Jamming For A Cause: This Family Band Spreads Joy By Volunteering Together
There’s something inherently heartwarming about seeing a family band perform – all the more when they’re staging volunteer performances and when half the members are teenagers and young adults.
Meet The 2nd As, a local cover band comprised of Hamim, Fatimah, and their five children aged 13-26. Whenever the opportunity arises, the family hauls their instruments around Singapore to support good causes and community events: the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), the Children’s Cancer Foundation, and the Rainbow Centre are just a few of the organisations they’ve supported over the years. They’re also regular volunteers at various community centres and at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), where they perform for and befriend the elderly.
“What you see on stage looks nice and harmonious, right?” Hamim laughed. “Actually, the journey there is very hard. Every one of the children cried in the music studio when they kena practice. As a parent, be steadfast – whatever you decide for your family, as long as the values are good, and it is wholesome, you just need to keep explaining to them that what you’re doing is good for humanity and for our own growth.”
“We also argue! Before this performance, we argued,” he added, amidst chuckles around the table. “But I think arguments are a form of communication and we must remain steadfast in our commitment.”
When they’re not volunteering, the children lead full and busy lives. Matiin is doing his National Service, Maryam works in the public sector, and Hakiim studies music at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
With five children in varying stages of life, it’s also rare that the whole family can perform together. But this doesn’t faze Hamim and Fatimah – whoever is available joins, and whoever isn’t can always join the next time. At any rate, the children also regularly find opportunities to volunteer in their own time. Hamim and Fatimah also volunteer together when the kids aren’t around. And Hamim’s other band – a group of fathers called Dads The One – has also been moving toward volunteering.
How did this family marry their passion for music with their love for the community – and whose idea was it? Hamim and Fatimah, along with Maryam and Hakiim, chimed in with their thoughts:
Every member of the family has an "A" as the second letter of their names - hence their band moniker, The 2nd As | IMAGE: FACEBOOK/@THE2NDAS
How did you start making music as a family?
Hamim: I was a band boy. I love playing music and I see the value of getting the bandmates together – the brotherhood. I wanted the same for my family so I had a discussion with my wife. We thought, let’s get each of them to play one instrument and then we will build them from there. This was 15 years ago!
How did this turn into volunteering?
Hamim: Music is a very good medium to spread happiness and joy to people. It uplifts the spirit and we want our children to have this effect on others, to use their effort and energy to positively impact their communities. So when we started performing, we rented a place and called family and friends over just for fun.
Then we saw an advertisement from the National Parks Board for an open mic at Bishan Park. We applied and then during the performance, someone from Teck Ghee CC saw our potential. They thought that it was nice having a family band, so they pulled us into the CC. And from there, the same person also brought us into NKF and the Children’s Cancer Foundation. Since then we’ve been performing for their events and celebrations, as well as at Teck Ghee CC, Ang Moh Kio CC and others.
We'd love to hear more about you taught your children the value of volunteerism!
Hamim: We have this family philosophy that you cannot just keep taking. You have to give. And the best way to give, we told them, is to use the skills you already have. There are volunteer opportunities where you can just use your time and strength, which is simple. But what is it that you have that is dear to you or that you’re very skilful in, which you can use to make a difference to others?
Thankfully they picked that up – two of our eldest with Orkestra Melayu Singapura. They’re volunteering there. And our son (Matiin) is volunteering with IMH on his own initiative.
Fatimah: At one place, one of the (elderly residents) would say, ‘we used to be able to do what you’re doing, and now look at us.’ When we told them that we’d visit and sing for them again, that same person said, ‘Next time when you come, I don’t know whether I’ll still be here or not.’ So it hit me that this is real. And whatever time that we have, let’s make things better for them because that is as much as we can do. We don’t have the skills that nurses do, but for that one short moment, they’re entertained a bit. If it makes a difference to them, well, that’s enough for us.”
Hamim: For me, it was at the NKF Dialysis Centre. One of the patients was this uncle who said, ‘Are you going to play a Cantonese song?’. We didn’t prepare any Cantonese song, both of us being Malay. So I said, next time! And he said, ‘You all say only, but you won’t come back’. So we made it a point to come back. We didn’t sing a Cantonese song, but we tried one Mandarin song.
Fatimah: We attempted to sing it but it was so difficult!
Hamim: But he was very happy so it was quite touching.
I haven’t heard from you yet, kids!
Hakiim: I think for me, one of the more touching moments is the performance we did at SASCO. We were playing ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ and then this uncle came onstage with us and sang. He wasn’t the best, but what was nice was that he was really enjoying himself. Like the quality didn’t matter. But what mattered is that he enjoyed himself onstage and we were all enjoying ourselves with them. So that was something as a musician, as an artist, as a performer which I really like to see.
Maryam: It was nice to see them engage with us because there was this little spark in their eyes, like (the music) brought them back for a while. You don’t often think of an old folks’ home as a very positive place. When we went there, we saw what a mundane routine they had. So when we performed, they were all very happy. They all wanted to play the extra instruments and they were very grateful that we were there. It was quite touching that we could make people happy.
President Halimah Yacob meets The 2nd As at the launch of the NDP 2023 #GiveAsOneSG campaign| IMAGE: MCI PHOTO BY LIM SIN THAI
It’s amazing to see how you bring joy to the people around you! What advice would you give to families who mayyy want to start volunteering together, but who have a hard time motivating themselves (or their kids?).
Maryam (laughing): As long as we are still young and unmarried, we are still under our parents’ jurisdiction. So whatever the parents say, we must do! But when we voice our concerns and say sorry, I’m busy, they will say okay, let’s compromise. That’s the good thing about our parents – they will listen instead of saying, ‘No! You just do!’.
Fatimah: As parents, just be confident. We don’t always know whether we are doing the right thing or not and we only see the fruit of it when they grow older. When the kids started to volunteer on their own, we didn’t even know until they said, "Oh, I’m going to IMH". And I’d ask, "What do you have in IMH?". And they’d say, "I’m volunteering!" So just have the confidence that when you cascade your values to them when they are young, as they grow older, they’ll process it.
Maryam: Every time we finish a performance, or volunteer work, even during a holiday, they’ll ask us to reflect. They ask: Why do you do this? How do you feel? They’ll explain to us every single step of the way why we volunteer so that we’re able to learn from the experiences. When we were children, they spoon-fed us the information, but now that we’re older, we understand why we are doing this and we choose to continue doing it.