Wednesday, March 30, 2005

(M) March 13, 2005 - Gambus Jazz

THE fourth of the Avanti Friday Night Jazz Series on March 4 showcased Farid Ali & Friends, who gave an enticing performance.

A guitarist, Farid fuses modern jazz with the traditional gambus (Malay lute). His electric gambus was crafted by luthier Jeffrey Yong of GIM Custom Guitar, and bears his name on its chest.

“The gambus was invented some 3000 years ago. It only arrived in Malaysia in the 13th and 14th centuries,” said Farid. “Some scholars even claimed that it was invented by the sixth grandson of Adam.”

The gambus is made of wood (hence the name oud). But unlike the guitar, it has 12 strings and no frets-ridges on the fingerboard.

“One can play the gambus by reading notes written in the Western notation system (treble clef) except that there are quarter tones and micro tones (similar to Indian ragas).”

Farid has evolved gambus-playing in three ways – by infusing it with jazz; by introducing an electric gambus; and by playing it standing. Traditionally, a gambus player in a ghazal would play the instrument sitting on the floor.

Fusing traditional instruments with western music is, of course, not a new idea. Ravi Shankar, the Indian sitar maestro, introduced Indian music to the world when he collaborated with The Beatles in the 60s. In fact, so well received are these “sounds” now that they have been adopted into the mainstream rock and alternative genres.

Farid attempts to introduce the concept of Jazz Gambus to local and international audiences, using the same successful formula.

At the Friday Night Jazz performance, he was accompanied by some of Malaysia’s best home-grown talents – Eric Li on keyboards, David Yee on bass, John Thomas on drums, and Kamarul on (traditional) percussion.

Together, these “friends” helped Farid prove that a traditional instrument like the gambus can be combined with piano, modern drums and guitars to produce great jazz.

All in, the group performed 15 pieces, including Farid’s original compositions as well as his interpretations of jazz standards. Among the former are Thank You & Goodbye, Zapin Blues, The Gift of Love, Heartstrings, Love You More, We’re All the Same, Deep Within Me and Peace & Friendship. These can be found in his CD, Turning Point, released late last year.

The jazz standards and classics that the group delivered were Moody’s Mood, Ain’t No Sunshine, Billy’s Bounce, Close to You, and Route 66. The gambus injected a kind of freshness into the first two songs.

I found Billy’s Bounce particularly interesting as strings took the limelight. The gambus and bass duet was at once a contrast of high and deep sounds, yet they gelled effortlessly.

Heartstrings was a romantic and emotional piece, as its title suggests. With Farid on electric guitar, the piece started off with asli melody (a Malay music genre) and progressed to samba (Brazilian), then ended with asli again.

Not wanting to knock the audience out with too much oud, he then picked up his electric guitar and introduced more vocals after the intermission. And what do you know? This guitarist can sing!

The audience was hooked the moment he belted out English, Malay and Indonesian numbers. His concluding item, Route 66, was smooth. It was certainly one of the better renditions I’ve heard throughout the Friday Jazz Nights.


Mac Chan said...

Wow!! New branch opening !! Congratulation !! No Open no Open,
once open three open !! Keep going Girl !!

Imee said...

su ling!
hi sweets. hey, is this avanti, in sunway?

PUTERA OUD said...


Learn the Oud at