Famed M'sian Composer Relies On Soup Kitchen & Govt Aid To Survive The Pandemic

The 59-year-old has been going to Pertiwi Soup Kitchen almost daily since the pandemic struck the country last year.

Cover image via Discogs & Eizairi Shamsudin/New Straits Times

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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused even an accomplished veteran in the Malaysian music scene to seek community aid

Ross Ariffin, a well-known composer and music producer who has been in the music industry for almost 40 years, was met by New Straits Times at a soup kitchen in Kuala Lumpur recently.

The 59-year-old shared that he has been going to Pertiwi Soup Kitchen almost daily since the pandemic struck the country last year.

As a professionally-trained violinist, pianist, and singer, Ross lost all sources of income because he has not been able to perform or produce music since the first Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented.

Image via Music for KL

"As COVID-19 continued to ravage society, I lost the one last gig I had. I also lost my clients for whom I had produced jingles for advertisements," he told the English daily

"All avenues and potential jobs disappeared almost overnight. That's how I ended up here... at my lowest ebb having to rely on soup kitchens, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and good Samaritans for daily sustenance," he said.

The musician shared that he has depleted his savings and has already spent the government's Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat aid despite being frugal with spending.

"Thankfully, I still have royalties from the 64 songs written over a career spanning about 35 years," he said.

However, he added that he can only access those funds — from the Music Authors' Copyright Protection organisation and three record labels he used to work for — once a year.

Ross's life was not always like this – he has won multiple awards and has travelled the world composing and performing

Born in Melaka, he was raised by adoptive parents, a Malay father and an English mother, in the UK when he was a child.

According to Music for KL, he has always been musically-inclined. He began piano classical studies at eight, picked up the violin at 12, and later won a scholarship to study music at a school in Redbridge, London.

"I returned to Malaysia in 1982 when I was 20. I got married when I was 27. I got my big break of sorts in the late 1980s through the 1990s," he told New Straits Times.

Among the hits Ross composed are Dia performed by Fauziah Latiff, Kau dan Aku by Ning Baizura, Kurniaan Dalam Samaran by Datuk Siti Nurhaliza, Semalam Ku Tolak Ke Tepi by Liza Aziz, and many more.

In 1990, he earned an award at the Asian Broadcasting Union Golden Kite World Song Festival with Semalam Ku Tolak Ke Tepi, and also later went on to win coveted local music awards such as Best Movie Soundtrack, Best Pop Rock Song, and Best Producer for an album for Aishah at the Anugerah Industri Muzik in 1996.

Image via CILISOS

Currently, the music producer simply hopes that the pandemic improves so he can go back to earning a living

He said he is willing to go back to teaching piano and violin classes but even these activities are not allowed.

"I can't teach online because I don't have a laptop and an Internet connection," he said, adding that he had even composed a song for a local top artist last year, but production had to be put on hold.

Meanwhile, Ross, who has bipolar disorder and a few other ailments, said he has been very grateful to Pertiwi Soup Kitchen and its president, Datuk Munirah Abdul Hamid, for helping him through these tough times.

"I have known Munirah for almost 30 years now and what she and Pertiwi are doing is great because if not for them and others who distribute aid, many of us would be even worse for wear," he said in another report by New Straits Times, who also saw him at the soup kitchen during Hari Raya.

The pandemic has left many Malaysians jobless and struggling to stay afloat:

Here's how you can help others in need during these dire times:

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