The strings of joy

17 Oct 2019 / 10:11 H.

Playing the guitar is not just his passion, it is his life. That is what Arif Hakimi Zulazi plans to do for the rest of his life.

The 22-year-old lad first learned to play the guitar at the age of 10. He was able to pick it up easily, and dreamed of sharing his love for the instrument with others.

Two years ago, the Alor Star native began teaching guitar online on Facebook. His Facebook page, known as Kelas Guitar Online, features 12 modules of lessons crafted by Arif.

Who was the first person who introduced you to guitar?

“My father. Professionally, he is an IT technician. But he loves playing for my mum, his children and his friends. He is my first mentor [and] gave me my very first guitar.

“I still have that guitar with me. I will never sell this guitar at any price. You never sell your first guitar.

“I heard from my paternal grandmother that my late grandfather was a professional musician. He could play so many musical instruments, from cello to tabla (an Indian music instrument).

“I think music runs in my family.”

How did your musical journey begin?

“My mother is an English trainer. She wanted to pursue her PhD at the University of Nottingham in the UK. So she brought my father and her seven children [with her].

“I was only 11 years old [at the time]. There, I [began taking] guitar lessons.

“At age 12, I formed a band with three of my schoolmates. We called ourselves Next Gen!

“We won a battle of the bands music competition and ... had the chance to perform at the prestigious Nottingham Albert Hall. I [was] so proud that my band managed to play in a venue where many great musicians had performed before.”

When did you return to Malaysia?

“After four years, my mother received her PhD [and] we returned to Alor Star. I was 15 then.

“Here, I found learning music to be totally different. In the UK, you can learn musical instruments at your convenience, but here, you have to follow the music school’s schedule.

“When I was in the UK, I was playing English songs from rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and Guns & Roses. When I returned home, I wanted to play Malay songs with my guitar.

“But I could not find a guitar teacher who could teach me to play Malay songs.”

What did you do?

“I started learning [to play] Malay songs on my own. I became a self-taught guitarist.

“The first song I learnt was Isabella, by rock band Search. That song really blew my mind. After I had mastered Isabella, I move on to other Malay songs.”

Where did you get the idea to start teaching guitar online?

“My friends heard me playing Malay songs on my guitar. They were surprised and kept asking me to teach them. That’s how I got the idea.

“Facebook is easily accessible and I do not have to pay anything for the platform. The best thing is you can learn my lessons at your own pace and without anyone judging you.”

Some people believe you cannot learn music through the internet.

“I have 279 students. Initially, 80% of them had the same reservations. But now, they can play songs on their guitar.

“You can learn from a book. So why can’t you learn from the internet?”

What is your biggest challenge running this online platform?

“I am still studying. I am pursuing a degree in English. Running this platform while studying has been an arduous and tiring task.

“I wish I could split myself in two. [Then] I would be less tired!”

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