M'sian City Life #26: My Father-In-Law Was Arrested Because He Played Music In Public

"His saxophone was confiscated and it was not returned until he signed an agreement that states that he will not play music in the public area again."

Cover image via Mc Zaheer

Abdul Rahman Zainol, fondly known as Cikgu Man, is a seasoned and talented saxophonist in Sungai Petani, Kedah

"Music is his soul. Cikgu Man has a Diploma in Jazz from a music school in Penang. He is multitalented: he sings, composes songs, and plays various instruments like the piano, keyboard, saxophone, trumpet, drums and guitar," said Mohamad Nazmi Zaidi Moni, Cikgu Man's son-in-law.

Ever since he retired, Cikgu Man has been busking in Sungai Petani to entertain the public. He would teach in the morning, and play music at night.

"He's like a free bird."

Mohamad Nazmi said that the 57-year-old retiree often made tributes to local artists with his music, especially to the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee.

Cikgu Man's talent brought him to many places and he also had the chance to give back to the community through his teaching

Cikgu Man used to serve at SMK Ibrahim as a band instructor. He composed the school’s song and had even performed in front of the Sultan of Kedah, and in various official and unofficial events.

He was also on Astro Prima’s reality show, 'Kilauan Emas Otai'.

The talented musician has various teaching experiences at UiTM and many other private music schools.

Though the elderly man lived a simple life, he recently got into trouble with the local authorities because of his music

"Recently, he was detained by a government agency in Sungai Petani. The reason? He was apparently a beggar," Mohamad Nazmi said.

Cikgu Man explained that he was not a beggar nor was he a homeless man, but just a man who was playing music in the public.

"'Do you get a lot of money?', the people around him asked while they laughed at him."

In that moment, all eyes were on him and he had to face such humiliation in public for merely trying to entertain the local community with his passion

"They took his photos and published them in the newspapers. His saxophone was confiscated and it was not returned until he signed an agreement that states that he will not play music in the public area again," Mohamad Nazmi said of the incident.

Whether or not he was willing to agree with the conditions, Cikgu Man was forced to sign the agreement in the end.

If Cikgu Man fails to adhere to the agreement, the authorities would send him away to the old folks home at Bedong, Kedah.

The incident left such a huge impact on Cikgu Man that he was scared and lost his confidence to play music again even after he was released, as he was afraid that the same incident would happen again

The elderly man was extremely embarrassed. He was brought in for questioning and they labelled him as a beggar.

"Cikgu Man of Sungai Petani who has played music for many artists and in front of the Agong was arrested because he was accused of asking for public sympathy," Mohamad Nazmi said regrettably.

Mohamad Nazmi was deeply troubled over what had happened to his father-in-law, knowing that it was more than just a misunderstanding, but there appears to be a serious loophole in the system

Image via Mc Zaheer

He told the authorities, "How could this person be a beggar? Just take a look at his clothes and his saxophone. The saxophone that he uses is not a mere two thousand ringgit instrument. With the money that he used to buy a saxophone, he could have easily bought a new motorcycle."

"All of his three children went to university, so did their spouses. He did not disturb anyone. He was only there to play music."

However, the local authorities were not convinced, refusing to offer an apology or retract the agreement that was signed by Cikgu Man.

Cikgu Man's family members do not want any trouble but they hope that the incident will open up a conversation about the busking scene in Sungai Petani and all of Kedah

The Destitute Persons Act is intended to deal with the issue of homelessness in the country, however, it is unfortunate that some buskers like Cikgu Man have been falsely accused as a "homeless" or "beggar".

"I hope that buskers in Sungai Petani and all around Malaysia would know about your rights and defend your dignity, even if you’re just a street musician. Don’t let others ridicule or manipulate you just because 'you only know how to play music'," Mohamad Nazmi said.

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Previously on Malaysian City Life #25, Venoshini Sevalimgam shared her experience on applying for a part-time job in Melaka:

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