Imagine being a child of nine years of age when your world erupts in civil unrest. This is what happened to me in May 1969 in my country of birth - Malaysia.
The government declared a National Emergency and we were bound by a curfew, which meant that we were not permitted to leave the house; no going outdoors, no playing in the street, no school, and nothing to occupy an active boy's mind. My constant companions were a harmonica and the RAAF radio station, which was broadcast from the nearby Royal Australian Air Force base in Butterworth.
Before long, I had acquired a guitar thanks to the generosity of an aunty and I set about imitating the songs I heard on the radio. There were no cassette recorders in those days, so the songs were learnt bit by bit as they were played and replayed over the air waves.
One song; John Denver's 'Take me Home, Country Roads', struck a chord with me and I loved to play along with the radio when it was played.
It took 730 days for the curfew to end and when it did, I was a self-taught musician. Not one to sit on my laurels, I took a course in classical guitar to extend my skills, especially in finger-picking techniques.
By the age of 16, I was performing the songs I had learnt from the radio to paying audiences, including the members of the RAAF. I continued to not only refine my skills on the guitar, but to expand my repertoire of popular songs, including those by John Denver.
Years rolled by and in 1994 an opportunity of unimaginable proportions presented itself to me.
John Denver, who was touring Malaysia at the time, was invited to open a private golf fairway by the Sultan, a fellow John Denver fan.
As a local musician well-versed in John's music, I was invited to play alongside with him when he was to perform for the Sultan. The voice that echoed down through the tinny speakers of an old radio when I was a child, that led me to a musical career, that introduced me to my wife was now standing in front of me, shaking my hand. I was going to sing beside the man, the voice, and my idol.
My time with John Denver was one of the most uplifting and significant times of my life. I was able to talk to him, to sing with him, and to share one very special portion of one day with him. He made it very clear that music knows no boundaries and unites all people when he said, 'We are all the same in this musical family'.
Music is a huge part of who I am today. It is through music and song that I have been able to cross many cultural barriers, combining the traditional Malaysian beats of Keroncong with R&B, Rock 'n Roll, western rhythm with an Asian twist.
My musical journey continues as I continue to write original material and sing to audiences across the world. I have performed in numerous locations, including many Asian countries, Europe, Australia, and most recently in Aspen Colorado and Albuquerque New Mexico, USA. My life is blessed as I take the opportunities to continue to perform for audiences who love and appreciate not only the cover versions of popular songs, but my own original songs.
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Watch a video of 'Lankawi'