Excerpt from Malay Mail Online
Mr Gambus leaves jazz legacy
Acclaimed guitarist and lute player Farid Ali dies after long illness
Monday, December 30, 2013 - 13:10
His parents had hoped that he would pursue a career in law but that changed drastically when Farid was introduced to the music of George Benson through the album, Weekend in LA. This led him to discover other guitar greats including Chet Atkins, Earl Klugh, and Pat Metheny.
Later, his musical interests broadened but he was most keen on jazz, ethnic and world music.
Farid left for the US to receive academic training at the Guitar Institute of Technology in California, and at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
He continued his “practical educational journey” for the next nine years, performing in more than 40 music, arts and jazz festivals all over the world, including the Montreal Jazz Festival.
Farid received several awards for his musical abilities including the Distant Accord Award, from the World Festival Organisation, and the World Peace Movement Award, which he received in Los Angeles.
When he returned to this region in the late 1980s, Farid started performed with many of the region’s top jazz musicians.
He carved a niche in the local jazz scene as a sideman in a number of jazz groups, one of which was Face First, the resident band at Barn Thai Jazzaraunt.
This venue also backed artists such as Eric Marienthal, Ernie Watts, Randy Bernsen, Phil Perry, Jeremy Monteiro and Sheila Majid, to name a few.
That’s when he started taking a bigger interest in the lute, famously known as the gambus in Malaysia. He had been exposed to this instrument at a young age by his parents who were from Muar where ghazal (traditional Malay music) was popular.
Farid performed on the gambus when he played with Bobby McFerrin at Singapore’s Esplanade in February 2004.
That momentous occasion inspired him to record his debut album featuring the gambus in Turning Point.
Farid started developing the concept of the “Jazz Gambus”.
It was a journey of self-discovery as Farid created an identity for himself — as an Asian and Muslim jazz guitarist of repute with a western outlook.
With the gambus, Farid combined both worlds with the incorporation of the traditional culture and modern elements.
Farid believed that by incorporating this ancient instrument into a modern context, the instrument would regain the appeal it deserved.
Turning Point opened up a whole new world for him and he starting performing on the gambus at various festivals including Taichung International Jazz Festival in Taiwan. He also performed at the opening ceremony for Asean heads of state at one of the Asean-China summits.
On top of which, he was invited to perform with 30 other ethnic musicians from all over the world at the prestigious Unesco 60th Anniversary Concert in 2005 in Paris, France.
In 2006, Farid initiated two projects. The first was the collaboration with Sabahan finger-style guitarist Roger Wang, which started in 2004 at The Penang Island Jazz Festival. They performed around Malaysia and subsequently released No Strings Attached.
Wang says: “I will always remember Farid for his music, generosity and enormous talent. He was a true musician.”
The second project was an album, Back To Basics, launched in 2006. The beginning of 2007 marked another milestone for Farid when he performed at the soirée for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
In 2008, Farid was ill but scored a personal achievement (one he was working towards) when he performed at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas for Gambus Goes Latin. He was backed by some of Malaysia’s finest musicians: Mac Chew on piano/keyboards, Andy Peterson on bass, John Thomas on drums, Kamrul Bahri on percussion and M. Kesavan on Indian flute. With this show, Farid felt he had come full circle with his musical journey.
The following years were difficult as Farid underwent the loss of both kidneys, a triple bypass and the subsequent loss of his hearing. But he remained positive.
In fact, he went back to teaching. Farid, who had taught music at the University Institute Technology Mara in 1992, started the “Faridian Jazz Guitar Programme”. His efforts can be seen in hundreds of profi cient players today.
Farid died on Saturday, at 6pm, at Selayang Hospital after a long battle with illnesses and complications. He is survived by wife Tricia Chiew, sisters Aziza, Roqiah, Faridah, Habsah, Mona and brother Murad.
But Mr Gambus, as every music lover knows him, will live on.
By PAUL AUGUSTIN