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The striking feature of a piano may be its black and ivory keys, but each note actually comes from the vibration of strings, hammered down with each pressing.
It is no surprise that this subtle intricacy is what inspired musicians, Dennis Law and Rohnie Tan to name their band, “A9 strings”.
“Piano has eight A strings and a violin has only one A string. So both instruments sum up to nine A strings,”Rohnie tells Eksentrika.
The duo got together a year ago, with Rohnie on the violin and Dennis with piano, serenading with soulful sounds that can be termed in the local lingo as “jiwang”.
“Dennis thought I was joking about putting up a show until one fine day, I locked down the venue for a three-night weekend show, and that was when we got serious about it. There and then A9 Strings was formed,” Rohnie recalls.
Spurred by an interest to pursue music, Rohnie picked up the violin at the age of 10. Despite playing such a delicate instrument, he also has propensity to be a sportsman and once represented the Kuala Lumpur volleyball team at the Malaysia Games (Sukma).
Still, when it came down to it, he chose music.
“I just feel music is part of me, and every time I hear my sister practising on the piano, I could always tell whenever she played perfectly or not,” the 27-year-old Penangite says.
Dennis on the other hand started out playing the organ for church when he was nine.
Despite having had formal piano lessons as a kid, the 28-year-old Miri born only became a full time pianist when he turned 18.
Unlike the sportsman Rohnie was, Dennis grew up dedicating most of his free time to music.
“I work on arrangements and compose music in the afternoon. At night, I do freelance gigs in clubs all around KL.”
In the span just shy of a year, the two-piece band has since collaborated with prominent local musicians such as Elvira Arul, Nikki Palikat and even Michael Leaner.
On their affinity for heart-tugging chords, Rohnie says, “Everyone has that intimate spot. Not THAT kind of intimate spot. I mean the jiwang part of you. Like a lot of people, we don’t express it out publicly, rather we prefer to channel it through our music.”
But Dennis is quick to quip, “Rohnie is more Jiwang…. most… ever….”.
Rohnie points out however, that they do on occassion experiment with other genres such as tango, soul, R&B, light rock and pop ballads.
In the end, both admit to being quite the hopeless romantics – which explains the sound they produce together.
Music is an unexplained language capable of piercing through many hearts.””
“So, we arrange and write music that at least speaks from our hearts. If your own work doesn’t touch your own heart, then who would be touched?”
Rohnie revels in studying the expressions of his audience from stage.
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“Knowing that they receive what speaks from my body, cells, transforming into music through our instruments, it’s magical. Music and heart doesn’t lie.”
The musicians also share a quirky habit to prepare before going onstage, Dennis reveals, “We drink wine, drink wine, drink wine. He gives me a high-five, and I give him a fist bump, then up we go!”
A9 Strings is set to celebrate their one-year anniversary come October 21 and October 22 at No Black Tie. Elvira Arul, Nikki Palikat and Michael Leaner will also perform with the duo.