Magic of Discipline - Kabir Khan

Penang-born Kabir Khan Mohd Reaz, 28, has made his mark in the realm of magic and illusions with his mysterious, mind-bending abilities to influence and intercept the thoughts and behaviour of his audience.  

Kabir, who prefers to be called a psychic entertainer, first encountered magic at the tender age of 6 when American illusionist David Copperfield performed here. Tickets were sold out but Kabir was in luck because the show was later broadcast on national television. It appears that luck has not left his side since.

At 13, he wrote a 20-page letter cum birthday greeting (Royal Selangor pewter gift included) to Copperfield. He received a signed photograph in reply a little more than a month later but most of his friends remained sceptical, accusing him of buying the photograph off a vendor and forging Copperfield’s signature. Determined to prove  the cynics wrong, Kabir braved the mid-March winter more than a decade later,  waiting outside the back door of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for over an hour, fingers numb and nose frozen, for Copperfield to appear. An appearance, a conversation, a photograph, a documented autograph and some years later, Copperfield and Kabir were on first-name basis.

Kabir has also earned the respect of other world-renowned magicians who regard him as one of the top magicians of the 21st Century. Mentalist and self-proclaimed psychic Uri Geller (known for his trademark TV performances of spoon bending) holds a significant role as his mentor. “We share a strong connection. He and I have a lot in common and I see myself being a lot like him. He’s a fantastic showman, that’s definitely one thing I’ve picked up from him — how to be a good showman,” says Geller.

Kabir is known for his unique style of performing and his ability to think outside of the box. One of the main attractions of his show is the use of antiques (which he collects as a hobby) as props.

One such item is a coin from a series of 999 coins, a family heirloom, produced by the Turkish national bank in 1924. The serial number, engraved on the back of coin, is deliberately hidden during the interview because it serves as the fundamental element of the trick. 

Discovered closer to home is a traditional water dowsing stick, indigenous to Perak that is fitted with a deer’s hoof for a handle. The stick is believed to possess supernatural powers and he “uses” it  to locate hidden objects amidst the audience.

But behind all the glitz and glamour of illusions and trickery, there is one word that’s ingrained in Kabir’s vocabulary — discipline.

“Magic is not all about fame and money. There is a lot of hard work involved,” says Kabir. Whether it concerns the daily eight-hour rehearsals for a single illusion, his strictly vegan diet (no egg or meat) or his abstinence from alcohol and cigarettes, discipline remains indelibly stamped in his persona.

“People don’t believe me when I tell them I don’t drink or smoke, especially since I am in the entertainment business but I live my life with a certain conduct: Discipline,” says Kabir.

His vice is magic and while it appears to have had a stranglehold on him from a very early age, do not let him fool you into believing that he has little control over it.

Kabir demonstrates. He hands photographer Nik a Post-It note with a circle drawn on it, and instructs him to stand at the opposite end of the room, draw something in the circle, fold the Post-It and place it in his pocket. He then proceeds to read Nik’s mind — intercepting his vibrations - to conjure up his drawing onto a Post-It of his own.

“What did you draw, Nik?” asks Kabir.

“It’s a pentagram,” replies Nik.

“A pentagram? No, no. I do not get that. I’ve got in my mind a circle and a cross,” says Kabir.

“Actually, I wanted to draw a cross in the centre but I stopped myself,” says Nik.

This instinctively screams the question, “So, what’s the secret?”

“I don’t want to claim that I have supernatural powers but what I will say is, 90 per cent is illusion but the other 10 per cent is something real. Not all are tricks. Most magicians will tell you there is no such thing, that everything is 100 per cent trickery but not me. I’ve seen things before. Copperfield does crazy things, he does not only use mind-power, he has some additional help. I believe everyone has spiritual guidance. All of us have this gift, it all depends on how we cultivate it.”

The actual secret, he declares, will never be revealed.

A perfectionist, Kabir is constantly seeking ways to improve his act. In 2008, he attended McBride’s Magic and Mystery School.

“I attended magic school because I need to better myself, to learn and raise the level. It gave me a whole new spectrum,” says the graduate in Manual Dexterity and Prestidigitation from Chaves Studio of Magic, Los Angeles.

“I am still a student. I will not stop learning, from anybody and everybody. Just the other day, after my show, a member of the audience came up to me with a few tips and pointers on how to better the show and I immediately jotted it down.”

Kabir, who was chosen by the Tourism Ministry to represent the country at prestigious venues, remains impassioned about shining the spotlight on his beloved country and inspiring the youth here to chase their dreams.

“Malaysia has many things to offer. I’m a patriot at heart and it was such a great honour to be chosen to represent the country on an international stage,” he says.

Since then, Kabir has been awarded two certificates by the Malaysia Book Of Records for being the first to perform 21 straight shows in Hollywood, US in 2011 and in London last year at the invitation of Magic Circle, a world-famous club founded in 1905 that’s devoted to promoting the art of stage magic.

On Oct 9, he added yet another feather to his top hat and joined the ranks of former South African president Nelson Mandela, the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and F1 ace Michael Schumacher when he received the Grand Master Brand ICON Leadership Award 2013 awarded by Asia Pacific Brands Foundation.

The award, which seeks to recognise individuals who have gone beyond the norm to create brands that are highly
distinguishable and respected worldwide, also places him alongside other homegrown talents like national badminton player Datuk Lee Chong Wei and singer-songwriter, Zee Avi.

His involvement in high profile international shows has given him the licence to be absolutely frank about what he wants, what he has to offer and to whom he wants to proffer his services. “I need to set a standard. My goal is to offer clients an experience they will never forget. I know where I stand and I know I will deliver a high-quality experience to my clients,” he says.

Without question, Kabir has come a long way from his eight-hour sessions as the in-house magician at Holiday Villa, Subang, but those who have had the privilege to see him in action, know fully well that he’s only just getting started.
“I don’t want to be the next David Copperfield. I want to be ‘the’ Kabir Khan.”

As he wraps up The Arrival, his month-long show here, he heads for yet another slew of corporate performances in the US.

This article was published in the New Straits Times, October 12, 2013. View the original article here