Have you always played music?
I started to play the bongo drums at nine years old. Over the years I became an instructor at the Yamaha School of Music and played 18 major percussion instruments including the didgeridoo.

You’ve spent many years in the music industry here …
From 1967 to 2002 I was in a cross-cultural band called Culture Vulture. Our forte was the use of ethnic instruments melded with contemporary equipment. I’m also an ambassador for an instrument called Slaperoo, of which there are just seven in the world.

When did you get involved in serving the community?
Back in the late 90s, I started volunteering at Pertapis Senior Citizens and Children’s Homes, the Institute of Mental Health, and the School for the Deaf. I encouraged the use of drums and percussion together as a group and this is where I learned that music can help an individual with mind, body and soul.

How so?
At the time I was working with a person with mental illness. Every time I gave him a sweet, he couldn’t hold it – both of his hands were shaking violently. Today he plays percussion instruments perfectly alongside me. I noticed how drumming can assist with Parkinson’s, autism, impaired hearing, dementia, and more.

Bringing families together through the power of music

Your volunteer work has led to a lot of scientific understanding …
When you hit a drum it triggers alpha brain waves, the waves associated with wellbeing and euphoria. Drumming and percussion encourages listening to one another to get the timing right. It also enhances focus and attention, and improves communication. Music can bring individuals out of their world and into ours.

“Music brings individuals out of their world and into ours”

Where do you share your musical knowledge today?
At many places in Singapore including Alexandra Hospital, the Institute of Mental Health, St. Andrew’s Autism Centre, MINDS, Singapore Association for Mental Health, National Arts Council, and various schools. Over time I’ve introduced lights, water and gadgets into my drum sessions which has proved positive and is great fun.

Your work has been noticed around the world …
In 2018 I was invited as a speaker to the World Mental Health Congress in Russia. Here I was told that the volume of the drums is detrimental to some people as noise annoyance is associated with anxiety and depression. I had the chance to prove the theory wrong and show that drumming helps to build confidence, motor skills and self-esteem.

Albert at one of his sessions with senior citizens

Last year you received an award from Tan Tock Seng Hospital …
Yes, for my contribution to the health industry. I’m not a trained health professional so what I do is based on creativity. I say I’m a drum facilitator who introduces alternative ideas. Unlike grades, creativity is an ongoing process and it’s not one size fits all. To receive an award is an endorsement of my efforts and for all creative people.

What’s next for you?
Alongside volunteering, I also host events and lifestyle programmes. For example, I just worked with the Grand Hyatt Hotel on a two-day event focusing on de-stressing through music. I also offer family percussion sessions at people’s homes which are very enjoyable. It’s satisfying to see families come together and to put a smile on their faces.