In Tune With The Rhythm
Alfred Ho has been performing music for more than three decades – yet he’s still chasing success. Find out what keeps this 68-year-old singer and guitarist going strong
IF YOU ASK HIM, ALFRED HO WILL tell you that he’s been a musician since 1984. But it won’t take you much longer after that to realise music has been an integral part of his life since he was a boy.
Blind since he was three years old due to measles, Ho became enamoured with the guitar when he heard his schoolmate at the St. Nicholas School for the Blind in Penang playing it. Slowly but surely, he taught himself to play the instrument, and soon started singing for fun – especially as those around him encouraged and complimented him. But his hobby became something more serious in 1971 when he joined Bakat TV, a talent contest on RTM. “I thought it was just an entertainment programme, so I had nothing to lose,” Ho recalls. “But I went right up to the semifinals, which was an achievement to me because I was an amateur.”
Although Ho found steady work as a telephone operator for the Penang city council, he never quit music, as he moonlighted as a singer in bars and pubs. But he found the double schedules exhausting, so, in 1984, he asked his employers to hire another blind person (which they did) so that he could pursue music full-time. Five English albums, one Chinese album and three decades later, Ho has no regrets about taking the plunge. “Of course, I was scared and apprehensive – but nothing ventured, nothing gained,” Ho says. “I knew I could sing, so I took the challenge and I came down to KL and started my adventure here.
“Having all these challenges makes you work harder,” he continues. “And if you work harder, hopefully, you might be successful. But so far, success has eluded me.”
Considering all that he’s achieved in the three decades that he’s been a professional musician, it’s surprising that Ho considers himself neither successful nor popular. But, to him, the more he plays – which is often, as he performs regularly at the AK Busk Stop in Avenue K Shopping Mall – the more it drives him on to realise his ambitions. “As long as there’s breath in my body, I’ll keep going,” Ho states confidently. “I’ll only give
up when my health fails me. But as long as I can be up and about, I’ll do what I can to achieve success and I’ll fight to get to where I
want to be – that is, to get wider recognition and to play abroad.”
At an age when other men are happily retired and horsing around with their grandkids, Ho shows no signs of slowing down, let alone hanging up his guitar. In fact, he’s searching for a reliable, capable agent who can help him take his music to the next level. But don’t you worry: he won’t mind if fellow Malaysians – like you – take the leap of faith like he did to follow their dreams. “You must believe in yourself. If you believe that it will be good for you,
why not go for it? More so if people tell you that you’re good. You just have to try,” Ho says. “But if you don’t succeed, you can’t blame anybody. Life’s like that – some days you’re lucky, some days you’re not. When I got into music, the climb was very slow – but I never gave up.”