The Band World

Let’s Talk Percussion: Iskandar Rashid

Travelling throughout Asia, Europe and the USA, Iskandar Rashid, a solo and chamber percussionist based in sunny Singapore, gives masterclasses and performs with
prestigious orchestras. Iskandar’s musical journey started back in his secondary school days, where his relationship with music started and then grew stronger. Today, Iskandar is
a professional musician and software engineer.

We sat down with him over coffee where he shared with us more stories about his music career as well as some words of encouragement to aspiring young musicians.


When did your music career begin? Why percussion?

I joined a school band and started playing in the band when I went to audition at the youth orchestras in Singapore, also previously known as Singapore Youth Orchestra. I attended some music festivals here and there and decided that, “Hey, this seems to be going pretty well” and decided to study music.

I originally wanted to play something else like the clarinet or some of the woodwind instruments, but the band director decided that I should join the percussion and placed me in the section.

What is your favourite percussion instrument and why?

I like the mallets in general because firstly, it is a tuned instrument so you really get to express and show your big, melodic intention behind the music on mallet instruments. I
feel that there are a lot of emotions being placed on the mallet instrument. On the drums too, but it’s not going to be as obvious as compared to when you put on a mallet.

For example, a blind man won’t be able to know and feel the emotions on the drums because you’ll have to see the actions and then feel it. But with the mallets, he will be able to hear it.

Who inspires you?

Back then, one of my professors, Jack. He inspired me a lot. He teaches me not only to be a good musician, but also to be a good teacher, a good partner. He is a big fatherly figure
who has inspired me a lot beyond music.

What is your favourite part of your career?

I get to meet and work with a lot of composers and premiere in new works. I also get to travel a lot to meet different musicians. Music is a very universal language and I have met
many musicians who don’t speak English but we can communicate through music because music is music.

What are your future plans?

I have a couple of new projects that I’m working on which are around the region, like playing in a recital with a friend of mine from KL in September. A bunch of friends and I in
the region are starting up a percussion ensemble, which is super cool because it mainly consists of percussionists from the regions of Asia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand,
Malaysia, and of course Singapore. We already did one performance last year in Hong Kong and we are also planning to do one performance in Singapore next March.

Where do you (like to) see yourself in 10 years?

One of the things I really want to see for Singapore, not really myself, is for the percussion ensemble movement to be a lot more vibrant, which is already happening. It is taking
place, and students know that besides playing in a school band or playing the triangle for one hour, there is this thing called the percussion ensemble and it is really good to see
MOE stepping this up and including this into the SYF presentation. In 10 years, it’ll be nice to see the percussion ensemble community pop up and get it going.

Any tips and advices to share with aspiring young musicians?

“3 tips: 1, Be very good at your craft. 2, Networking. 3, Sometimes you need luck.”

The best advice for them is to get out there and experience, not just the band but with different people. I feel that everybody in Singapore is trying to get into the same kind of
feel, playing in different bands and orchestras but there are a lot more to that. Music with computer, contemporary music, many types of genres that are worth exploring instead of
staying within our comfort zone. So the best advice is really to get out there and gain as much experience, make it happen.

(photo credit: SETTS)

Mikko Neo

Mikko is a year 3 Singapore Polytechnic student majoring in Media and Communication. She plays the flute in Singapore Polytechnic Symphonic Band and Mus'Art Wind Orchestra.

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