Playing From The Heart

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How did I get to be the first Malay professional guzheng player? I’ve been interested in world music since young. I picked up playing classical Chinese string instruments in 1998 and joined the Chinese orchestra at Nanyang Polytechnic when I was studying nursing. I fell in love especially with the guzheng because of its very expressive and beautiful sound. I don’t read music and I don’t remember chords, but I play from the heart because that’s where I believe true music lives. Over the years, this led me to perform as part of various ensembles and as a soloist, and to performances in Indonesia, China and Europe.

I really got started in my musical career because of a Singapore minister who spotted me playing the guzheng at a Community Development Council outreach programme. This led to a phone call in 2005 at 8am from this minister’s office — I thought it was a joke! But he helped me to perform at more outreach events. There were a lot of racial harmony campaigns in 2005-2006. I got so busy, I realised it could be possible to make a living from my music.

By then, I was working as a nurse, something I went into because I wanted to help people. But the hours were so long that I found it difficult to keep myself healthy even though I was helping others get well. It hit me in 2009, when I realised my music was sustaining me more than my work — financially, physically and emotionally. It paid more than my nursing job. So why not just do it? I love how my music makes people happy. I remember how playing to my grandfather in 2000 brought him joy when he had a month to live because of cancer. He lived for another seven months. My mother said my music brought him life. I may not have big bucks, but I can give of my music, and will continue to, as I have in raising funds for the Typhoon Haiyan disaster.


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