A Bassist’s Prayer

“Please dear God, don’t let me be an ingrate; please don’t let me forget who invited me to this party… ”

This was the prayer softly uttered by a replacement bassist just minutes before he went on to do his first set. He was replacing the resident bass player at the club where I used to work. His sincerity touched me. I walked up to him, shook his hand and offered, “I think you’ll be fine, sir”.

He was indeed a breath of fresh air. And he went on to become a permanent member of the band.

Prior to this – when their original bass player left to pursue a lucrative contract elsewhere – the resident band had to put up with a slew of less than savoury replacement bass players. Guitar players were easy enough to find – but good bass players were (and still are) a rare commodity. The band became desperate. And as is the norm, desperate people made mistakes.

The first mistake they made was thinking that a good bassist was one who showed exceptional mastery of his instrument. This was utter folly. Playing well did not necessarily mean that he would be able (or even willing) to do the job. Usually the more fireworks the replacement bass player had, the more the band fell flat. There was even one prima donna bassist who tried to upstage the lead guitar player at every turn, and in the process ruined the show by abandoning his rhythm-section role. When the errant bassist almost came to blows with the band leader, it was up to me (as bouncer) to physically eject him from the premises. This, I might add, was a task I undertook with more pleasure than I should have.

Then the band went on to the bigger mistake of inviting friends (with little or no bass playing experience) to fill the void. According to them, it would be easier to manage a friend than it would be to manage a stranger. Guess what? They were wrong again. In one instance, their bassist friend made a habit of going home after only the second set – leaving someone else (usually me) holding the baby. With my limited ability, all I could do was to hit the root notes in as rhythmic a fashion as possible till closing time.

Needless to say, I didn’t break any musical ground – but I think I got the job done. At least, the band leader didn’t try to break his guitar over my head. But perhaps this was simply because I was a lot bigger than he was.

In another instance, a ‘bassist friend’ even had the audacity to blame his own poor performance on the leader. According to the underperforming bassist, it was the band leader’s duty to bring him up to speed. This made sense – until I talked to the band leader about it. On many occasions the band leader had asked his friend to come over so they could cover the material together. His friend never complied with the request – not even once. So, whose fault was it? Was the teacher duty-bound to go to the student? I should think not! Those who seek knowledge should have the humility to come to the teacher, shouldn’t they?

Now some 17 years after the fact, I think I understand what happened. There was nothing wrong with the band in thinking that an accomplished player would be the answer to their problems. Or in them believing that they ought to be able to rely on a friend. These are reasonable propositions. However, what was wrong lay with the (failed) replacement bassists: they had all forgotten who it was who invited them to the party.

Now, whenever I get a training gig anywhere, I always try to remember to say this prayer: “Please dear God, don’t let me be an ingrate; please don’t let me forget who invited me to this party”.

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9 thoughts on “A Bassist’s Prayer

  1. How’s the going Matt?,

    I tell u horr, Janice from Taste of Honey must be the most talented Sexiest Bass player on Earth. What God given talent she has, sing, dance & play, & not to mention she’s just simply WOW!!!!

    Boogie Oogie

    Cheers,
    Tommy

    Tommy

    When I was 16 I think I fell in love with Janice everyday – and twice on Saturdays and Sundays.

    Thanks for the video, old chap!

  2. hey, welcome back! 😀

    can we say PROFOUND!

    defnitely nothing worse for team performance than disharmony. so hear you that it behoves those who choose or accept an invitation to be part of a team to lock step and keep in tempo in the interest of delivering a good show. otherwise, be a one-man band lah kan!

    [aside: come to think of it, that’s why i’m seldom a joiner. knowing my many sorry limitations, i know it’d be hard to keep up with most programmes that aren’t my own. :D]

    Mek Yam

    I am with you ma’am. Once we accept an invitation to be part of a team, we relinquish (to a certain extent) some measure of our individuality. Hey, we could have said, “No”, right?

    What drives me up the walls are people who demand the full measure of the benefits but insist on being able to pick and choose what part of their obligations they want to honour.

    Hmm… can partially discharging our obligations – at our whims and fancies – ever be considered honouring our obligations at all? I should think not!

    Good to hear from you again, ma’am

  3. “Please dear God, don’t let me be an ingrate; please don’t let me forget who invited me to this party”.

    So true, Mat. And what a timely reminder,too. Perhaps we should lobby to get this tagline to replace the existing “Performance Now. Wife First” … ohhhh.. is it “Performance Now. Pocket first”?.. whatever la… you know which one am talking about, right? Right? *smirks*

    Andrea

    ROTFL

    You’ve got a wicked sense of humour, ma’am. Wicked AND delicious!

  4. Salam Bro.,
    Its been almost two months since your last posting… the dancing lady… tot you went MIA with the lady! Hahaha! Good to have you back in the action… talking about bassist… who was it from your batch who played brilliant bass during MRSM days?

    Dhahran Sea

    Good to be back, sir. No… the dancing lady perfers younger and more athletic men, I’m afraid.

    The basist back in MRSM? I think it was Rafique Wahab. He was one mean bass player, eh? And the senior batch (’73) had Mahmood (now Prof. Mahmood)

  5. Hahaha Matt, I hope I’m not thinking what u were thinking back then. Wow twice on Saturdays & Sundays, glad u r not as blind as Tommy the pinball wizard! Talking about Tommy, I should point out that John Entwistle of The Who is the all time best bass player of all, don’t u agree?

    Cheers,

    Tommy

    Tommy,

    No, I did not go blind – I just don’t have 20-20 vision anymore. Lucky it wasn’t 3 times a day on Saturdays and Sundays, eh?

    Best bassist? I lean more toward Jaco Pastorious. But Mr Entwistle has to rate as the all time great in the rock genre.

  6. First, I must say that you are one talented guy, Sofian. Light on your feet too. Bouncer one minute and bass the next. Your experience’d make many delightful scripts.

    Bass, not exactly a glamorous position. But is essential to rock music. Turn the bass all the way down on your music system and see how good that sounds in comparison.

    Team player one must be, but it is so satisfying to make those warm tones and low growls, yes?

    Rovitah

    Thank you,ma’am. But like our garden variety Jack-of-all-trades, I am master of none…

    Yes, ma’am. The bass is too often under-rated. The bass player is not a failed guitar player as many tend to think. In a serious outfit, the bassist is usually the the guy with the strongest grasp of music theory. He has to be – he’s the bridge between rhythm and harmony. That’s why he is my hero.

    Yes, it is satisfying to keep a beat with those warm, round tones while laying down an elegant groove. And yes, I have recently taken up the bass in earnest – something I should have done a long time ago.

    Good to hear from you again, ma’am

    • Forgot to mention that sometime last year I attended a wedding reception. Entertainment was provided by a three-piece band, bass, keyboard and drums. The bassist was a young guy, actually brother of the bride. They played such beautiful music, I thought I had died and gone to heaven…

      Musical instruments and me, we are not good friends but I am blessed with a husband who plays guitar and daughter who plays both guitar and piano. Every now and then they have jamming sessions and I get to make song requests. You get to jam at home?

      And umm… you think you can address me by my given name instead of ma’am? I kind of like my name you know. God bless, Sofian.

      Rovitah

      OK, Rovitah, I’ll drop the ‘ma’am’ thinggy. Your husband plays guitar? Bet he’s good at it. Usually guitarists who can jam with piano players are very accomplished.

      Me? I get to jam playing my bass with my son quite a lot: he’s dreaming of becoming a pro guitar player someday. He’s not that good yet – I have to ‘carry’ him some times. But that’s OK; that’s what fathers are for, right?

      God Bless you too, Rovitah

      • Sofian, tq. Accomplished, so not. Reasonably competent. Self taught. And cheats when needed using the Amazing Slow downer software on his laptop..

        Your son’s dream? Attainable, Insya Allah. He’s got you, his father as his mentor, no?

        Rovitah

        This Amazing Slowdowner sounds interesting!

  7. ..hmm..thought I heard some distant thunder in the western sky..welcome back, sofi, from your mini hiatus or where ever it is you retreated to, to get back your breath or your bass riff together..bass..? what is music without bass? or the blogging world without the likes of you and a few others?..cheers.

    pakmat

    The distant thunder in the Western sky was actually plain old work. No, I am not complaining. Work, being so hard to come by these days, one must always be thankful.

    As usual, you are too generous with your compliments.

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