Malaysian musicians and music fans mourned the loss of bassist Jim Madasamy, a founding member of the legendary local outfit Blues Gang, after his death of heart failure on April 16. He was 68. Many took to social media to express their condolences, with friends, fans and fellow musicians sharing not just their grief but also poignant memories.
The Johor-born Madasamy’s love for music began in his teens and his bass heroes were Paul McCartney and Larry Taylor (Canned Heat). He started playing with childhood friend Shaik Karim and guitarist Ahmad Abdullah (better known as Mat Dollah). It was this trio that would later form the genesis of Blues Gang.
In those pre-Blues Gang days, the trio was known by the menacing moniker Messenger From Hell, and in an interview published in Star2 in 2013, Madasamy said it was manager Abang Ali who suggested a name change in 1973.
“James Gang inspired us, and we wanted a tough image, like the Rolling Stones, so we knew we wanted the Gang part in the name. In the end, putting blues in front (of the name) seemed the natural thing to do because we were hardcore blues guys, to begin with,” Madasamy was quoted as saying.
From then on, the band began a steady rise to the top of the local scene, culminating in the song that made them a household name, 1982’s Apo Nak Di Kato. The record sold 50,000 copies and made the band one of the country’s most followed at the time.
Most recently, Madasamy was still active on the pub circuit with the Purple Haze Blues Band, alongside Zizi Blues on guitar and Karim on drums, until he was forced to stop after being diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a condition where language capabilities, including speaking, comprehension, reading and writing, are impaired.
Aside from his music, Madasamy was also a familiar face on the running circuit, regularly taking part in runs and once joking that when he reached his 50s, he had to switch to half-marathons instead.
This is a side of him that Karyawan president Freddie Fernandez remembers well. “We were cross-country runners in school together. He was about two years my senior in St Joseph’s School in Johor,” said Fernandez.
Fernandez kept in touch over the years, especially since they were both in the music industry. He said when they met up, Madasamy would tease him for being a better runner in school, but now Madasamy would only need to walk to win.
“It was always a pleasure to meet up with him and he will be sadly missed. He achieved a lot in his life and it is something that should be cherished and treasured. Rest in peace, my brother,” Fernandez said when contacted.
Blues Gang bandmate Julian Mokhtar also remembers Madasamy as an all-round nice guy who never had anything bad to say about anyone.
“I first met him when the band was staying in Medan Damansara in the mid-1970s. I would try and jam with them whenever I could,” Julian remembered. “When I first started in the band, I was still young and raw and everyone but Jim wanted to replace me. He voted for me to stay on.”
Tributes continue to pour in for Madasamy on his Facebook page. His remains were cremated on Tuesday afternoon in his hometown of Johor Baru.