Music is a subject that you learn during childhood. Well, so I thought.
Growing up in a music family, I did the usual – graded Classical exams. It felt like a military boot camp especially when both my parents were music teachers.
Quitting was never an option.
The discipline was not fun especially during holidays when every single relative’s houses had pianos. School felt like holiday instead. Having learnt two instruments at the same time (piano and violin), I had the passion for one but not the other. Big difference. One felt fun, the other felt like a burden.
When times got challenging, it was always the one with passion that felt easier to go through. Only when I was older did I realise the importance of passion.
Music never really had a good reputation back in the days. Either it was “music teachers are poor” (hence why I was embarrassed when asked about my parents’ occupation), or it was related to “sex, drugs and Rock and Roll”. Bearing in mind these two “options, I had to choose either path if music was going to be a career.
Since there’s no market for Classical music performances in this country and teaching wasn’t my cup of tea, I chose the other path and started exploring options. Soon did I discover music arranging, performing, music directing, music producing, etc. so the transition began.
All transitions are tough, challenging and definitely out of ones comfort zone. Change is like a birth. It takes time, and when it fully matures, something awesome is born.
The process makes you feel “sick”, uncomfortable, complicated and definitely stressful. A mother in labour never says “I don’t think I want to give birth”. Similarly, an up and coming musician must never quit just before their big breakthrough.
Every job has its challenges. Some are easier and some are tougher. It’s like playing levelled games. The higher the level, the tougher it gets.
But my biggest challenge is always dealing with people. Communicating with different individuals is definitely challenging. But dealing with artistic people or anyone in the creative line requires skills of a different level. It’s an art. Taking into consideration their higher level of sensitivity to express their craft, choice of words is essential.
Boy, how I have learnt this the hard way, offending many as I went along this learning curve. Timing of approach is also crucial in every aspect. The majority don’t follow common working ours for one. And if caught at the wrong time, ideas can fly away just like that, hence facing the “music”.
Speaking of timing, punctuality also has a very different meaning. Coming from that “military” background and an upbringing that had full of principles, adapting to a more flexibly accepted sense of punctuality was something I struggled to understand but definitely got used to it through the years. Being “by the book” only drew people further.
The journey continues from a music student, to a young sessionist, to a music arranger, to a music director and producer, and to a married version of all the above. Responsibilities shift and commitments are added.
But how does one balance between being a music director, producer, arranger, sessionist, wife, and even a manager and one point for me? I had to be all of the above at the same time without compartmentalising each role.
Coping with corporate dealings and creative input at the same time was a new challenge. Shifting from one side of the brain to the other constantly was definitely something to get used to.
Dealing with netizens is a newly acquired skill for today’s society. From representing myself, I now represent someone else. Priorities change, sacrifices are made. Responsibilities are added.
Living in this Malaysian culture, cooking was a plus point (especially to impress the new family). And so I picked it up and realised that cooking and music were very similar. Both were preference-based. Either you like it or you don’t.
Ingredients represented instruments and style of cooking represented genres of music. Recipe-based chefs were like the classical musicians and people who cooked freely based on whatever they had were like jazz and pop musicians. Cheap ingredients were like cheap sound samples. Both are therapeutic in their own ways. Even cooking needs practice.
So, thus far is the journey of a born and bred musician. At the end of this journey, all I can say is there’s no smooth ride. Life is all about ups and downs, just like what you see on a life support machine. It only goes flat when we are dead.
Focusing on the right thing is the key to not being swayed by the storms, trials and tribulations surrounding us. Choose to see the positive and cut out the negative. Failure is not when we fall but when we give up. There’s no end to learning.
Never be comfortable with where you are. Cut the excuses and always challenge ourselves to greater heights or try new things. You never know where that journey leads us.
Music Director, Producer & Arranger
Keyboardist for Hazama
and The Penglipur Lara
MY JOURNEY by Genervie Kam