Drumming to her beat

HOLDING a pair of real drumsticks in her hands, all 14-year-old Nur Amira Syahira could think of was, "is this a dream? Is it real?" Sure enough, her dream of owning a set of drums came true after finding an online drumming game and enjoying it so much.

"When I asked my parents for a drum set, my father told me that drums were really expensive and if I don't play it well then it would be quite a waste to get one. Before making a decision, my parents took me to a studio to see if I could play, and I was confident I could do it.

"I tried to play the basics like snare, hi-hat and pedal even though I did not recognise what was a floor tom, second tom, snare or a crash. I proved myself, and my father started saving money and finally bought a second-hand drum set for me," she said, adding that the set of drums has been with her since she started playing at the age of eight.

Fondly referring herself as Mira, she calls YouTube her "sifu" as she has never taken any drum lessons, learning purely from that platform. She said everything she searched would yield detailed information of what she wanted to learn.

"I will take one drum stroke that is difficult and practise every day until I learn it. Professionals could probably learn it in two or three days, but I usually take a week or sometimes two, if it is extremely difficult.

"I am currently learning how to do the swivel foot on the pedal where you are stepping on the pedal but also sliding as you go. Watching others do it, I wonder how it is done but if they can do it, why can't I do too?

"There are many more strokes I need to learn, hence I need a lot of energy to learn them and an active mind to remember what I have learned all this time," Penang-born Mira said.

What is your favourite genre?
I don't like sticking to just one genre. I like all kinds, from classic to rock and even, heavy metal. I take them all in and hold on to them as I believe as a musician, I need to know, learn and play all genres.

What is important for a drummer?
His or her stroke, drumming and tone. Each drummer's tone is different. Even if I can play like other drummers, the tone is never the same. Normally, people wouldn't hear the difference, but drummers can.

I started developing my own tone from jungle-like themes. When I do drum solos on YouTube, I try to make a treble beat and that became my own tone. It became something I could feel, and if I stop and listen again, I can gain more ideas for it.

What are the challenges you face?
My challenge is playing the drums itself. I may be able to hear a song and feel good about playing it but on the drum, I don't know where to start playing. Nonetheless, I keep trying even if that song is difficult.

As a musician, I cannot give up and say I cannot do it. I must know and learn all the hard steps to become a professional drummer.

How do you balance school and drumming?
I follow a schedule set by my mother. When I get back from school and I have homework to do, I will complete that first and study for one to two hours before touching the drums. I practise for two to three hours a day.

With more than 150,000 subscribers on YouTube and 390,000 followers on Facebook, how does it feel to be famous?
I have never intended to play the drums to become famous, but as a hobby. My main reason for starting a YouTube account and uploading my videos is to see where my mistakes are rather than keeping them in the computer.

I uploaded a Zapin song, Usik Mengusik by Senario, and it became viral. This happened around three, four years ago and I was shocked and confused by it.

Perhaps, it was God's way of telling me to play better and take it to a professional level.

Drummers often play in a band, but what is your opinion of this?
I feel more comfortable playing alone than in a band. To me, bands are nonsense. Many say playing in a band is great because you can achieve more, but that is if everyone works as a team and have positive attitudes. I prefer to play solo and when I play alone, I get to have the stage to myself unlike in a band where drummers are usually placed at the back.

What are your plans?
The next thing I want to achieve is to have 1,000 videos and one million subscribers on my YouTube channel. I am also looking at producing vlogs (video blogs) and having a road tour in Malaysia.

I would also like to become an entrepreneur, but I literally don't know how to leave my drums and will continue to learn and become more skilled at playing.

TRIVIA
Favourite colours: Red, purple and black.
Favourite animals: Cats, owls and tortoises.
Malaysian idols: Drummers Black from Wings and Ujang.
International idols: Meytal Cohen, Christian Coma and Joey Jordinson.
Favourite songs: Nenek ku Pahlawan Ku by Wali and You Belong With Me by Taylor Swift.