When the music stops

When the music stops
Yazid Ahmat

After more than three decades of rocking the industry, the music may have finally stopped for Search founding member Yazid Ahmad.

The 54-year-old drummer popularly known as Yazid Search is struggling to pay his monthly RM5,000 (S$1900) household and medical bills.

Yazid suffers from kidney failure, high blood pressure and diabetes, and has to undergo peritoneal dialysis treatment four times daily. He hopes to switch to haemo­dialysis treatment so that he can spend more time working, but will need sponsors for that. (Haemodialysis uses a man-made membrane to filter wastes and remove extra fluid from the blood. Peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of the abdominal cavity - peritoneal membrane - and a solution to remove wastes and extra fluid from the body.)

"I have been in and out of hospital for six years now. My doctor said I should rest more, but I need to make some money so I conduct drumming clinics whenever I can," he told Sunday Star at a rented apartment where he lives with his wife and daughter.

He claimed to be a member of both PRISM Bhd and Recording Performers Malaysia (M) Bhd, but said veterans like him do not get much from royalty payouts.

He said the biggest payment he received from PRISM Sdn Bhd before it closed down was RM1,000 in 2011. Before that, it was between RM200 and RM400 yearly, he added.

"Royalty payouts to artistes are a joke. Those who say that only artistes who are still on the airwaves today deserve royalties have forgotten who pioneered the music industry.

"In the early days, we fought for royalties but only started receiving the money in 2004. What about our songs that received airplay before that? Is it fair that only new artistes benefit after we have slogged and sacrificed everything for Malaysian music?" Yazid said.

Yazid said that Search, which disbanded in 2001, earned more from playing live shows and from cash advances for record albums (from music companies) than from royalties.

"But once the recording companies are done with you, they just toss you aside. The way the industry is run must be changed. Here, performers' welfare is not a priority - making money off us is," he said, adding that royalties should be paid according to how long the artiste has been in the music industry.

Yazid, who started playing the drums when he was 15, formed history-making rock band Search alongside Suhaimi Abdul Rahman (better known as Amy), Hillary Ang and Nasir Daud in 1981.

The band achieved massive success with its fifth studio album Fenomena in 1989 which sold over 200,000 units in Malaysia and spawned the hit single Isabella. Fenomena was the first Malaysian album to sell over one million copies in Indonesia.

Yazid said performers in countries like Indonesia and Australia get "110 per cent support" from the government and fans.

"We played one of our biggest shows on a padi field in Indonesia. Some 50,000 people paid to watch us perform. Here, people want everything to be free.

"We get peanuts in royalties and what with rampant piracy, performers here will never be rich," the grandfather said.

Disgruntled, he forbade his three children from joining the industry because he does not want them to suffer hardship.

In his younger days, the towering self-taught drummer weighed 210kg.

Despite his deteriorating health and 72kg frame, Yazid, in rocking attire, including brown corduroy pants with purple skulls, for the interview still dreams of a last hurrah.

"I want to make one last Search album. Amy will probably be too busy to be part of that but I think the others are game," he said.

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