WHEN flutist Ayawan Musafir Singgah, 53, told his mother about quitting his engineering job to pursue his dreams as a street artiste in 2007, she called him a fool.
“I told my mother that if I had to choose between wealth and peace, I would choose the latter.
“I had to convince my wife about my decision too and finally she relented. Life has not been easy moving from a stable income job to relying on people’s generosity.
“It has been over a decade since I took the big leap of faith and by God’s grace, I have survived, ” said the father of nine, whose real name is Mohd Shahriznam Sahrie.
Ayawan said he started playing the flute at the age of 17.
“My brother-in-law made a bamboo flute but could not play it, so he gave it to me. I blew into the flute and moved my fingers instinctively, and was surprised by the sounds that came out of it. Playing the flute was very natural for me.
“There was no end to my obsession with playing the flute. I started composing songs and performing on the streets in the evenings when I still had my day job.
“After becoming an artiste full-time, I realised that the money was not good, despite me also playing the guitar, writing songs and poetry, singing and painting on the side.
“People laughed at my determination because even talented buskers performing famous songs were barely surviving, so what more for me who “only” played the flute and that too only my own compositions.
“I opened a karaoke cafe hoping to get more income. I tried it for a few years and struggled to stay afloat, ” he said.
In 2010, the Perak-born self-taught musician who was based in Penang decided to move to Kuala Lumpur in search of more opportunities.
“Back then, people in the kampung believed that if you wanted to be successful, you must go to the capital city.
“It is true for me because I got many job offers here, apart from just busking.
“At present, I play the flute at two hotels in the city. On other days, I perform on crowded streets such as in Brickfields,
Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur Citywalk and outside KLCC LRT station.
“Despite getting gigs at hotels, I am still drawn to performing on the street.
“My music is for the masses and the only way to reach them is by playing on the street for all to enjoy.
“I make between RM200 and RM1,000 in two to three hours of busking.
“I have also worked in movies such as Langsuir (2018) and Lari Hantu Lari (2017).
“I produced my first album in 2017 titled Magic of Life, which features 77 minutes and seven seconds of continuous flute playing with seven types of bamboo flutes.
“My recent achievement was winning the silver medal at the Malaysian Championship of Performing Arts 2019 to qualify for the World Championship Of Performing Arts in California, the United States. However, I did not go because I could not get a sponsor.
“I have also taught many people to play the flute. Many tourists, especially foreigners are eager to learn. I teach the techniques and they pay me a token sum. Some even return for a refresher session.
“Art is God’s gift. I am not the owner of it but merely passing on the knowledge, so I never put a price on my work.
“I am blessed to have people like my wife Nur Farhana George Abdullah, who has always stood by me, as well as talent scout George Fuad, Malaysian Buskers Club president Wadi Hamdan and film director Mamat Khalid who have helped me be where I am today as an artiste.
“My policy in life is simple… be nice, be cool and relax.
“When you hear the soothing sounds of my flute, you are sure to be calmed. That is why I love what I do. It reflects the person that I am… a spiritual nature native artiste, ” he said.