Music in his blood — Brandon Wong‘s story

Brandon busking in Sibu town.

By William Luke

It has often been said that ‘The eyes are the windows to the soul’. Well, I think a person’s voice can also be the windows to the soul, likewise the sound from the instrument that one is playing.

“That is how important music is to me,” said Brandon Wong, a homegrown pianist/musician-cum-street performer.

When I had the opportunity to have a cuppa with him in Sibu recently, he constantly fiddled with a ukulele that he brought along with him. Why ukulele? Well, it turns out he is on a personal mission to teach underprivileged children to learn this instrument.

But without this small four-string guitar, there is no point in conducting free lessons. Hence, he is hoping some kind souls out there will donate ukuleles to help him fulfil his mission.

Brandon’s passion is to be a performing artist.

Born in Sibu in 1977 and the youngest among three siblings, Wong has been hooked on music since young, but his family could hardly support his addiction.

“Coming from a middle-class family, my parents could hardly pay for my music lessons. I had to stop lessons every now and then until there was enough money to continue with the next lesson.”

Initially, music was merely a hobby to him, but it eventually opened up a whole new world for him. In fact, it has transported him to one-third of the world, thus far.

To date, he has over 20 years of experience in the music industry, including teaching and performing solo, in groups or as part of a band.

“I composed two songs for a micro movie ‘2014’, which debuted on Jan 1, 2014.”

But the biggest break in his musical journey came in 2016. He was recruited by Genting Dream Cruise as a pianist for a band of five. Alongside him were two singers, a bass guitarist and a drummer.

Brandon in the Genting Dream Cruise Band.

“It was the highest point of my performing career. Not only did I get to work with international performers, which allowed me to sharpen my skill in sight reading and playing by ear, it also pushed me to the limit, such as reproducing a song I came across within minutes before the show starts.”

The Genting Dream Cruise started its virgin voyage from Meyer Werft (Panperburg), Germany, and toured Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Chang Sha (China) and Japan, among others.

“I was grateful to be onboard on the cruise in Egypt, where I saw the pyramids, Red Sea and experienced a dizzy spell following a terrible storm. However, it was fun and eye-opening.

“And musicians get paid a lot, too!”

Brandon plans to offer free ukulele lessons to rural school kids.

Wong started his music career as a live band pianist performing in cafes and as a wedding singer/musician in Sibu.

Ever since then, he had always wanted to share his passion through both performance and teaching.

“When I came back to Sibu in August last year, I wanted to share what music has given me. I wanted to share my experience, especially with those who have very limited access to music classes, not to mention those who could not afford a piano or a keyboard.

“Music is not only comforting and inspiring, but it also helps to develop EQ (emotional quotient) and IQ (intelligence quotient). You cannot (usually) get so many benefits all in one package, but you can through music.”

Wong is planning to go to Nepal, and he wants to bring ukuleles with him to teach music there.

“I saw a charity advertisement about hiring an English teacher in Nepal. I told myself that if I join the charity group, I will collect some ukuleles and bring them along to Nepal.

“I cannot bring a piano or keyboard to them, so what can be better than these small, cute, affordable and easy-to-learn ukuleles? I know there are people who have ukuleles buried in their closets or storeroom (read: donate, donate).”

But before heading to Nepal, he wants to start the project in Sibu first — by giving free ukulele lessons to rural school kids.

Currently, he has two ukuleles. He needs two more to start a class.

“Having some music lessons may, later on, serve as an extra option for our children in the rural areas.

“There may be a great voice to be discovered or they can strive to be a professional ukulele player or be inspired to learn other instruments, too. We never know.

“It is a window, and I want to help open it.” — DayakDaily