Bringing the grooves of Latin America and Africa to Brunei
What happens when you assemble all the drummers and percussionists in Brunei on stage all at once? You get an event like Hundred Beats.
It’s a project developed by local drummer Ak Kamal Ghadafi Pg Hj Suhaimi over a decade ago. Now in its third year run since its revival, this huge ensemble of young and seasoned musicians aims to break out of the local music scene onto the regional stage with their djembes, surdos and timbales.
Who are the members of the Hundred Beats?
We are an ensemble made of over 20 people comprising percussionists, drummers, guitarists, bassists and vocalists.
When and how did Hundred Beats start?
In 2003, I had this idea of starting a drum solo concert. After two years of thinking about it, I talked to my drummer friends and we kicked off the concert in 2005. We did another one in 2006, and we went on hiatus for 10 years. 2016 was when we started to be active again, and we hope to continue for a very long time.
Are there any other acts that you look to for inspiration you or acts that you’ve modelled yourself after?
We play a lot of Samba Reggae beats most of which we learn online. And we learned quite a lot from famed percussionist Marcus Santos from Brazil, and another Brazilian group called Olodum, who are well known for their impressive skills on the batucadas and baterias. There are a lot of percussionists from around the world that inspired us, though mostly we look up to Marcus.
Since you mentioned multiple influences to your sound, how would you describe your genre of music?
We don’t limit ourselves to a genre. In 2005, we started out playing metal, but eventually, we explored other genres like Samba Reggae and African. Since our comeback in 2016, we’ve been experimenting with Latin and South American music that we hope to incorporate into our beats.
We would meet up backstage 10 minutes before we play. Normally we would practice and retune, check up on our instruments to ensure they’re in top condition as exposure to moisture can change the sound.
How do you create a cohesive sound with that many people in the band?
We would have a meeting two months before concert day to decide what kind of music or genre we want to do during the show. It’s not an easy task. We must be in the studio almost every day. Then we’d come up with a list of songs, pick the best five out of 10 songs, and then out of those five we’d play two songs in a set during the concert.
Sometimes these things change days or even hours before the main event because we’ll always have ideas, like add new instruments to the song or make some minor alterations to the outro.
So you’re not following a songbook or anything?
In the lead up to the concert, we would come to the studio and play freestyle, and each day leading up to the main event we would try different beats and eventually develop it into a full song that we could stick with. By that time, we would have our own tablature that we follow and we would note down the beats we want to play.
What are your upcoming projects and future plans for the band?
This year is a busy year for us. We’ll have our annual Hundred Beats concert at the Jerudong Park Amphitheatre in September, and it will be our biggest yet as we’re planning to have more than 20 drum sets on stage.
We’re also planning to go on tour in Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia and The Philippines. We hope to play in regional concerts and connect with international percussionists so that they could come and play with us in Brunei.
Lastly. What does the word progressive mean to you?
It means not just sitting down doing nothing and hoping that something will come your way. All of us in the group agree that we have to be really progressive in order to promote ourselves to the world.
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