On the 3rd of June 2014, I went down to Lorong Raja Bot, Kampung Baru, to get a haircut for the amazing price of RM7.
A Malay barber attended to me, and gave me a haircut. We chatted for a bit, with me explaining how I came to know of this place – by Instagram. He didn’t know Instagram. I then asked how the guitars came about. He had 6 more at home, and he just started learning guitar. Curious tourists would walk past, and he’d invite those he’d deem to look like they knew how to play, to jam.
In a very Malaysian way, I indirectly complimented him, by saying how his whammy bar was on the Superstrat guitar, so I knew he was a serious guitar player. He was puzzled, so I pointed it out. Oh, tremolo! He didn’t know what a Superstrat was either, so I pointed out the sunburst Squier Stratocaster behind it, explaining that the Superstrat was like that but with a more aggressive design, humbuckers instead of single-coil pickups in some places, and a double-locking floating bridge system.
An Indian barber did a job of a quick, clean shave. I then found out it was in fact RM10 for a haircut and shave. No biggie. Some far more expensive hair salons don’t even do the shave, but pass you a shaver to do it yourself!
After I paid, he invited me to play some guitar. Outside, there were 15 watt and 30 watt amplifiers waiting!
His friend, Adikz (on the left), showed me a rhythm lick, that I followed while he soloed. He could shred! It was some Dewa song – but I was not familiar with Dewa. We then proceeded to Search – Isi Atau Kulit. I knew the song, but I had never learned it before.
This picture was taken by Tang Chun Cheuh, who agreed to come along on my little adventure.
This is what you see as you look out of the barber shop.
We were reminded to observe quietness during the call to Azan. And so, whatever he wanted to show me was without amplification. He also offered to teach more – I’d just have to buy him a drink, or something like that – I did not hear him clearly on some occasions.
The Malay barber chap then left on a motorbike, while asking what I was listening to currently. Megadeth and Cacophony, for the Marty Friedman stuff, I answered. So I did a little Lucretia, but the Spirit-branded SG I was holding had high action (I didn’t notice it when playing rhythm earlier) so it was a bit of a slippery-string unamplified solo.
At some point we were hungry, and Tang and I had planned to check out Coliseum Cafe on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, just nearby. We made our plans to leave, but Adikz asked if we’d like to chat more over drinks. Out of courtesy, I asked him to lead the way to good food.
He wrote his number, and a proposed setlist for a band of which Tang was the bassist, and me presumably, rhythm guitarist. The setlist I’d have to learn? Metallica – Nothing Else Matters and Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit.
He also asked for my number. I have to admit I was feeling a bit uncomfortable with that, but I gave him my actual number. So this might be what it’s like for a female. I don’t know. I didn’t have any real intention of being in a band with him or continuing to jam. I intended to just get a haircut and maybe play some random guitar and resume my boring daily life.
He also asked if, when I was walking, if any kids were looking at me with mata merah (red eyes… or did he mean jealousy?) He implied that they were gangsters, and me being Chinese would stick out like a sore thumb, so if they caused trouble for me, I would just call him and he’d settle things.
Two Malay ladies, one blind, came by selling tissue. Adikz asked if I had any coins. Tang gave them a money note. They thanked us, offered tissue, which we declined. “Jaga baik-baik ye“, Adikz said to them. I’d normally not have given street beggars money, but this was an interesting scenario.
Adikz then mumbled something about BR1M (the Malaysian government handout for people earning less than a certain amount monthly) and asked if we could do him a favor. He was from Johor, and he was stuck here due to something that went wrong. (I didn’t catch what exactly.) So he asked for our generosity to help him get back – somewhere in the region of 70 Ringgit. We explained that we didn’t have much cash on hand anyway, though we paid for his food and drinks. He said he knew if he asked Malay people, they wouldn’t be able to help him, but maybe Chinese people could. (Appeal to Chinese chauvinism?)
He then walked us to the main road. As we tried to hail a bus, he asked how about his fate. We both gave him some money (a bus ticket to Johor was 35 Ringgit, he said.) His plan was to tumpang (borrow somebody’s place to sleep at) but I didn’t catch whether he said he’d sleep on the streets or have a friend’s place to sleep at. He thanked us for the money, and I told him it was no issue, to consider it his guitar lesson fee.
I remember now, a young Chinese man who’d brandish his identity card with his address stating Johor, saying he needed money to get home as he’d been scammed. This was outside the Pasar Seni LRT station back when I was in college, probably 2001 or so. I saw him again one week later at the same place.
Who knows really if what he says is true? Would we have been in risk if he did actually know gangsters, and we didn’t want to give him some money?
We caught the free bus that goes from Bukit Bintang to KL Sentral. Inside, we could see the benevolent benefactor, for which we could all be thankful for, who studied Economics and will thus ensure that all Malaysian citizens will have a fair chance to get a job and be able to live comfortably, and that you won’t be ahead in life only because your parents are.
Perhaps with less income disparity, Adikz would not have to assume we had money and make the situation slightly uncomfortable by asking for money. (Apparently I looked calm so Tang didn’t feel uncomfortable.)
Perhaps someday I would have no fear walking into a predominantly Malay area, and that an appeal to Chinese chauvinism would not happen, because we’d all be truly 1Malaysia, as espoused by our poster boy. Then maybe I wouldn’t be racist as I was in this blog entry – notice I mentioned the races of the people in this story even though it was of no relevance?
Edited: Here is Tang’s account with more pictures!