BY EVELYN LEN and MAHADHIR MONIHULDIN
These two young men are not letting blindness get in the way of doing what they love – making music – even though they cannot read music notes due to their visual impairment.
Muhammad Dinie Abdul Rashid, 26, from Penang, used to be a top student when he was in school.
But, at the age of nine, Dinie realised that something was wrong. “I first noticed that I had problems with my eyesight when I couldn’t see what was written on the blackboard,” Dinie said. “This gradually became worse.”
When he was 12, doctors diagnosed the eye disease as macular dystrophy. It slowly robbed him of his vision.
“My parents were very sad when we first found out the news. They had high hopes for my future and had wished that I would be very successful.”
As for Khairil Azreen Mohd Jasni, 25, from Meru, Klang, he was diagnosed with glaucoma when he was in Form 5.
“I didn’t realise there was something wrong with my eyesight.
“It was only after I joined a shooting competition (I was the captain of the police cadets at my school), whereby I was required to do a medical check-up, that I found out I had a problem with my eyes,” said Khairil (or Khai, in short).
He was referred to a specialist, who diagnosed him with glaucoma.
“When I first heard the news, I didn’t believe the doctors as I could still see and didn’t notice anything different with my eyesight.
“Though I was advised to undergo an operation, I chose not to, as I wanted to focus on the SPM examination.
“It was only later, during a game of rugby when I got injured, that I was finally compelled to undergo the operation,” he added.
During an intense game of rugby, one of Khai’s teammates threw the ball in his direction. It accidentally hit Khai’s right eye, causing him to instantly go blind in that eye.
“After the operation, I could still see using one eye,” he said. “But I had to stay home for four months to recover from the operation, prior to my SPM examination.”
Despite having only 50% vision, Khai went on to score 6As in the SPM exam. After that, he furthered his studies at UiTM, doing Actuarial Science. He did so well that he was on the Dean’s List – twice!
For his third semester at the university, he passed with flying colours. “I was feeling quite positive about my chances in Actuarial Science,” he said.
But, during semester break, Khai began having problems with his one good eye, too. “I had to undergo another operation, but unfortunately it was a failure.
“It was extremely disappointing, to say the least,” he said.
“When this happened, I simply did not know how to continue my studies and keep up with my life-long dream of becoming a Governor of Bank Negara. It took time and willpower to let my dreams go and pursue a new path in life.”
Both Dinie and Khai enrolled at the Malaysian Association For The Blind (MAB) to take up new study courses. It was in this institution that both of them found a new passion for music as a means to express themselves.
Dinie had always enjoyed singing – something he picked up from his father – while Khai grew to love playing the guitar after watching his favourite guitarist on YouTube.
“I listened a lot to Sungha Jung’s videos on YouTube when I first started to learn to play the guitar,” Khai recalled.
“I would listen very closely to the guitar sounds in his videos, and repeatedly practised imitating them on my guitar. “Practice, practice, practice – that is how I eventually achieved a good grasp of playing the guitar,” he added.
“Singing was never part of my career plans when I was young. At first, it was just a hobby,” said Dinie, who names singer Jason Mraz as one of his biggest influences.
“It was only at MAB that I first thought about making singing my full-time job. They were impressed by my ability to sing and encouraged me to pursue singing as a possible career option.”
Dinie’s first single Pemilik Segalanya became the original soundtrack for the television drama series Astana Cinta Aleesa. Another drama series Cinta Hati Abah also features his song.
When Khai and Dinie met at MAB, they bonded through their shared struggle with blindness and a common interest in music.
They longed to perform on stage, so they decided to form a band together.
Dinie said, “I used to sing alone before I met Khai, but it felt very dull. So I started thinking of getting someone to accompany me in my singing.
“When I met Khai at MAB in 2016, I asked him if he wanted to join me in doing performances. The rest is history.”
Their most memorable performance so far was in 2016, when they were specially invited to perform at Istana Negara for the Yang diPertuan Agong. The duo has also performed at a private function for our prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali.
Besides giving performances, Khai and Dinie are also motivational speakers at talks for students. Two of their biggest talks have been at the Sultan Ibrahim Girls School in Johor Baru and Sekolah Seri Puteri, Cyberjaya, where around 1,000 students were in attendance.
“Our experiences, especially Khai’s – how he faced and overcame adversity – were really relatable to the students,” said Dinie.
The one message that the pair wished to convey is this: “Although you may have disabilities, always strive for success, and never give up, no matter what happens in life. Contribute actively to society, as opposed to simply receiving support from society.”