the rhythms for the vocals and guitars to ride on as well as providing the notes and melody that fences a song together. This all sounds very philosophical but when comprehended, it is the substance of that "intellectual" intervention that makes a song really, really good to listen to.

In the end, I had embarked on a wonderful journey into the music world retrospectively and prospectively; and jumping from one genre to another. I accept all genres of music for a better understanding of music universally. I also utilise, where possible, the various techniques that the different genres can offer, and, in my mind, appreciation of music cannot be guided by the musicians solely as it must reciprocate the interest of the listeners. In other words, musicians should not limit their musical creativity to what he or she believes in but also to include what the listeners believe in. Despite all that, when asked who or which band had the most influence in my musical journey, I'd answer, Metallica!!!!! ..... and hail Burton.

 
METALLICA
(Original Lineup excluding Dave Mustaine)
L to R:
James Hetfield (Vocals/Guitars), Kirk Hammet (Guitar),
Lars Ulrich (Drums) and Cliff Burton RIP (Bass)

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