2011/07/05 | By Subhadra Devan
SUBHADRA DEVAN gets into the mellow groove of the cello with the bodyboarding, kite-flying and Latin dancing Aamil Sulaiman
WHEN Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck took the stage for a Looney Tunes concert, they got tween Aamil Sulaiman interested in music as a career because the cello had “a cool sound”. Now aged 24, the cello player from Kuantan smiles at the recollection. The only one in music in this family of two sets of twins, Aamil took private tuition under a Hungarian with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. “My mum traded him English lessons for music ones for me,” he says.
Asked what is it about the cello he likes, Aamil, who loves bodysurfing, playing basketball and flying kites, says he can get lost in the music.
“When playing the cello, you will find a certain level and you can get lost, just like meditation. Something comes out of you, from somewhere you don’t recognise. When it works, it is just beautiful.”His goal is be a “performer who can make the audience breathe with me, to see the same things I see”.
Aamil, with a music degree in his bowstring, will play at a chamber concert under the HSBC Classics Opera Extravaganza banner. “Serious musicians are in demand here,” says Aamil who will soon start his master’s degree in music in the United States.
He returned from studies in the US in December, and has drawn his bow for Astro, RTM, the National Symphony Orchestra and Istana Budaya, among others.
“That was just in five months. I find that music is more of a hobby for people here. It’s not a serious career choice. And it’s hard to find that environment to inspire people to choose the creative arts, as there’s no immediate money in it. So music school is not the prime choice… just look at the ads in the paper… fine arts is not one of the courses.” He agrees that funding for the arts the world over has been slashed. “But the creative arts is necessary to find yourself, to move forward. It’s just lost on a lot of people,” he says.
“In Belgium recently, there were auditions for two cello positions, one of them a senior player in an orchestra and there were 250 applicants. A hobbyist musician won’t get that job. There is a lot of training to get to the next level.” Aamil believes in the “practice makes perfect” adage, playing thirds on his cello for at least an hour a day, and then practising for three more.
“Thirds comprise four octaves, and I do all seven notes, 13 variations, in a circle of fifths until you finish it. But I’m bad… I do half the circle.” He practises in an air-conditioned room with his cello that’s insured for RM65,000 (“cheap for an amateur professional instrument”). The bowstring costs RM12,000.
But “it’s no fun to be in an air-con room all day, as it can suck your soul”, so that’s where sports and Latin dancing come in. “Latin dancing is fun. I like the music and the fringe benefit is meeting girls,” says Aamil with a smile.
His favourite pieces of classical music? Brahm’s Cello Sonata In E Minor.
His favourite music in the movies? The Red Violin. His favourite tango music in the movies? Scent Of A Woman with Al Pacino.” “I don’t watch Glee or musicals. They are not my type of music. I prefer live performances anytime. With Glee, everything is perfect, you can’t hear the breathing, so you don’t know how much of it is true,” says Aamil, adding that if he hadn’t picked the cello, he would have gone with the bass guitar.
“What drags me in, is the groove, where you nod your head. When I listen to the radio, I don’t listen to the lyrics but the music first,” says Aamil who is part of The Element String Quartet in Chicago, which plays “background music” for events.
Listen to Aamil at An Evening Of Chamber Music today and tomorrow at 8.30pm. The chamber group, led by pianist Oh Yann Shie, includes Antonella Aloigi Hayes (violin), Liu-Yi Retallick (second violin), and Angela Lou (viola). Expect George Frederic Handel’s Chaconne in G major, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Quartet No.1 in G minor, and Johannes Brahms’ The Piano Quintet in F minor, opus 34.
Aamil will head a cello masterclass on sound production on Saturday at 2pm. Cellists of any grade or level are welcome. Requirements for participation: Cellos preferably, but other “bowed” strings allowed. Must have a “prepared” solo piece (concerto or sonata) and copy of music to be performed.
Both events are free. Opera soars THE concerts on Friday and Saturday are the highlight of the HSBC Classics Opera Extravaganza, performed by the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre Orchestra, under the baton of resident conductor and music director Brian Tan.
The concerts feature baritone Cha Seng Tiang, the principal of Vocal Talents Music — Kuala Lumpur’s premiere classical singing centre — and recital favourite Cecilia Yap, soprano. Expect a good mix of arias from famous operas including Don Giovanni, La Boheme, Carmen and contemporary numbers including West Side Story and Porgy And Bess.
There will be four workshops or masterclasses — for chamber ensemble, vocal, cello and violin. Details at www.klpac.org.
Tickets for the Opera Extravaganza start at RM30. Call 03-4047 9000 or The Actors Studio at 03-2142 2009.