Malaysian kid Ethan Yeow, 12, is drumming his way to fame


Child drummer Ethan Yeow was invited to play at local Chinese rock band Mad August's concert launch press conference recently. Photos: The Star/Raja Faisal Hishan

How many kids know what they want with their lives at age two? Ethan Yeow did. Ten years ago, this Malaysian boy kid already he knew he wanted to be a ­drummer and asked his ­parents for a drum kit, as well as professional ­music lessons.

“I was inspired when I watched videos of people ­playing the drums on YouTube. I knew that was what I wanted to do,” Yeow, now 12, shares.

Because he was still a child, he had to wait two years before his first official music ­class. As his parents did not have any music background, they took a while to find a teacher willing to take on their precocious child. Yeow's father William is a businessman and his mum Merryn Tan is a blogger.

Ethan was finally enrolled for his first music lesson at age four after being persuaded to give piano classes a try – William and Merryn were worried that drums would be too loud for their neighbourhood. Though the boy went along with that arrangement, he never gave up on his dream to play the drums.

His persistence paid off when after six months of piano lessons, his parents tracked down a drum instructor willing to be his mentor – local musician Mazlan Ismail, known for having the expertise and experience in ­coaching kids and grownups in both recreational and professional ­drumming.

Ethan got his first drum class at age five and he hasn't looked back. He has practised on adult drum sets from the start and now has his own drum kit at home. He usually puts in about 30 minutes of practice every afternoon, not longer because Merryn is wary that ­prolonged drumming may lead to repetitive stress injury.

Now after seven years of lessons, classes and practising, Yeow is at Grade Eight. Meanwhile, his brother Ayden, six, has started following his ­brother’s footsteps.

Ayden has just begun drum lessons himself, also with Mazlan.

Ethan and Ayden take their music so seriously that they’ve broken plenty of drumsticks and even cracked their crash ­cymbals!

Malaysian drum enthusiast Ethan Yeow with his younger brother Ayden and his mother Merryn Tan and father William.
Malaysian drum enthusiast Ethan Yeow with his younger brother Ayden and his mother Merryn Tan and father William.

But to encourage her sons’ passion, Merryn has started YouTube, Facebook and Instagram accounts for both kids where she posts their drum cover ­videos, all of which she records and edits herself. Yeow has slowly been upgrading his drum kit with the money he's earned from that YouTube channel.

Yeow's favourite song to practise on his drumming is Eye Of The Tiger by 1980s rock band Survivor. Meryyn says that he plays it every chance he gets. Responding to requests from fans, Yeow recently posted his first Malay song video, Terlalu Mudah by Akim and the Majistret.

“I like rock music and songs with challenging drums. In grade eight, I just started learning how to shuffle,” says Yeow, who is currently learning songs by 1990s rock act Linkin Park and planning for his first K-pop drum cover of BlackPink’s Kill This Love.

Malaysian drummer boy Ethan Yeow posing with local rock band Mad August at press conference to launch its first concert. RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star
Ethan posing with local rock band Mad August at a press conference to launch its first concert.

The pint-sized kid has already performed publicly. Earlier in August, he was invited to a media event by Malaysian rock band Mad August for their Fighter Concert, set to take place on Aug 30. At the event, he performed a drum cover of the group’s Mandarin hit Wei, Wo Bu Zhi Dao (Hey, I Don’t Know).

In the meantime, he's keeping focused on his goal. “I want to play with other ­musicians and travel around the world,” says Yeow, who hopes to emulate his idol Jonathan Phillip Moffett, best known as the drummer for Michael Jackson.

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