by Ahmad Izham Omar (The New Straits Times, March 30, 2009)

Music?

“Why did you go into music? Why did music become your career of choice?”

I’ve been asked this many times throughout my life.

Right now I’d like to declare that sometimes these questions are not the sincere hey-that’s-interesting-tell-me-more-cos-I-want-to-find-out! type. No-sirree.

Sometimes these questions are more the don’t-you-have-something-more-life-worthy-to-do-like-law-or-medicine-or-being-a-magistrate kind?

I think my fellow musicians will know exactly what I mean.

So for my very first foray in writing a column about music, I’d like to defend my fellow musicians, music students, rocker wannabes and anybody who have stepped into the seemingly deep, dark and dangerous world of being a music professional.

For after years of being peppered with this cynical and slightly sinister line of questioning, I have learnt to turn the tables around and come out victorious. After years of pressure, I have learnt how to reply with a strong conviction.

Yes people, after many years under this verbal oppression, I can now answer the question “Why did you take up music?” with confidence, a huge smile on my face and a dash of the oh-so-cool professionalism that would actually even induce relief from the listening party.

Indulge me.

So why music?

IT HELPS TO OPEN UP YOUR MIND

Music is not simply a random placing of musical notes. There are strict structures and rules that every musician needs to follow, yes, even punk rockers.

From just 12 notes, millions of different songs have come through the ages sounding individually different (well, unless, my friend, you’ve been listening to the Stock, Aitken and Waterman productions for Rick Astley and Kylie Minogue).

And the most skillful of musicians can effortlessly improvise, creating an instant work of art on top of a strict timing structure and from only 12 notes.

It’s like painting a masterpiece on top of a strict mathematical equation and limited tools. A dazzling combination of fluidity and logic, all culminating in a work of spontaneous and instant art from the most scarce of resources.

Yes, music teaches us to be creative on our feet, knowing that there will always be a new way to do something, that there will be more than one solution to any situation even with limited options (I can hear the collective sigh of relief from all of you who are currently sending your children to music classes now).

Even doctors agree, dispensing numerous tips on getting unborn babies to listen to Bach. Bach and Baroque music is sublimely beautiful and yes, ingeniously arithmetic.

By now, the person listening to my answer of “Why music?” would already be preparing a “But music is not astrophysics, my friend” reply. But before he or she could utter those words I would then quickly say…

MUSIC TEACHES YOU TEAMWORK

Nothing beats the teamwork of a group of musicians that play together. They interact with one another, allowing each musician to explore his or her instrument creatively, yet everyone works together to make beautiful music.

Listen to the ways arrangers would put together different musical instruments to create different moods.

Each instrument has its own part, but in an ensemble they contribute to create a work of art more beautiful than they could have achieved alone.

MUSIC IS WORK THAT ACTUALLY MEANS SOMETHING

I love the different feelings I get when I listen to different music. People say that music is the soundtrack of our lives. I truly and wholeheartedly believe in that statement.

We remember different snatches of music when we remember different memories. Music would be able to make us laugh, cry, feel depressed or elated, sometimes both at the same time.

In other words, music makes us feel alive.

Isn’t it great that we are able to be involved in works that capture the imaginations of people? Isn’t it great that we get to make a very powerful product, able to stir up emotions in people on a daily basis? (let’s see astrophysics do that)

And isn’t it great that we can contribute to the progression and evolution of our very own culture?

And believe you me, this piece of our culture, if done right, could be a potentially lucrative export.

We have the songwriters, we have the producers; heck, we even have the talent. All we need is a strong foundation to launch. And being a part of the creation of that foundation is not just a job, my friend. It’s a calling.

And usually by this time, the listener to my passionate defence of my fellow musicians would be heaving a sigh of relief, finally converted to be a fan of the music industry, and would walk away feeling that maybe he or she should do more to encourage young people to enter the music industry.

So do you believe me now? That we choose music because it makes us more creative human beings? Because we can contribute to the national interest? Because we can bring joy to the masses? Because we can export our culture to the world arena? Because we have a noble mission?

Yeah, right.

Let me to tell you the real reason. It’s for the screaming girls.

Have you seen how their eyes light up when you play an instrument? Woo hoooooo…

The writer is CEO of 8TV, Head of Media Prima Radio Networks (HOTfm, FLYfm and ONEfm) and director of Monkey Bone Records.