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Tuesday March 11, 2008

Drumming up interest in the environs


THE beat of the music just makes you want to tap your feet. A group of 16 teenagers, ranging from 11 to 21 years old, formed a semi circle and played one of the most entertaining and energetic rhythms you can expect from youngsters like them.

A 'conductor' was in the middle, leading the group vigorously, bouncing from one corner of the semi circle to the other. The 'musicians' followed his eye line, beating on their 'instruments' as the 'conductor' made his musical gestures.

Simple musicians: These kids just want to have fun. They can make music using discarded items from glass bottles to plastic pails.

That would be the normal live musical performance you can get, and in this case, it was percussion. The only difference you can see with this talented group is that instead of using proper musical instruments, they were using recycled items such as basins, water bottles, pots and pans, and even plastic bags.

The YAWA Eco Drum Circle (EDC), which is a part of Yayasan Anak Warisan Alam (YAWA), is not simply a group of teenagers who play music for fun. The group, that has gone from strength to strength, is spreading the message on environmental awareness to the public.

In fact, on March 7, EDC is spreading its wings to Perth, Australia to participate in an environmental conference as well as perform and conduct workshops on invitation from several organisations there for two weeks.

According to YAWA chief executive officer Adly Mohamed, the Australian organisations took an interest in EDC after seeing the group on the video sharing website, Youtube.

One for the album: The 16-piece band that plays percussion with recycled items as instruments. Leader and founder Afiq Safwan Adly is fifth from right.

“The video was posted by a fan of EDC, and they started writing about the group online. We only knew about it after the invitation to go to Perth,” said Adly.

Founded by 21-year-old Afiq Safwan Adly in 2007, EDC started as a four-piece jamming group with the mutual interest of environmental awareness. The group often meet up on weekends at a park in Taman Tun and this has attracted curious onlookers on the side.

“The people who jog at the park would stop to see us play,” said Afiq Safwan.

From four members and a single basin, EDC has grown bigger with time. All group members are connected to each other in one-way or the other. For instance, Afiq Safwan's brothers, Aiman Shahiran Adly, 17, and Aqil Safiuddin Adly, 13, are also in the group. There are also cousins and schoolmates joining the band, making up the 16 people in the band.

Nur Hafizah: ‘EDC is like a family to me.’

Asked on the creative DIY instruments of the band, he explained that the band members created the instruments themselves.

“I would ask my band mates to go home and bring me anything that they can come up with that can produce good sound. Hence, we have the crazy-looking instruments that you can see today,” he added.

The instruments won't be the same for long, as band members are encouraged to improvise their instruments from time to time.

“This way we will have fresh new beats to perform for our audience,” said Afiq Safwan who studies Multimedia in a private college.

Despite going to different schools and living in different areas, the EDC members remained a close-knit circle who supports one another.

For 16-year-old Nur Hafizah Shamsudin, the group has become a family to her.

“We are all very close. I feel lucky to be a part of EDC,” said Nur Hafizah. According to the bubbly girl, being in EDC has never disrupts her studies, moreover, it has given her a creative outlet to express herself.

Nur Hafizah’s mother, Dr Hamidah Marican concurred with her daughter.

Afiq Safwan Adly: The 21-yearold leader of the band.

“Not only that I support my daughter's involvement in EDC, I also support the entire group. The beauty of the group is their ability not to neglect studies and being consistent with their work. The objective of the group is also very noble - to make people more aware about the environment,” said Dr. Hamidah who comes to the park almost every weekend to accompany her daughter.

One of EDC's biggest achievements is the successful performance at KL World Drum Festival 2007 in Dataran Merdeka. A total of nine countries participated in the festival and EDC came out as the crowd favourite.

For the excursion in Perth, EDC is slated to perform at Perth International Cultural Arts Centre, Freemantle Weekend Park and KULCHA Freemantle.

“The Australia trip would be a great exposure for the teenagers as this is their first time performing outside the country. As of now, EDC is also in talks with a local recording company for a possible collaboration with a singer,” said Adly.

For more information on the band and how you can contribute to raise environmental awareness, visit www.yawa.org.

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