They often go unnoticed by the general public, but to musicians, bassists act as the backbone to many bands. Before they become overwhelmed with their upcoming projects, we talk to our bass instructors at Thunder Rock School, Yazeid Rahman and Stasha Wong to find out more about their journey in playing the bass guitar.
1. How long have you been playing the bass, and what acts do you play for currently?
S: I've been playing the bass for 4.5 years. I currently play in the bands, Disco Hue and The Good Life Project. I also session for DEON.
Y: The first time I laid my hands on the bass was at casual jam in a rehearsal studio during a free jam in 2001. Things got serious when my friend called me in to participate in Yamaha Asian Beat 2005. Currently, I’m playing with KINGS, Siti Shahidah, Gamma:Rays (band featuring the Indonesian Gamelan), and Kulcha (featuring the Chinese Pipa, Indian Flute and Arabian Gambus). I'm also playing for a local ESP guitar endorsee, Simon Yong.
2. Why and how did you get started with the bass guitar?
Y: It all started when I was transcribing a bass line of a malay song titled 'Suasana Hari Raya'. I noticed how a bass line could bring a significant amount of rhythm to a song. Thereafter, it took me another 3 years to get the opportunity to be a 'bassist' for a free jam.
S: I grew up without music and was first introduced to the bass guitar in my first year of Polytechnic. My story as a bassist began on a rather superficial context- to fill up a role in a band for a competition. The power of music and nature of the bass guitar grew on me soon enough, and I found a great desire to master my craft- to the point where I left my course in Law and Management to do Music and Audiotechnology at Singapore Polytechnic.
3. What do you love about playing the bass guitar?
S: Bassists are the backbone of the band and I am in love with the idea of having one of the greatest responsibilities in creating a beautiful musical experience. I have always had an innate attraction to rhythm and groove, and can easily liberate my mind of its inhibitions through the bass, via its direct connection to the rhythm and harmony. It is an honor to fulfill my part in the band, laying down the groove to serve the greater purpose. To be honest, the initial stages in playing the bass were far from easy. It took a fair bit of effort before finally becoming comfortable at expressing myself on the instrument. That is not to say that I am entirely fluent with my musical ideas, but I find beauty in the eternal struggle to becoming a better player.
Y: The bass is an indispensable instrument in a band. In most cases, when there are drums, people would want it to go along with a bass line. On top of that, both drummer and bassist have to work together to form a solid groove. The melodious quality of the bass places it in a position to bridge rhythm and melodies - So it acts like muscles in human body, holding the bones together while aiding in movement. That being said, I just love grooving with a bass.
4. What are your up coming projects?
Y: For Kulcha, we are currently recording our songs after having 8 shows for Esplanade’s FYI recently. We have quite a number of songs but none were ever recorded. I’m looking forward to hear the end product. Ocassionally, Simon Yong will call the band up to work on his new songs. So yes, he is planning to have a 2nd album. He is also looking out for venues to perform his originals, and thankfully he still wants me to play bass for him.
S: Nothing concrete so far- I'm going back to school! I was recently accepted into NUS' highly esteemed Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music. More importantly, I have begun to study the Classical upright bass and am looking to incorporate more of the instrument (in my opinion, a wild and highly temperamental beast in contrast to the electrical bass guitar) to my acts. The Good Life Project is also in the midst of creating new material.
5. What do you wish to see for the local music scene in the next 5 years?
S: I hope the local scene garners increased support from the general Singaporean population. I have had the fortune of being able to work with innumerable, highly talented, dedicated musicians with strong vision. This has only strengthened my conviction that now is an AWESOME time to be a Singaporean musician and that ours is an exciting future.
Y: It is always easy to find someone who plays a guitar but not a bass. So the local music scene needs to have more bassists. Music schools or any Arts related organisation need to spread the importance of this instrument. It may not be as 'respected' instrument as a double bass, but it is definitely much more used in current context of music.
Steven Chew (Yazeid)
Donald Soh (Stasha)
Thunder Rock School
227A Upper Thomson Road, S574359
T: 6456 8722
43 East Coast Road, 2nd Floor, S428764
T: 6348 7203