B. Nicholas’ keen interest in Malay gamelan, a traditional form of music, drove him to not only master the artform but also inspired him to pass on his knowledge to a younger generation of Malaysians.
The young Indian man, 23, has taught over 50 students of five schools about Malay gamelan on a part-time basis since 2017, training them to play the traditional musical instruments, including the gong, gendang ibu, gendang anak, saron baron, jidor, serunai and kerincing, used in the musical performance.
Nicholas, a music arts diploma holder from the National Academy of Arts, Culture, and Heritage (Aswara), traces his love for gamelan to his schooling years, where he was exposed to it while training as a silat exponent.
"I grew to love the unique sound and melody of the gamelan music after listening to it frequently during my silat training in school.
"I’m very familiar with Malay traditions and culture, I guess that’s why it didn’t feel awkward. Since I was young, I’ve had many Malay friends in school, while my grandfather was a soldier, so our family spoke Malay at home,” said the eldest of two siblings in an interview in Iskandar Puteri, Johor recently.
Nicholas teaches Malay gamelan to students every Thursday and Friday while working as a security guard at Sekolah Kebangsaan Medini.
He is a talented instructor, and his students have gone on to represent Johor at national-level gamelan competitions, and won several awards as well as having been invited to perform at various formal events and functions.
A life-long fan of local legendary icon Tan Sri P. Ramlee, Nicholas dreams of opening a studio someday to train the younger generation to experience and carry on this unique Malay heritage.
He sees no issue being a non-Malay, as music can strengthen unity among diverse races and allow them to learn more about every race’s uniqueness.
"I don’t see a problem if we want to learn about other races’ traditions and cultural heritage, as Malaysia is unique in its racial diversity.
"What’s important is to preserve this heritage, no matter who the individual is,” he added. - Bernama