7 July: Received a sms from a close friend connected with the local music scene with the news that one of the truly unsung heroes of Malaysian music – Paul Ponnudorai had died after illness. I had been forewarned a couple of weeks earlier that Paul had been seriously ill. As with all such life and death situations, I said a short prayer for him – hoping that he would make a complete recovery but ultimately leaving it in God’s hands… what else could I do?
By Sunday morning, 8 July, the tributes were pouring in.
I have just 3 memories of Paul:
1. The first was the Bakat TV show where he wowed the audience and judges with his prowess with his guitar. It was sometime in the early to mid 70′s on RTM’s old black and white show!
2. The second was around 12 years ago, when together with a few buddies I had managed to get down to the Concorde hotel in KL where Paul was playing for 1 night only. He was amazing.
3. Because it’s so notoriously difficult to get hold of such material by local underground artists (at least in my case), this same old connected friend above, the one who messaged me about Paul’s passing, gave me a CD-burned copy of Paul’s (possibly) one and only album – Right On Time, released quietly in 2005 or thereabouts. My favourite track being the instrumental theme from the “Godfather”. I absolutely love his take.
Paul may not be with us anymore, but his memories will, as will his music and his story. I am tempted to mourn now, more for him than myself, because of all the “missed opportunities” that life seemed to hand out to him. But then, since when has life been fair? Anyone who has lost a loved one, would testify that life indeed can be cruel, hard and uncompromising.
While any word of comfort cannot possibly replace the loss of a loved one, still it’s the only way I can express the “loss” I feel, even though I knew him only from a distance. How much more for Paul’s own family? Their personal loss would be huge, as it would be for any of us, if the scene was reversed.
All I know is he and all others who have gone before us are all in a better place; free from the worries, pain and un-recognition that life throws up at us now and then. I would like to think that one day we all we will be there together too. In the meantime, we have the legacy of his music, however publicly limited it may be.
I like this quote by Paul, when interviewed a few years ago:
“(The Time article) was certainly a nice compliment, but I don’t think of myself as a guitar hero. I’m known and, yet again, not. I play because I love to play and sing. It keeps me happy. And if I can touch people with it, even better. Because having something is no fun unless you share it.”
May we never take each other for granted. And may we never forget how much God loves us all.
Rest in Peace, Paul.