Should I say have guitar will travel?

A Chinese movie in the late 60s/early 70s entitled ‘Have Swords Will Travel’ starring David Chiang and Ti Lung provided me with some inspiration with the title of this article though there are scores of other titles that could possibly fit in.

Oh yes, the Chinese movies, especially those of flying swordsmen, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, I have seen a lot of them but will come up with an article about them next time.

Guitars, yes I owned many of them sometime ago but now one lousy old Suzuki with two strings missing is gathering dust in an obscure corner of my home.

After receiving the first RM945 reimbursement of my Federal Scholarship in August 1975, I quickly went to an emporium in Penang Road, George Town and wasted no time with a purchase of my first guitar, a Kapok that cost RM32.

On August 24, while strumming the Kapok in my room at Block 312, Desa A, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang, I received a surprise visit by my late cousin who was then SNAP president Datuk (later Datuk Amar) Dunstan Endawie Enchana — may his soul rest in peace — who was accompanied by the party secretary-general Datuk (now Tan Sri Datuk Amar) Leo Moggie Irok.

They came in a taxi to our ‘longhouse’ in the varsity campus, accompanied by two dental nursing trainees, who also came from Sarawak. Endawie’s visit was to fulfil his promise to my father (a cousin of his mother Rinya).

I am never good with the strings but out of determination, inspired by the death of Elvis Presley in August 1977, I formed with a few others, mostly from Sarawak and Sabah, a band we called ‘Revival of Elvis Presley Band’ with yours truly as lead guitarist.

All the instruments we used belonged to the varsity’s Music Club of which I was secretary. Our guitars were mostly Gibson but not the semi-solid that was typical of the late Blues singer BB King.

Our band, one of a few in the varsity, more or less monopolised the use of the music room where all the instruments were kept. Later one Edwin Khoo, who later won a guitar award in the Malaysian music scene, took over as lead guitarist.

I became lead singer and did mostly songs by Elvis Presley (EP); after all our band was meant to do some sort of revival for the King’s music and songs. Edwin was very talented. He would listen to the EP songs on tape once or twice and then try it with me together.

On bass was Joing Mideh, another Sarawakian lad who was doing HBP (not high blood pressure but Housing Building and Planning) whereas on drums was Sabahan Makibin Bodok (now deceased) who was a year our junior.

Carter Ballang Kapong (who retired as principal of SMK Tebekang, Serian in 2016) sometimes stood in as rhythm guitarist. From 1978 onwards other talented Sarawakians also joined us. They included Aldram (now Mohd Adaham) and Idris Jala (now Dato Sri Idris Jala).

For jamming sessions in USM, we used to play with our Semenanjung counterparts led by Philip Fair who later became my colleague in The Borneo Bulletin daily, in Brunei Darussalam.

Between the years of 1979 and 1983 while lecturing in then Rajang Teachers College (MPR Rajang) Bintangor, once again, together with like-minded lecturers, we formed the band ‘The Rajang Sound’ and this time I made sure the guitars were all Fenders.

I performed better than a few years ago but our band was only good for third place in the PSKPP battle of the band in 1982 held at Brooke’s Hall of then MPBL (Maktab Perguruan Batu Lintang).

We parted ways when I was transferred to head a rural secondary school in May, 1983.

Later in the schools there were only some occasional moments on guitars at home or on stage just to keep the flame burning. Dawn Sara, my daughter, a Unimas graduate in International Relations, now attached to Jabatan Pembangunan Kemahiran in Kuching took much interest in guitars during her schooldays.

She then epitomised the headline ‘have guitar will travel’ because she carried the Ibanez on her back all the time, schooldays or weekends.

My neighbour’s two kids make up for our quietness at home with their occasional jamming next door. When they start playing the music their three dogs also join in the music with their howls.

They remind me of my first few months having the Kapok in 1975 whereby I would go around campus with it on weekends as if it was the best guitar piece there. But when I played it at the hill top, a place we called, ‘Canselori’, there was no dog to accompany me with its howl. 

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.