PETALING JAYA, Feb 14 — Blind musician Alfred Ho spent four decades earning a living as a professional singer but turned to busking when jobs became scarce.
He would perform golden oldies by the likes of Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, Johnny Tillotson and Ricky Nelson at pubs, shopping malls, wedding and corporate functions.
You may even remember his heart-tugging audition at the second season of Asia’s Got Talent in 2017.
The gifted singer who lives in Kuchai Lama above a row of shophouses was robbed of his sight when he was just three years old after contracting measles.
When Covid-19 hit and the pandemic raged on in full force, Ho couldn’t busk and was left with zero income because of health and safety protocols.
Making ends meet became a struggle and he had to depend on his wife Rufina Baptist’s income as a part-time paediatrician nurse, Ho told Malay Mail.
For the past two years, the Perak-born musician has been receiving aid from the Malaysian artiste welfare foundation Yayasan Kebajikan Artis Tanahair that is chaired by singer Datuk Irwan Shah Abdullah, better known as DJ Dave.
“I want to thank DJ Dave and his foundation for help, they recognised me as a veteran singer and have been giving me a small subsistence allowance every month,” Ho said.
The 72-year-old expressed disappointment that veteran singers like him and those in the arts sector did not receive support from the government and non-profit organisations for the visually impaired.
“As a musician, I was given a back seat — we weren’t even helped in any way,” he added.
“We just spent on what’s needed and somehow managed to pull through.”
Ho would love to work as a busker once again — he previously busked in Avenue K — but said wearing a mask while singing is difficult.
Unlike other tech-savvy individuals, Ho and his wife have limited new media knowledge which made pivoting impossible.
They tried their hands on TikTok which Ho thinks is more suitable for younger users.
“I’m trying to find someone who can help me because we’re not so good with computers.
“I wanted to do live shows on Zoom and YouTube but we don’t know how to and we are willing to pay a small amount if someone can help us,” he added.
Being confined at home during the multiple lockdowns could have easily dampened Ho’s spirits but he made good use of the isolation by discovering new music platforms.
Sometime last year, Baptist’s friend introduced her to the karaoke singing app WeSing that allowed Ho to continue doing what he loves best — sing.
The popular Chinese-owned app is a social karaoke app that replaced many KTV venues across Asia that weren’t allowed to operate during the pandemic.
“I’ve been down but I did not idle my time,” Ho said.
He has recorded more than 900 songs and continues to record more.
Baptist feels that her husband has accomplished a remarkable feat and deserves some recognition.
Although there isn’t money to be made from the platform, Ho plans to record all his songs on WeSing on CDs a project to raise funds for himself and other deserving charities.
He also wants to record his songs and put them on Spotify, a goal he is only able to achieve once he finds a Good Samaritan who is willing to impart some vital tech skills as well as show the couple how to crowdfund.
“It would be good if there’s someone who wants to help with us with our survival.
“I’ve recorded and sold about five or six albums in my heyday, all of which were self-financed,” he said.
Asked if he was optimistic that 2022 will be a better year after enduring two years of hardship during the movement control order, Ho said he prefers to take things one day at a time.
“I don’t think big because if you’re too optimistic, you might be let down.
“I just do what I like to do which is singing and I record everyday to take my mind off things,” he said.
If you’d like to offer tech or financial assistance to Ho and his wife, they are reachable at [email protected].
Ho’s WeSing catalogue can be accessed here.