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Kyoto Protocol’s lead singer tells us how he got to represent M’sia in a global orchestra

As Malaysians, learning to play a musical instrument may be common, becoming good at playing the said instrument may be not too surprising but to play in an orchestra?!

Img from Time Out

Well, you gotta be a Ling Ling, who practices for 40 hours to be chosen in one. But what if we tell you that there’s an exception? 

Meet Fuad Alhabshi. Some of you may know him as the lead singer and guitarist of a rock band called Kyoto Protocol.

Just in case y’all dunno who Kyoto Protocol and Fuad are. Unedited image from Juice Online

But what most of you may not know is how he was recently a part of The Earth Orchestra. We managed to speak to the guy himself, who had told us that he was the only person to represent Malaysia.


Fuad is not trained in classical music. AT. ALL.

Joining an orchestra may not be the easiest thing to do. Some orchestras may require you to have a Master’s Degree in Music. And, typically, musicians would have to undergo one or a few rounds of audition before being chosen to join an orchestra. 

Think of it like your typical job interview or examination prior to getting a job except musicians are normally required to perform a song of their choice. In addition, they may also be required to perform a sight reading, where they spontaneously play a song based on a given music score. 

Soz, gais. We don’t think your cup song can lepas this kind of audition. Gif from Giphy

However, Fuad shared with us that although this was his first time being in an orchestra, he didn’t even have to go through any auditions at all!

“I was roped in when a former band mate of mine, Appi from the Maldives, got in touch and asked me to join The Earth Orchestra.” – Fuad to CILISOS.

You might think this was pure luck or that Fuad probably has a background in classical music but that’s not the case at all. As it turns out, The Earth Orchestra recruited its musicians through the network of musicians globally and not really through auditions.

And although Fuad was recruited this year, the orchestra actually started in 2018 as an ambitious project to get at least a musician from each country to record a song together. We did ask Fuad why would anyone wanna do something like this and he explained that it was to bring unity to the world through music

If you squint your eyes enough, you’d probably see Fuad somewhere in this pic… or not. Screenshot from Earth Orchestra VEVO YouTube

As cliché as it may sound, that was exactly what the project directors, Emma Newman and Jude Dexter Smith, had in mind when starting the orchestra.

“Connecting with a musician from every single country in the world has been an incredible experience for us both. Music is such a potent tool of communication, and to see these people and hear the final recording with all 197 musicians on it is so powerful.” – Emma and Jude, in a joint statement.

Unlike other orchestras where you have to play your part in a song along with other musicians at the same time, musicians in The Earth Orchestra only had to record themselves playing their parts of a song called Together is Beautiful and submit the recordings to the directors. The song was composed by George Fenton, who’s known for his work in The Blue Planet, Gandhi and even Anna and the King. 

George and some of the songs that he composed. Img from Film Oxford

Considering how these musicians were playing a song by a BAFTA-winner composer, we’d thought that they would be practicing day in and day out to ensure that they get their parts right. But that’s not the case since the pressure to perform live wasn’t really that much because…


Most musicians performed the song… online!

Upon joining the orchestra, Fuad said that he was given sheet music that would help him to record the song.

“You’re given sheet music, and from that a professional needs to be able to deliver spot on. ” – Fuad.

And with the help of one of his Kyoto Protocol bandmates, Shaq, he had transferred the sheet to a Digital Audio Workstation that pretty much assisted him in the process of recording his part. He only took two hours to record his part at Shaq’s home studio. 

We know two hours may not sound that long for some of you but Fuad also mentioned that he spent that amount of time recording and re-recording himself playing the electric guitar. 

Fuad recording in his Baju Melayu. Img courtesy from Fuad

The process was repeated so many times that he eventually lost count as to the amount of times he had to repeat the whole process. And the reason why he was so gelabah to keep repeating this process was to ensure that he played his part accurately.

“Playing in an orchestra means that you have to be as accurate as possible to the directions that are listed in the sheet music.” – Fuad.

Unlike in a rock band, Fuad found that there wasn’t much room for improvisation or freedom in terms of playing your musical instrument in an orchestra. But that kinda makes sense because an orchestra, according to Fuad, is very structured and has so many parts. And these parts can only come together into a whole song with a guide from the conductor

But since this orchestra was not performed live together, it was important for musicians to actually follow their part religiously, especially when there was no conductor to help guide musicians in playing their parts. Besides, if everyone’s just gonna syok sendiri with their parts, then you’d end up with this kinda performance…

Although Fuad had recorded his part remotely, he also mentioned that not all musicians had to do the same. In fact, 57 musicians were lucky enough to fly to Abbey Road, London to record some parts of the song in 2019.

“I would have loved to be involved in the Abbey Road sessions but alas it is not a conducive time to travel.” – Fuad.

Unfortunately, the orchestra couldn’t continue with its original plan due to the pandemic and this caused some delays to the whole project. Despite that, musicians from a total of 197 countries managed to come together to submit videos of themselves playing Together Is Beautiful.

And the song has been released by Universal Music as we speak!


The history of the Malay language, from Pallava to Jawi to modern Malay, simplified

Don’t worry. Fuad isn’t gonna be putting down his electric guitar anytime soon 😛

After submitting his recording, Fuad was actually quite nervous of the final product. This was partly because he was worried that he had screwed up some of his parts and would let the team down.

“I was so focused on my bit and worried that I let the team down, that I forgot that this piece has 197 musicians on it. In that sense, I was but a drop in the ocean, and yet that ocean would not exist without my humble single drop.” – Fuad. 

But everything went well and he kinda teared his worries away when he first listened to Together Is Beautiful that was compiled by the project producer, Rupert Christie

Rupert. Screenshot from Earth Orchestra VEVO YouTube

After putting so much effort into contributing to this piece, Fuad had hoped that people out there would be inspired by the song itself. 

“We know the harsh reality: the world is mired by hardship and sadness every day. That cruelty in its various forms continues to oppress the majority. I know that when you experience “Together Is Beautiful”, that it will give you hope. Hope that we can come together as one, and create our own ocean.” – Fuad.

Having said that, Fuad was hoping that the directors would consider him to be a part of The Earth Orchestra should the project continue. But don’t worry, gais. This doesn’t mean he’s gonna ciao from Kyoto Protocol anytime soon.

“It would be flattering to be in an orchestra but I would like to focus my time on Kyoto Protocol since that’s my baby! It’s my original music.” – Fuad.

Anyways, you can check out the title track for Together Is Beautiful here. We heard that the physical copy of the song will be released on the 15th January 2021, so you might wanna check that out too when it’s released.

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