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World On Your Street: The Global Music Challenge
Abdullah Mufa
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Musician: Abdullah Mufa

Location: London

Instruments: drums

Music: Malay

Listen  Listen (3'13) to Abdullah Mufa play 'Seruling Bambu'

Listen  Listen (2'30) to Abdullah Mufa talk about his music

'I would say Malay music has got its own blues kind of scale which is not exactly "the blues", but it's got the feel of a lament.'

How I came to this music:

I came to England 22 years ago to study, and when I came here I got caught by the music bug. As a drummer, my main job is to support bands and singer-songwriters. I also do a lot of workshops in school and with the disabled.

Music has always been a part of my life when I was growing up in Malaysia, because there's always music around: Chinese, Indian, Malay, as well as, of course, Western music - initially a lot of my music was absorbed through that. The singers that I remember most were the foreign ones, for the reason that we take our own home-grown talent for granted. Being young, I wanted something rocking, something loud. The appreciation of local singers came years later.

I would say Malay music has got its own blues kind of scale which is not exactly "the blues", but it's got the feel of a lament. It's very dramatic. I guess it has to do with having minor keys in it. A lot of it is really a combination of different types of music, Indian music being part of it. A lot of Malay rhythms are derived from Arabia, Middle Eastern music that's been brought over to Malaysia when the traders were coming over from Arabia and passing through India as well. There is also a link between reggae music and Malay rhythms. A lot of it has to do with the beat being played not on the beat but just off it. It's like when you're walking, you walk with the intention of walking straight but somewhere along the line you see a flower and then you divert. It all depends on where you see the flower.

I've got a band with my children - they're twins aged 10. My boy Jez plays the bass, my girl Lani plays the keyboard, and since I play drums I thought it'd be good to incorporate us all playing together. This is my way of passing my roots to them so they will evolve it to another level once they grow up. We are called Ini It - ini in Malay means "this", and it is "it". So it's actually from two different languages - "This is it". A lot of people who have seen the name written down mention the word "Innit"? And that's Cockney slang, which is kind of appropriate because we live in London.

Most of the songs are really traditional Malay songs that have been adapted to modern electrical instruments. We have actually recorded our own album, before we did any gigs. We didn't intend for it, but when we were learning all these Malay songs, I thought it would be nice to actually record and do a snapshot of what we are. And I'm sure they like listening to what they've done and seeing the progress that they've made. Recording was not difficult; we did it in the back room of our house and we used a four-track.

Where I play:

Abdullah Mufa, and his children Jez & LaniIni It has done gigs down in the kids' school - they're only 10 so I can't take them to clubs! Every year there's a summer fair in school and we do a half-hour set just to help keep live music alive in our community. We've also been to Oxford where there was a festival going on.

I've got another band which I'm involved with, called Jawi Empire. This is a collection of Malay musicians - not just from Malaysia but also from Singapore and Indonesia, which covers the "Malay archipelago". There's three songwriters in the band, and we do Malay songs with a modern slant, with other musicians coming in as guests, playing percussion, traditional flute. Jawi Empire has been involved with a lot of charity events, festivals, mostly organized by Malaysians here, but we also did one gig down in the National Theatre in London in 2001, which went down a treat.

A favourite song:

We have a song called "Seruling Bambu"; I can't actually say who wrote it because it's an old, old Malay song. Seruling actually means "flute" and bambu is "bamboo". The song actually sings about the isolation and the vastness of space in the paddy fields, about somebody who's just sitting down in the paddy fields looking at the rice starting to grow. And then he's daydreaming. Whilst daydreaming he would be playing his wooden flute and thinking about the usual things in songs - lost love, how he felt in love, fell out of all love, all the usual things which every human being goes through.
Click here for Hande Domac's storyClick here for Mosi Conde's storyClick here for Rachel McLeod's story

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