As an activist of traditional music, Hj Mohd Yazid Hg Awang Damit is among the few who organises workshops and trains groups of young people in traditional music.

He believes more can be done to develop the scene, and is in the process of creating a means that can make traditional music more accessible and interesting to youths. By day, Yazid is a technician at Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB).

Professionally, you’re a lab tech, yet you spend time composing, arranging, producing and coaching traditional music. How did that come about?

I love traditional music very much and it’s my passion. I was born into an artistic family, inheriting the talent from my late father who was a Gambus player. So I think it’s my responsibility to give knowledge about traditional music to youngsters.

Was your father the one who taught you music?

I was taught first by my father but my eldest brother, Hj Mohd Abdoh Bin Hj Awang Damit, also taught me a lot later. He’s one of Brunei’s finest traditional composer, arranger and educator.

What was the first instrument he taught you?

I think it was the Gong (a circular disc usually made of bronze). I remember it happened at a wedding function. My brother told me to just hit the gong and I did. That somehow set off an exploration into traditional music which I’m still doing right now, and still loving it!

When did you start teaching?

I started teaching traditional music in 2009, when I was still 16 years old and studying in Sixth Form. My classmates were my first students and it grew from there. When I was coaching at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Secondary, the school team won the annual Inter-School Gulingtangan Competition four years in a row.
I consider that to be my biggest personal achievement to date. After that, I decided to teach music independently with a focus towards youth.
I think that there are not many teachers in the field of traditional music so I made a step forward to teach at a young age. And I’m still doing that at 30 years old.

[related]You’ve been teaching for half your life! What have you found out about yourself personally since you started teaching music?

I’ve found that learning is a very important process in life because you grow as a person and find ways to help you process things.

Does the idea of making the world a better place play a role in your life?

Yes, musically speaking. Music is something everyone understands. We all have these different languages; Mandarin, Cantonese, English, French…But I think music can unite people and make the world a better place.
I hope I can do this through traditional music!

To me, being progressive means moving forward, going beyond your comfort zone and changing for improvement.

That’s a firm conviction! Cikgu Yazid, you’re actually doing something exciting with traditional music and technology. Please tell us about that.
I do a lot of sampling. Talking to one of, I would say, my protégé, who is a computer student, we had the idea of developing an app specifically for traditional music. It’s still under development. We’re calling it ‘Gulingtangan Kitani’. The app will help you to learn more about traditional music.
We’re currently looking for coordination expertise because of how big the project is. The aim of the app is to generate interest from youngsters to play traditional music.

If you’d like to get in touch or check out Yazid’s traditional music samples, check out his Instagram @brutradmusic