Tuesday, May 16, 2006

NST 16 May 2006

Obituary: Fadzil Ahmad (June 12, 1941 - May 10, 2006):
He plucked at heartstrings with his music
15 May 2006
AZMAN AHMAD writes of the immense influence famed gambus player and ghazal singer Fadzil Ahmad had on the Malay traditional music scene.
THE demise of Fadzil Ahmad, one of the country’s rare talents whose skilful handling of the gambus is still unmatched, is another big loss to the entertainment industry.The maestro was instrumental in enriching the Malay music heritage, through the Middle-Eastern influenced ghazal music. Fadzil, 64, died on May 10.Apart from playing the gambus and other stringed instruments, Fadzil was also an accomplished songwriter and singer, whose melodious voice could be heard on such memorable ghazal hits as the infectious Dia Datang and Bunga Hati.To top it off, the Muar-born prodigy, who began his musical career at 17, also taught the zapin (a dance form popular in Johor). One of his students was comedian/singer/cook Jaafar Onn, who took singing and zapin lessons from Fadzil at the age of 15.The 55-year-old, who also came from Muar, Johor, recalled those early days with fondness: “He didn’t charge me for the lessons. Among the first ghazal songs he taught me were Bunga Hati and Penawar Rindu.“Whenever his group performed at wedding functions, I would dance the zapin solo and get paid RM1 for my performance,” said Jaafar with a smile, adding that Fadzil had even written a song titled Si Cantik Manis after watching him sleep!Jaafar, who went on to set up a dance school called Maya Studio, described Fadzil as a generous man who was happy to share his music knowledge with anybody. The reason Fadzil took up a teaching job at the Akademi Seni Kebangsaan (ASK), said Jaafar, was because he wanted young people to be able to master the gambus and promote ghazal music.Head of the ASK dance department Joseph Gonzales said it was a pity that Fadzil had been forced to quit teaching at the academy a year ago as he was suffering from numerous illnesses including Parkinson’s Disease. “I had the pleasure of watching him perform and teach since 1994 and I know that he will be sorely missed by his students,” he said.Gonzales added that Fadzil’s humility and charity of knowledge made him extremely popular with the ASK community and that it was the same charm that led him to his compositions of classics such as Pengantin Baru, which was banned from the airwaves because of its “naughty” lyrics.“Still he preserved and wrote many memorable tunes including Zapin Rindu with (songwriter) Manan Ngah,” he said.Having played the gambus since he was a teenager, Fadzil honed his music talent through ghazal by setting up a small group called Kumpulan Seri Maharani Ghazal.In an interview last year, Fadzil said, given a chance, he would have loved to perform “live” again as long as he didn’t have to stand during the solo turns. He said his poor health prevented him from doing so.“Call it a miracle but whenever I set my fingers on the gambus, all my fingers would stop shaking, as if the Parkinson’s Disease has disappeared,” he had said.As a masterful gambus player, a young Fadzil built his name around Johor performing regularly in Endau, Muar, Mersing and Batu Pahat with the group Kumpulan Ghazal Seri Penambang, together with fellow ghazal singer Hamid Wapang, before making his way to Kuala Lumpur.When the late Rosiah Chik, another renowned ghazal singer joined the group, Fadzil and his gang became even more popular. When Rosiah made KL her base during the 70s, the group, which by then had changed its name to Kumpulan Seri Maharani Ghazal, seemed to lose its steam. Nevertheless, it recorded 14 albums which featured a string of hits including Pak Ngah Balik, Alah Mak Kahwinkan Aku, Makan Sireh, Seri Ledang and Seri Mersing. For his tireless efforts in promoting traditional music, the man dubbed the “Malaysian King of Gambus” was awarded the Pingat Pangkuan Negara (PPN) in 1987 and Kesatria Setia Di Raja (KSD) a year later. Fadzil is survived by wife Zaliah Mohammad, 55, five sons (Mohamad Farid, 35; Mohamad Hafiz, 32; Mohamad Radzi, 31; Mohamad Fadzlee, 23; and Mohamad Firdaus, 20) and three grandchildren.Unfortunately, none of his sons has followed in his footsteps or is musically inclined except for his 11-year-old grandson, Mohamad Firdaus Mohamad Farid, whom Fadzil taught the gambus.RTM’s Klasik fm director Chuari Selamat said Kelab Sahabat Klasik visited Fadzil last year during the fasting month. Klasik fm, which spins Malay classics, has a special slot daily, dedicated to asli songs. “Of course we frequently play Fadzil’s ghazal songs and his gambus instrumentals. However, as a mark of respect, we will not be playing his songs for 40 days,” said Chuari.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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