Drumming up a beat in Singapore
SINGAPORE, Aug 19 — Drummers typically don’t have a very glamorous job. While vocalists and guitarists get a lot of the glory in bands, drummers usually have a place at the back of the stage, and are often hidden by their enormous drumsets.
That’s not to say drummers are not crucial. They provide the beat and are the foundation of a band’s sound.
Over in Singapore, two drummers are unfazed by the lack of attention given to the art, and are hoping to make a name for themselves.
For Er Chow Kiat, it is the love for the instrument that spurs him on.
“I play drums because I absolutely love it. The sound of drums (along with music) gets me going, so it doesn’t bother me if we are hidden at the back most of the time.”
The 27-year-old, who has played for artistes such as Corinne May, Eric Moo and The Sam Willows, added that it is a drummer’s job to keep the band together as a unit.
“Maybe some people think that drummers are not as important as the frontman or woman, but the truth is we support and help each other to serve the music as a whole.”
Ditto for 25-year-old Teo Jia Rong, who has played for Inch Chua, Dru Chen and L.A.B. The two of them are part of a line-up of accomplished guest drummers hailing from America, Europe and Asia who will be playing at Singapore Drum Fest’s Ultimate Weekend happening today and tomorrow.
The event celebrates the musicianship of the best drummers from around the world in a single weekend. Notable names performing include Dave Elitch (who played for Miley Cyrus, M83 and Justin Timberlake), Chris Coleman (who played for Chaka Khan, Prince and Stevie Wonder) and John Ashley Thomas Trio (who played for A-Mei, Jacky Cheung and David Tao).
Asked how he feels about sharing the stage with them, Teo admitted that he “feels a little intimidated” at the thought.
Still, he added, at the end of the day, he just wants “to present a set of good, solid music to the listeners and show them what we (Singaporean drummers) are capable of”.
Er shared that he had attended Elitch’s clinic twice before. Nevertheless, it feels “surreal” that he is “going to be sharing the same stage with some of the biggest names in the drumming world”.
Before he started playing the drums, Er would watch his favourite drummers on YouTube performing at Modern Drummer Festivals.
“I would think to myself that hopefully one day I could play in a festival like this,” he admitted.
“I am glad that it is actually going to happen and I can’t wait to go out there and play.
“I am excited to meet, learn and play with them.”
Er studied at the Lasalle College of the Arts after his O-Levels. He got his big break by nabbing first place at The Full Ride Scholarship Competition by Musicians Institute in 2012, receiving a full tuition scholarship to the Los Angeles institute. It was there that the self-taught drummer received the Outstanding Student Award under the Drum programme.
He was initially inspired after watching the comedy drama musical That Thing You Do! when he was around seven. He was drawn to the beats and rhythm, and subsequently received his first drum kit at the age of 13 from his father, added Er.
Teo, on the other hand, started playing drums in his last semester at Lasalle College of the Arts.
“We had to form our own band in the last semester,” he shared.
With no knowledge about playing the drum kit, he was asked to play the tambourine, adding that after a few rehearsals, he “got really bored of it”.
“That boredom spurred him to pick up drumming, and he has “never looked back till this day”, he added.
So, what advice would they give to aspiring drummers? Er said “having a great character and being humble and genuine in building relationships with the people working in the industry is a huge plus in the music business”.
Like Er, Teo also believes in staying humble. His friend and renowned drummer Tama Goh once told him “put your egos outside the door when you are practising”.
“Very often, we tend to practise things that we already know because they sound good but at the end of any session, we don’t gain anything,” shared Teo.
“Always acknowledge your weaknesses and aim to make them stronger.”
Drummers also need to work hard and get out there, he said.
“Just practising in the room is not going to bring you gigs,” he said, adding that “we really have to spend time networking and making ourselves known”.
Teo, who is representing Pantheon Percussion in the Drum Fest, said he is excited to perform with Korean pianist Euntaek Kim and bassist Jase Sng, whereas Er will be playing an open drum solo and two music tracks — Sight by Kaz Rodriguez and Forget Me by Drew Ofthe Drew — during the event.
“I just really want to play my heart out with these guys and enjoy myself, while I show what I can do and learn from it all the same,” said Teo. — TODAY
* Singapore Drum Fest: Ultimate Weekend will run today (7pm to 10.30pm) and tomorrow (12pm to 7pm) at Resorts World Theatre, Resorts World Sentosa. Ticket prices start from S$48 (RM143) at APACtix.