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Music soothes the 'rough waves'
Published on: Monday, April 27, 2015

Kota Kinabalu: Likas Children's Hospital on Sunday got a surprise visitor from America who believes in the healing side of music. Ron Bumblefoot Thal – a multi-talented songwriter, performer, guitarist, arranger, recording artist, producer and engineer all rolled into one.

He appeared with his famed double-neck fretless guitar for a brief 15-minute show at the hospital's roofless atrium and quickly drew a crowd of adulating children patients, nurses, staff, doctors, visitors, thanks to the joint effort of the US Embassy, Society of Performing Arts Kota Kinabalu, Board of Visitors and Sabah MCA Women wing. He later visited the wards and presented children patients and their mothers with bags of gifts, accompanied by Dr Tan Bee Hwai, Director of Likas Children's Hospital.

"Wonderful, most adorable kids, sweetest kids. Bless the parents for being so loving and nurturing and everyone here for taking such good care of these children," Ron Bumblefoot Thal said afterwards.

Dr Pamela Yong, a former Chairman of the Hospital's Board of Visitors, said she hoped Ron Bumblefoot Thal's brief show at the atrium would pave the way to turning a mooted 'Music Therapy Centre' into a reality.

"What we are looking at is healing of the inner being," Dr Yong said.

In an exclusive interview with Daily Express, we asked Ron Bumblefoot Thal whether he believed in the oft-claimed healing property of music and how that happens. He said: "Absolutely. Music can be almost like medications, on emotions. You know, there are waves in the air, there are waves inside our heads and when you add music to those waves you can soothe the rough waves, you can do a lot of things, you can really let people forget about what's troubling them and just enjoy the moment and every body is unified in enjoying together and that right there, is some of the best medicines, sometimes."

That's the opinion of natural and gifted musician, maybe a musical genius inspired by music at six, sing cover songs in clubs at 13, started engineering and producing music at 16 with a penchant for creating original material, and at 18, won his first award - the Sam Ash Guitar Solo Contest after a spontaneous solo.

So he raises eyebrows appearing on stage with a double neck fretless guitar.

"Unique yes, the double neck is like a normal guitar on the bottom, the fretted guitar which has precise markings that stick out on the neck where you cross a string against to get the exact pitch that you want. That top neck is fretless, it's a sheet of stainless steel so it's almost like playing a cello where you have to put your fingers exactly in the precise spot, where a fret would be but, instead, you have to have exact intonation where you put your fingers exactly where the note would be," Ron Bumblefoot Thal explained. Difficult to master?

"It takes practice but anything can be accomplished with practice," he tipped.

But to get selected for the Cross Cultural Programmes, it is understood that strict standards apply.

Does he believe in the beauty and value of the Cross Cultural Programmes in which his role is like a Musical Ambassador of America?

"Absolutely and totally and that's another thing about the age we live in," he said.

"With the Internet we can all communicate without boundaries but at the same time there is nothing that can ever take the place of being face to face and being in the same room and being together and that's why doing things like this is important for the Embassy to bring me to this wonderful place and to meet everybody and we get to have something real, something personal something that can only happen once that way," Ron Bumblefoot Thal said.

"That's the beauty of about really being together. The Internet is wonderful but nothing can replace what we are doing right now, sitting on the floor, facing each other talking. The Internet is still a window between everybody and you don't truly get to see each other's faces unless it is skyped or something like that but nothing is like being together. This is why I play with local musicians in Sabah, we are going to do music together. The only way you can do that is coming together face to face and it's very special," he explained in length.

Any tip to local musicians or performers?

"There are so many ways, the most important thing in making music is to be generous, to be giving, to remember it's not about you, you are sharing through you to every body and it has to be very open, receptive and allow the connections to happen and it's very important to be interactive with it, it's not just about performing, putting separation: that's the audience and you want the stage and there is this invisible boundary , this untouchable boundary between the audience and you. I don't believe on that. I believe that every body is together and all part pf the same moment. And when you leave that moment, you feel like you are leaving with something more," Ron Bumblefoot Thal advised.

One last thing, why does he call himself bumblefoot – an infectious foot disease that afflicts birds of prey.

It has to do with wife Jennifer who is a veterinarian. While reviewing her exam papers many years ago, he decided to adopt Bumblefoot for his stage name!

Which keeps his wife in the picture for his success.

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