Father-son busking duo take their act from MRT station to NDP stage

Father-son busking duo Mashruddin Saharuddin (right) and his son Nizaruddin (left) are among the protagonists featured in a series of films that will be played throughout the National Day Parade show. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE- Over the last decade, the busking duo of Mr Mashruddin Saharuddin, 64, and his son Nizaruddin, 27, attract a small crowd of dozens when they perform at their regular spot outside Tampines MRT station.

At these sessions, while Mr Nizaruddin sings and plays the guitar, Mr Mashruddin, who is blind from birth, plays the cajon, a box-shaped percussion instrument, and joins in on the vocals.

Come Aug 9, their audience numbers will swell to about 30,000 as the duo perform on the floating platform for this year's National Day Parade (NDP).

The duo are among the protagonists featured in a series of films that will be played throughout the NDP show.

Also featuring four others from various walks of life - including Singaporean sprinter Mary Klass - the film follows the journey of Singaporeans who overcame adversity.

Music runs in Mr Mashruddin's family. He learnt to play the piano at the age of five, and also plays the guitar and harmonica, among other instruments. His two older sons, twins, also play several instruments. His father plays the keroncong, a ukelele-like instrument, while his mother is a good singer.

" I learnt through braille music, I learnt through cassettes. I even studied under a blind Chinese teacher," he said.

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Mr Mashruddin's foray into busking was born out of necessity. He began as an itinerant musician who performed from table to table at restaurants but such gigs were increasingly harder to come by during the recession years of the late 1980s and 1990s.

"All the restaurants which featured musicians closed down, so I had to find other means of living," he said. "One way was to play in the streets."

But as busking was not legal until the late 1990s, Mr Mashruddin had frequent run-ins with the law.

Since he obtained his busking licence, he has been a regular fixture in Tampines.

Busking has not been an easy journey.

Mr Nizaruddin, who started busking with his father from the age of 13, said: "Back then, we were deemed as beggars."

People were also very demanding. He recalls of those early days: "No matter how hard I tried, people kept insulting me. At times, I felt like crying."

Mr Nizaruddin is studying part time for a degree and has a Grade 7 in piano and Grade 8 in violin under his belt.

Asked why he started busking, he said: "I wanted to do this because I want to experience what my father experienced. If he can suffer, I also want to suffer."

These days, however, busking has become a lot more welcoming, he said.

"Today, it seems like everyone wants to try their hands at it."

When the duo perform on the floating platform this National Day, they want to share a message of hope for Singaporeans.

Said Mr Mr Mashruddin: " Today, we have come a long way. This is the sweet fruit of our struggle."

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