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The Ace of Bass

When Kristopher Chong was looking to choose a stringed instrument, it was the bass that chose him instead

14 Jul 2020 / 10:33 H.

WHEN we think of musicians in a band, we often begin with the frontman, the lead vocalist or perhaps the lead guitarist. Some may even be able to name the drummer. But, how many of us think about the bassist?

A bassist’s role in a band is no less important than the singer’s. They add depth to the sound, and bridge the melodic and rhythmic elements. Without the bassist, a song may be recognisable, but the sound would be incomplete.

Kristopher Chong is a bassist, by chance. But, his talent with the five-stringed instrument is undeniable. To truly comprehend his skills, you will have to catch him performing live at a concert, or better yet, busking at an event or at Publika.

The Ace of Bass

Chong said: “I started playing music when I joined my secondary school’s marching band. I was playing the trombone. It was also there that I learned to read music and [about music] theory.

“During my years in the marching band, some of my bandmates started learning to play the guitar, and got me into it, too.

“The very first thing that I learn on the guitar was not a chord, but the bass lines to Zombie by The Cranberries. This is because when we were heading into the studio to jam, everybody had already called their instruments; nobody wanted to play the bass because it’s not cool.

“But I was okay with that, and eventually I developed a love for it and I have been playing the bass ever since. So, I did not pick the bass, the bass picked me.”

The diversity of musicians he has worked with throughout his career is astounding. For the past three years, Chong has been the bassist for local reggae band Salammusik, and has even played a few international shows.

“We were supposed to do a Europe tour this year but unfortunately it, along with few other local music festivals and overseas shows, were put on hold or cancelled due to the pandemic,” said Chong.

He also played bass with Dutch singer-songwriting duo Nick & Simon, and even did a surprise performance with Zee Avi on the Dutch TV show, Nick & Simon: The Dream, for a segment recorded in Malaysia.

“Some other notable musicians I played with were Dayang Nurfaizah, an artist with such humility and professionalism, and last but not least, Robin Banerjee, guitarist for the late Amy Winehouse.

“I got the opportunity to share the stage with him when I was on the bass for our local independent artist Dani Komari, and Robin was a special guest musician for that show,” said Chong.

With each artist bringing their individual insight, Chong looks upon the diversity of the musicians that he has worked with as the best way to learn and develop as a musician.

“Yes, every musician has their core style or genre, but it’s just as important to understand and be able to appreciate every other genre. This musical flexibility is essential for a session musician like myself who gets hired by artists and studios to work on a variety of projects and shows.

“To that, knowing the approach and techniques used in different genres is like having more colour options on your palette when working on composition, arrangement and creating bass lines,” he said.

The Ace of Bass

- COURTESY OF SYAZWAN BASRI

As a session musician, his insight and outlook of the music industry is no different from others in the industry: it is filled with uncertainty, but there is still hope.

And the drive to once again perform live on stage is strong.

“Musicians have no idea when they will start gigging again, whilst show organisers and venues are still waiting to restart live music with the necessary SOPs and whatnot.

“But, I feel the music industry has already started to recover, as I can see some shows are happening, and I have even received some bookings.

“It’s going to be challenging, but we will bounce back. Not just those in the music industry, but for us as a nation and the world, too. We are all in this together.”

He added that many musicians had turned to their digital platforms to hold online performances.

Although it is a good platform to stay in touch with fans or to be discovered, it is no alternative to live performances.

“Live music needs to be live, where we can feel the vibrations on our chest when the sub is pumping, feel the heat and sweaty air when the crowd dances to the beat, and want to watch the expressions of the musician every single time a note is played.

“Moreover, nothing beats good energy vibes from the audience when the music hits them. Listening to music on Spotify and watching YouTube is all good, but we need live music, therefore it will never go away.”

So what is he up to now? Despite his mastery of the instrument, Chong still practices every day. You can follow him and witness his skills for yourself on his Instagram at @kristkrisspy.

“Well, as live music and studio work starts again, you know who’s got two thumbs and ready to be hired? Me!” exclaimed Chong.

Kristopher Chong playing at a live concert. - COURTESY OF SYAZWAN BASRI

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