KUALA LUMPUR: It was an exceptional gathering, teeming with illustrious artistes showcasing the Malaysian spirit of togetherness.
The icons who made thousands of headlines with their far-reaching Malay music were listening to blues-influenced Tamil songs – unusual for an official event officiated by two ministers.
The band roused the energised audience that included the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Nancy Shukri and National Unity Minister Halimah Sadique.
It was a historic evening when the songs of an Indian artiste in an all-Malay band and the generosity of two other Indians toward marginalised musicians, took centre stage.
The showpiece of the occasion was the official launch of the Jim Madasamy Artistes’ Fund to help creatives besieged with poor health and money woes.
It was also to launch the late Madasamy’s blues album in Tamil, recorded with his Malay bandmates from the much adored, The Blues Gang.
Both elements carried the much-needed message of societal cooperation to forge social bonds and cultural diversity.
As Nancy declared in her speech: “Music and the arts are key contributors to unity in this country. No one can break our unity.”
Both ministers said Malaysia was built on the bonds of family and community, and that there was no greater example of this than rallying to the aid of those in need.
Fact: The 10 music legends present at the Madasamy event in Aswara, the country’s only music, dance and drama university, had a magical knack of rousing fans with their riveting performances.
As stories flowed, and old friends reunited, one could sense nonetheless the hint of desolation these music greats were experiencing.
They were either in bad health or facing financial hardship, and still coming to terms with the passing of Madasamy in 2018.
Singer-actresses Julie Sudiro, Mimi Loma, Elyana, Zaiton Sameon and Aspalela Abdullah; actors V Sarangabani and Yap Chin Fong; drummers Jerry Felix and Saat of Falcons and Discovery fame respectively, and musician Azman Warren – these icons were present and expressed their thankfulness at receiving RM1,000 each from the Malaysian Artistes’ Association (Karyawan).
Back in the day, they were entertainers who were unafraid of striking it on their own, and helped place Malaysia on the map of a wider world of entertainment.
The Malaysian virtue of caring and sharing that shone throughout the evening was the philanthropy of businessman Rajendran Ramasamy of Amalan Setar (M) Sdn Bhd.
Rajendran donated RM100,000 to kick-start the fund which will be managed by Karyawan in liaison with Madasamy’s widow, Soo Leak Meng.
And we shouldn’t forget the kind man who gave his close friend Madasamy the RM30,000 to record the album, not expecting a sen in return. Unlike many who seek publicity for such deeds, this man has stated his wish to remain anonymous.
Nancy and Halimah likened the two gentlemen as symbols of caring Malaysians.
They said the generosity of the two men, the bold effort by Madasamy to break racial barriers and the efforts of Karyawan president Freddie Fernandez to strengthen bonds were in line with the government’s thrust to promote national unity through the arts.
FMT asked the youngest musician in the audience, guitarist-vocalist Mark Renesh, about his thoughts on a shared society that focuses on the responsibilities they have to one another.
Renesh, 44, said: “There is more to life than individualism and self-interest. It’s about solidarity.”
He said the event reminded him of the country’s musical heritage and how musicians of yesteryear, who had substance, represented our industry.
“I was humbled to be in the presence of those whom I adored as a kid. I wonder how many of my contemporaries would come close to them.
“I am thankful that I come from an era of live bands and I guess the new breed of digital-based musicians will never experience the true intricacies of being a musician,” Renesh said.