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The immeasurable impact of Abdul Nizam, as told by his contemporaries and fans

The immeasurable impact of Abdul Nizam, as told by his contemporaries and fans

It's safe to say the recent passing of Abdul Nizam has left a remarkable impact in his wake.

Tributes aside, the reflection upon his work — as the creative brains behind beloved indie rock band The NoNames and a hardworking independent filmmaker in his own right — unfortunately follows the joyously invigorated exhibition So Happy: 50 Years of Singapore Rock last year, which served to educate and focus on the triumphs and tribulations of locally-made rock music in the past five decades.

Nizam's undisputed position within the former is the reason behind Remember Nizam: A Celebration in Music, and it would only seem fit to discuss his impact on Singaporean music with the very people that worked with, or alongside, him, and the fans that have followed him since the inception of his band. 


Leslie Low (The Observatory/Hanging Up The Moon/ex-Humpback Oak/ex-Twang Bar Kings)

Picture courtesy of Leslie Low

...he sure did set the example to me of how he uses his musical influences to channel his own true voice, through the band's own compositions."

What was the greatest impact Nizam had on Singaporean music?

He had a voice that was pretty versatile, I've heard him sing a couple of lines from a Tom Waits song and I thought the man himself had just walked into the room. And yet he could sound as fragile as Neil Young. I can't be the judge of his impact on SG music, but watching him play drums and sing was something that stuck out in my mind. Vincent (bassist of The NoNames) would do harmonies. I always loved that in a band.

His bass playing was steady and grooving with Nizam, while the guitars of Jong Aik and Dennis interplay. Nizam's vocal delivery was always easy and care-free, almost effortless when you listen to it. Yet it embodies so much of his personality. If anything, he sure did set the example to me of how he uses his musical influences to channel his own true voice, through the band's own compositions.

How did he influence you personally?

A lot of what we listened to in our teenage years came from the generation before us, and The NoNames were the ones that brought these influences to our attention. So did the other bands of the time, The Oddfellows, Corporate Toil, Opposition Party, Electric Penguins, IGTA and Heritage. This was the late 80s, so there wasn't a lot of music happening at that time. So watching local bands doing it was pretty inspiring. Making that crossover as well from doing cover songs and then to writing original material. It was pretty ground-breaking to me to feel that energy from them.

 

X' Ho (Lush 99.5fm DJ, ex-Zircon Lounge/ex-Transformer)

Nizam certainly made [The NoNames'] name-sake true with unassuming grace and self-effacing passion."

What was the greatest impact Nizam had on Singaporean music?

Abdul Nizam being the frontman/drummer/singer of the band The NoNames certainly defined its sound and persona. It was like an indie-chill precursor of parts Force Vomit and The Pinholes, if you can picture it. Nizam certainly made the band's namesake true with unassuming grace and self-effacing passion.

How did he influence you personally?

When you collaborate with musicians you really get to feel the extent of their generosity and graciousness and the impression that's stayed with me, when half of The NoNames performed with me live as a one-off backup band on the Orchard Road stage one time in the late 80s, is one worthy of admiration and loving gratitude. The NoNames, I'd remember, as robust and warm but always chill in attitude.

 

Nigel Hogan (ex-The Padres)

Picture courtesy of The Endless

His impact for me was influencing me to believe that I too could also be in a band."

What was the greatest impact Nizam had on Singaporean music?

Well just look at the early BigO releases and you will see that Nizam was in practically all the bands, haha! Everyone liked him. His laid back, "hey man lets just play some music" attitude was the sort of thing that every band needs. No ego, no hang ups no bullshit. He liked to rock and roll but at the same time had a gentle nature and kind disposition. He was a guy that just like to do creative things be it music film writing etc... He enjoyed the process more than the product. That's why I like him cos he's like me in that sense, he enjoyed the art of creation but not being part of "the scene". His impact for me was influencing me to believe that I too could also be in a band.

How did he influence you personally?

He is the reason why I went back to school. He gave me the confidence to do it and he's the reason why I switched from audio production to filmmaking. He said I wouldn't regret it and he was right. We used to hang quite a bit then and jam sometimes. We'd chill for hours shooting the breeze discussing and debating important topics of the day, like who was the best footballer ever... Pele or Maradona.Maradona.

MaradonaMaradona of course. You could say he was one of the guys that helped shape my thought process. He was always there to offer advice or a listening ear without judgment. He's right up there with Patrick Chng as one of my favourite Singaporean musicians. But most important of all, he made me laugh and he laughed with me. What a guy. Always in my prayers. A true gentleman and friend.

 

Patrick Chng (The Oddfellows)

Picture courtesy of Patrick Chng

Nizam taught me to be real."

What was the greatest impact Nizam had on Singaporean music?

Nizam was a low-profile kind of guy so I'm not sure if that question should even be asked. But he had a big impact on me personally.

How did he influence you personally?

I was at the No Surrender gig in 1987 and The NoNames just blew me away with their invigorating no-frills rock `n' roll music. Nizam was the natural leader; playing drums and singing with such honesty that one couldn't help but fall in love with the band. Or at least, I did.

Nizam taught me to be real. And I learnt how to play drums by watching him. He played with a lot of "feel", and always for the song.

 

 

Joe Ng (ex-The Padres)

Picture courtesy of Joe Ng

The NoNames’ jamming will always be one of the best 'gigs' in my life. So laid-back, yet so taut and intense at the same time."

In the late '80s I was always hanging around at the jamming studios—the one at Orange Grove Road, checking out The NoNames, always gatecrashing their jams. To me they were the best SG band then. That's how I got to know Vincent, Jong Aik, Dennis and Nizam. 

The NoNames’ jamming will always be one of the best 'gigs' in my life. So laid-back, yet so taut and intense at the same time. With every song, the amps get cranked up louder and louder, that by the end, it was always a hair’s breath away from mind-blown exploding. Thanks for letting me into your jams.

In ’88, The NoNames did a radio session for their upcoming gig at the Arts Festival Fringe Fest. Nizam sang one of the best covers of Neil Young’s 'Comes A Time' I’ve ever heard. I remember recording it but I can’t find the tape now. 

I can’t remember when it happened, but I asked Nizam, Vincent, Jong Aik and Pat to help me flesh out some songs I had then. We started jamming and Nizam was mucking about some big tom action drum pattern for the song “Radio Station”. Love it! Brilliant! 

We did our first gig as an ad-hoc band at this Marina Amphitheatre place. Didn’t have a name for the band. The emcee went up and announced us as “Joe & Friends”. Horrified, I started looking around the venue for possible band names… “Happy Hour”. No. “Budweiser”. No. etc etc. no no no …. Then I saw Nizam’s tee-shirt: “Padres”. I didn't know what it was. It sounded like it could be something meaningful. Desperate, I grabbed that name, went on stage and announced that we are The Padres.

Thanks for everything, Nizam. Rust Never Sleeps. 

 

Gary Chand (ex-IGTA, pictured far right)

Picture courtesy of Gary Chand & IGTA

He's a beautiful guy, I can tell you that."

The first time I met Nizam was when IGTA was playing on X' Ho's radio show in 1986 or '87. Nizam was playing with Earth Medicine Band and we met him there. I was staying at an apartment at Cuppage and we were having a party after. He wanted to come along, and did, so we all partied till the morning. From then on, we became good friends and we got along forever.

In the early nineties, we played together at Emerald Hill Number 5 for one-year-plus together. He was playing drums, I was playing guitar. We sang a lot of Neil Young, The Band, CSNY, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Zappa, Jackson Browne, The Velvet Underground, Tom Waits. Folk-rock style, a lot of good songs. Sometimes after the set, when it was really late, we would get a hotel together, listen to music, have a drink and go back the next morning. 

Nizam was a great drummer, he played with a lot of soul and 'feel'. During his funeral, I was thinking that I would love to play a tribute to him.  I thought, Let's do something for him for the last time. Especially because we are all not getting any younger. So Remember Nizam is all because of and for Nizam. 

Nizam and I were very close. He was even my best man at my wedding. How will I remember him? As a great, fun and happy guy. We used to laugh together. He's a beautiful guy, I can tell you that. He will always be in my heart. 

 

Ivan Thomasz (freelance writer)

Picture courtesy of Ivan Thomasz

What was the greatest impact Nizam had on Singaporean music?

The NoNames were very different from their indie contemporaries in the late 80's and early 90's.

While bands like The Oddfellows were playing music influenced by then-hip alternative bands like R.E.M. and The Replacements, or Opposition Party was playing 1977-era punk, The NoNames were doing really unfashionable music (for that time) by Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young. The only music they played that their indie peers could relate to was by The Velvet Underground and Television!

In a sense, The NoNames were like the link between the "lost generation" of 1960's and 1970's local musicians — whose livelihoods were destroyed by the ruling party's anti-drug hysteria — and the then-younger generation of bands as exemplified by Patrick Chng and The Oddfellows, Corporate Toil and Electric Penguin (which eventually morphed into Etc.).

 

Don Bosco (ex-Twang Bar Kings)

Picture courtesy of Don Bosco

Nizam brought the magic.
His drumming was like thunder.
He sang like a grand poet
and filled our ears with wonder.


Remember Nizam: A Celebration in Music is happening on July 31st at The Substation, with performances by Twang Bar Kings, The Endless, and Gary Chand & Friends.

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