Talented guitarist revived the gambus

Talented guitarist revived the gambus
Musician Farid Ali

SINGAPORE- Singapore's Farid Ali was the go-to jazz guitarist in Asia for international stars such as Eric Marienthal. He also took a classical string instrument, the gambus, to new heights around the world.

He died in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday evening, after a month-long stay in hospital battling diabetes-related illnesses, including kidney failure, his family said. He would have turned 51 on Jan 9.

He is survived by his second wife of seven years, Madam Tricia Chew, 40, who helped manage his career. He had no children.

A graduate of the Berklee College Of Music in Boston, whose alumni include Diana Krall and Quincy Jones, Farid was one of the best known jazz guitarists on the Singapore music scene in the 1970s and 1980s.

He fronted progressive blues band Pacific Rim here before leaving for Malaysia in 1990, where he played for some 10 years as a member of the band Phase First, featuring American drummer Shawn Kelley, British saxophonist Greg Lyons and Malaysian keyboard player Aubrey Suwito.

There, he also became one of the country's best known exponents of the gambus, a Middle-Eastern stringed instrument which he wrote and recorded several original compositions for, including his solo album Turning Point: Gambus Goes Jazz (2007) and No Strings Attached (2006), with Malaysian guitarist Roger Wang.

A regular at music festivals, including Singapore's Mosaic Music Festival, the Pori Jazz Festival in Finland and the Montreal Jazz Festival, a highlight of his career was playing the gambus at a concert in Paris in 2005 celebrating the 60th anniversary of the United Nations' rights body, Unesco.

"He really revived the instrument," says his older sister Faridah Ali Chang, 52, a lyricist and singer who performed with her brother in the 1970s ensemble Stardust, which featured musicians such as Monteiro. "He was always very talented musically."

Farid was the youngest of eight children, his father a superscale draftsman in the civil service and mother a housewife.

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