Long haired, bearded, with eyes squinting, he entered Uncle Rik’s studio with his weapon of choice – the bass. He had a straight face that suggested he wasn’t the sort of guy who would take a joke lightly.
“Alex dude, are you sure this guy is okay playing bass for me? He looks pissed”, I nudged Alex the drummer hesitantly.
“No worries man. He’s cool. He’s probably tired cause this is quite last minute, otherwise he’s awesome… and you’re lucky to have two members of Cosmic Funk Express session-ing for you!”
I looked at Alex, to Alda, and back to Alex. Both had samurai looking hair, which made me wonder if I should quickly grow one just to jive with these seasoned musicians. Or possibly a wig. Their third member Zack Kim had considerable lengthy hair too.
I was clearly the newbie. Having only met Alex at Paul’s Place Uptown when I played my very first own show (and Alex jumped on stage midway set to drum me some beats), I quickly got him on board to work on my EP during my summer break from school. And then I needed a bassist.
“Whats up guys?”, said this bassist-warrior, sliding down his guitar case on the nearest couch and taking out his bass.
“Good good. I’m Rendra. Thanks for helping out man. Was really really in need of a bassist for my EP. Was asking Alex who I could get, and he suggested you. Heard great stuff about you and seriously, its great to have you have. Looking forward man!!”, I stammered eagerly.
“No problem,” said Alda.
A man with few words. Damn me for that long intro speech.
Then, Azrul the guitarist came in. We began jamming. It sounded good. For the first time, my music came to life at the hands of live musicians – a very different feel from strumming and singing at home by myself.
At the end of the song ‘Si Bulat’, Alda looked up at me. For a moment I feared he was tired of my amateurish jamming skills, guitar work, or my fluttering thin voice. Through squinted eyes he said “Nice song bro”.
From Bass Warrior to the Helping Warrior
Finally, came the day of the recording. Luncai Emas in Sungai Buloh. Quite the inner and out of the way location, but surprisingly giving directions to Alda wasn’t as hard as the others. It was the day of recording. I arrived at the studio sweating. Already 15 minutes late, I walked in to find Alda already waiting at the studio lobby like a pro. Feeling bad for my noobish mistake, I asked him, “Have you eaten?”.
“Nope”, he replied.
“Great! Lets go mamak, it’s on me!”, hoping this would score be brownie redemption points!
Studio session started, with a win stomach. Alda took out his guitar and cables, played with the settings while conversing with the sound engineer in technical jargon that sounded like Irish food to me. (okay I was probably still hungry). Moments later, it was all good to go, and my first job as a producer for my own CD started. It was little newcomer me, directing this badass japanese-warrior-looking bassist (he really looked like a samurai back then!!).
Alda team played the whole thing well. He lent a helping a hand for arrangement when needed, giving thoughts that mattered, and encouraged me when doubted my own personal arrangements. His subtle give and take attitude made me respect the man more. And the more hours we spent into recording, the more I realized what sort of person this warrior was like – he was the helping kind…the ones that never fell short to help those in need around him. The one you can count on. The Helping Warrior.
The recording session ended with a high note (I can almost hear Alda say “but I play low notes bro!”). I was happy with the overall lines Alda threw into all seven songs, and for the first time I was able to comprehend the importance bass has in a song (hey, don’t judge me, I was just starting out back then!)
I felt especially happy whenever I saw him grooving his head, swinging his long rugged hair, almost like a music video. It was great seeing someone enjoying my tunes. But above all, I was highly ecstatic that I got to glimpse a little more into this great soul of his.
From Jam Sessions to Mamak Sessions
“Dude, I really like your stuff man. Especially Si Bulat. Really enjoyed playing on the tracks”, said the Helping Warrior on the way down the studio stairs.
I was in disbelief. The bassist of the awesome Cosmic Funk Express and Kevin Brokenscar, and former Dragon Red bassist was giving me compliments.
“Errrr thanks man. That’s super kind of you. I’m just so glad to have you be a part of this”, I replied.
“Yeah. Even during jamming and practices, it was fun jamming it out with you.”
“Really? But honestly, I thought you felt a little bored then.”
“Hahaha. I dunno. You looked serious. I thought you didn’t like me, HAHA!” I tried to make that last laugh sound as natural as possible.
“Ohhhh, haha. I guess I’m like that to people whom I don’t really know. And this whole thing was kinda last minute, and I didn’t know what to expect. But I’m kinda glad I joined in.”
“Yeah sorry about that. But no, thank YOU! It’s such a great pleasure. You helped me a lot back there”, I said.
“Want to go have drink at mamak again?” Alda said.
And if there’s anything magical about mamak sessions, it’s the bonding over teh tarik and teh-o-ais limau. And so began my great friendship with the bassist who was always there for me. An embodiment of a kind and gentle soul. The only bassist I’ve ever worked with to date.
His name is Alda Evan Tan.
The year we recorded my first EP ‘First Melodies’ was in 2006. Over the years, Alda and I became closer as musicians, and as good friends. He was always there when I needed his music technicality expertise because theories evaded me back then. His support for my music was endless. He always encouraged me to move forward when things seemed dark and bleak for me. We worked on a lot of projects together. Some were great success stories, some didn’t go through. But heck, it was the experiences that mattered, and with Alda it was never a boring one.
But he wasn’t just my friend, he was everybody’s friend. The years I got to know him better were the years I realized there was a little bit of Alda in everybody within the indie music scene. He had great friends surrounding him, some of whom have become good friends of mine. He was one of those who gave and didn’t expect much in return. He was a giver to the music scene, with dreams of one day opening his own publishing house. And he was an invaluable supporter of the indie scene, often providing platforms to young and new talents.
From being the badass bassist in his early years, he grew into that familiar pillar – a household supporter – supporting the local indie scene (and now mainstream) with a wholeness approach. He was there for the community, and I was proud to have him as a friend. He was loved by all. And the testimonials are written all over the support he is getting now from family and friends around.
But the unfortunate happened.
Pray for Alda Evan Tan
Fellow readers. To those who are in the unknown, Alda has recently suffered a capillary burst in his brains due to hypertension. He collapsed while jamming, and was brought straight to Damansara Specialist Hospital where he underwent immediate emergency surgery. He was in ICU for a few weeks, and has now been transferred to HDU. He is still unconscious.
The community that Alda has invested his passion into are are now up in arms to help pay his high medical bills by organising fundraising events. Although donations have been coming in, his running medical bills continue to increase. Funds are needed to cover his surgery bills, doctor’s consultation, hospitalisation, and later, therapy sessions when he wakes up. The amount is astronomical. And he is in need of our help.
Alda Evan Tan. He is 29. An age I thought was hidden from these kind of unfortunate happenings.
Alda bro, when you wake up and read this… know that you have family and friends who love you dearly. Your contributions to the community have not gone unnoticed. This is us giving back, as fellow musicians, friends, and human beings. And plus you still have my album to play for at the end of the year!! :)
Tonight at 8pm, we have a Moonshine event at The Bee Publika to help fundraise for Alda’s condition. A whole list of great line-ups. And I will be playing two songs – the single which Alda and I worked on, and Si Bulat… your old time favorite.
Alda bro, when you’re up and well, let’s jam Si Bulat together again.
Dear friends and fans. To those who wish to find out more information on how you can help donate, please visit here. Your help and donation will be truly appreciated.
Come tonight to support the fundraising event. And lets pray so that Alda will be whole and well once again.
Here’s to Alda Evan Tan. Get well soon brother.