HANDS Percussion – How it Began

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HANDS Percussion is a group that is well known for their artistic and majestic performances with the Chinese Drums. Founded in 1997 by Bernard Goh who himself plays the instrument, HANDS have soared to many stages all over the world. Since the establishment of the group, Bernard Goh has been acting as its artistic director and is the driving force behind the achievements that HANDS as accomplished throughout 22 years of actively promoting and performing the art of percussion instruments.

Sitting down with Bernard, he shares the inspiring story of how he founded HANDS Percussion. His journey with the Chinese drums began when he was in high school. Here he joined a group called the 24 Festive Drumming. Although using an instrument that originated from the southern part of mainland China, 24 Festive Drumming is a Malaysian born project by his master, Mr Tan Fui Choong. “I felt very very proud because I know this is something that is related to our [Chinese] culture but yet it’s really born in Malaysia. I think it’s brilliant for my master to put it together. The calligraphy art, the drumming art and of course a bit of kung fu and some dance.”

Since then, Bernard chose not to restrict his knowledge to only the performing arts. He continued to pursue many other forms of arts in his college years. However, it is during this time of expanding his knowledge of the arts that he realised his love and passion for drumming. “At that time, I didn’t think of mixing it all up, to do fusion. It wasn’t my intention. I just love drumming, I just love gendang, I just love tabla. That is the time I really fell in love with drumming”.

After some time of incorporating many different kinds of drumming into his routine of 24 Festive Drummings, he realised that there is an untapped potential of the instrument to bring together many different cultural inspirations. He mentioned that in drumming, there is no race and no language but just a strong vibe that is able to reach people. “After some time of doing the 24 Festive Drumming, I find it’s not good for us to only emphasise the Chinese community. Since it was formed in Malaysia, I want to make it available to all races”.

With that in mind, it paved the way for him to begin HANDS Percussion. Beginning with a young group drummers that he has trained in schools, they have now formed a self funded, professional drum troupe that has gone to perform on both the local scene and the international scene. Despite all the accomplishments that they have achieved, they have never lost sight of the vision that was the foundation of their formation.

“The aim and the main reason we formed is very simple, we love percussion. We want to make a difference in this percussion scene in Malaysia. It’s true. Because I think we have to come together using arts to make a reformation”.

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