Fai and I met at the Vibe studio on a Thursday afternoon for this interview. This man needs no further introduction. He is an extremely talented and renowned musician who is adored by many. Apart from being a skilled drummer seen on both rock and acoustic platforms; he has also taken on mastering other instruments such as the hang-drum. Our interview kicked off with Fai telling a bit about himself, ‘I believe that I am a very optimistic person. I am usually very cheerful and I always stand by a positive thinking with anything and everything. I have a simple theory in life; that it is okay to fail. I love to fail. The art of failing teaches you to learn.’
Q. Let’s begin with your childhood. Any childhood memories you are fond of?
I don’t have a musical family background, to be honest – but I’ve always been very enthusiastic about it. It was only recently, when I found out that my great grandfather who was from Kulhudhufushi, was famous for his boduberu skills. Apparently, he was the leader of the pack, back in his days.
As I recall, my first instrument was a clapper in my school band. I was in first grade back then. But since, my most favourite childhood memories from school was taking the long route back to my classroom from the restroom. This was just to get a glance of what was happening inside the music room – where the senior students had their band practices. I’ve had a fantastic childhood. It was exceedingly exhilarating. As a child, I was always been brimming with intense curiosity. I usually find myself wondering and daydreaming about something. I notice this trait in my daughter now.
Eventually, I made it on the brass band. And I have some delightful memories which I will always treasure. I started playing side drums in grade three or maybe four. The parades were pretty remarkable back then. People were looking forward to it and I marched in the Jamaaluddin school parade. And the times we played some Zero Degree Atoll with a few interesting moves – that was fun!
After I joined Majeediyya School, I got the opportunity to witness outstanding artists like Chippe and Ibbe perform. Soon, I picked up the guitar and took lessons from Chippe. I have always been so inspired by them from day one and I aspired to be something close to these people. Some of my best times are from these days too. I loved their music and I am a big fan.
Q. Tell us about your journey as a musician.
I think it all started for me when Chippe wanted to start a band back in 2004; which conceived ‘Serenity Dies’. Back then, shows and events occurred a lot more frequent compared to now. And many were exploring different genres of music – the heavy stuff was quite popular among most people. Initially, I was supposed to perform as a guitarist; but somehow ended up as the drummer. We worked on some of our own productions and made an album. Our lyrics focused mostly on the political and social situation in the country.
An year after, Mohoj offered me to join his band for resort gigs. I was thrilled! I think this was one big step I took to start as a musician professionally. I started going to Conrad resort on Fridays – that was the only one day I got off from work. I was working as a ground staff at the airport terminal, and it was hectic! However, this finally made me realize that I was slowly getting involved in doing something I absolutely loved and I should devote more time to it. After sometime, I quit my job at the airport and started performing five to six days a week. This did me good and made me happy.
Honestly, I don’t really find it challenging to work as a resort musician. I don’t feel like we have that many limitations either. With a positive mindset you can really do anything. It is about believing in yourself. Even the tiniest things that you do out of passion and love will be recognized eventually – only if you never give up on what you love doing. Discover, explore and take the risk. Most of my highlights are all about the few chances that I never decided to give up on. I mean, it really is alright for one to fail – even if you fail a few times. Life is a learning process.
Q. How do you balance professional and personal life?
It’s true when they say that the life of a resort musician is quite unpredictable. Sometimes, I do find myself in situations where I have to cancel plans and reschedule things due to a sudden gig. It is a bit tricky at times but I can’t complain. My daughter is very young and I do try my best to give the most of my time for my family. I think I’m doing an okay job finding the balance. Probably because my wife is very understanding too. She truly is the best.
Q. What made you start playing the hang drum?
That’s rather an interesting story. I discovered it on YouTube. I saw a video of Daniel Waples and I was so electrified! It was so absolutely brilliant. The hang drum throws a melodically percussive vibe and I really wanted to get my hands on one of it! I remember telling my friends about it too but I am not too certain if they took me seriously then. I did my research about the hang drum and found ways on how to order one for myself. It was newly introduced and is a handmade instrument. So it wasn’t easy to get one. It took time and it was a long wait. I self-taught myself and started experimenting.
It has been an amazing journey! I found myself discovering new beats and soon started posting videos on my page. Drum-TalkTV featured one of my videos on their Facebook page. Felt really honored. I also got featured on Vanessa Lorenzo’s and on Vic Frith’s Instagram feed too. Vic Frith is one of the biggest brands in drumming. It is a wonderful feeling that you get when people appreciate your hard work. Determination, passion and effort speaks in great volume.
I had one of my usual gigs at Reethi rah resort one day when I noticed a couple who stayed back throughout the entire performance. The lady came to me and praised me. I was ecstatic. I do get such nice feedbacks every now and then. But what was really remarkable about this day was that I soon discovered that the lady was Mrs. Thomann. It was Mr. & Mrs. Hans Thomann sitting there! I’ve been so lucky that I got the chance to speak with them. They also gave me an endorsement. Thomann online store is one of the biggest online stores in Europe and most musicians are very familiar with it. Along with this, one of the biggest accomplishment till today was being featured as the second best hand-pan video of 2016 on Didge Project, New York. The best video gets chosen based on musical technique, composition and cinematography.
“I am not the best drummer. Music doesn’t have that. Music is not a sport. It’s a preference.”
Q. What are your top favorite bands or artists these days?
I do admire solo artists. A bit of John Mayer and Ed Sheeran keeps me going. I appreciate all kinds of music. I listen to a lot. And I am very fond of real music.
Q. What are your future plans?
I do plan on making a hang drum solo album. My idea is to release song after song and finally put them all together. It’s progressing – slowly.
Currently, I am very focused on my band, Skyrock. We’ve been doing very well as a band and I look forward to great things with them too.
The year 2013 was special. I got the chance to work with Fuloo Nashid. I was literally jumping up and down inside, when Mifrah called me asking to work with them on the album; Journey. He is one of biggest inspirations ever and I cherish all the moments I got to spend with him. I was given a Spanish inspired track with a timeline of two days to work on it. Up until that day, Nashid has never seen me perform. I was scared to death that I might not be able to please him with my music. After the recording and seeing how content he was with it, made my day. We spoke for a good couple of hours after that and his words of encouragement and motivation still hits me so hard. It still gives me hope and strength. He asked me never to give up and never to stop. And when he said that he found the type of drummer he was looking for in me – that was the best day ever.
I am very grateful for all the blessings in my life. The kind words and support I get from family, friends and everyone. I am forever obliged to the many supporting pillars whom I consider as gems in my life. My father has been constant in my life providing me with all I need since I was a child. My mother and her unconditional love. My beloved wife for making me complete, always.