“I didn’t do anything – You all put me there,” said Datuk Ooi Eow Jin, when asked how he felt about the upcoming RTM orchestra concert named after his song Lagu Untukmu (Song For You), which will be held in his honour next month.
His witty response had the small crowd of reporters laughing, at the press conference for the Lagu Untukmu Datuk Ooi Eow Jin charity concert, held at Angkasapuri, Kuala Lumpur recently.
The 77-year-old composer and songwriter has written, arranged and played music for the likes of P. Ramlee, Rafeah Buang, M. Nasir, Salamiah Hassan, Jennifer Yen, Francis Yip, and even the Alleycats, but sadly, not many people know about him these days.
“Everyone knows of his music, but only a few know the man behind the masterpieces,” lamented RTM music director Datuk Mokhzani Ismail, who is spearheading the charity concert, which will be held on Dec 15 at 8.30pm in Auditorium Perdana, Angkasapuri.
Sadly, Ooi is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and his deteriorating condition had him playing his last performance in June as a pianist at the Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur.
During the press conference, questions often had to be repeated as his hearing is failing, and there were several moments of silence whenever he lost his train of thought. However, the mere mention of Sudirman had the man chatting happily as he reminiscenced about his past.
As a resident pianist at the E&O Hotel in 1963, Ooi was spotted by his would-be mentor Alfonso Soliano who invited him to join RTM Ochestra, and the rest is history.
He now lives with his wife Elaine and son Raymond, who survived a brain tumour operation, in a rented home in Petaling Jaya. He lost second son, Ronnie, to leukaemia.
With the support of the Malaysian Artistes Association (Karyawan), the Datuk Ooi Eow Jin Fund will be be presented on the night of the concert.
Eighteen of Ooi’s masterpieces will be performed by the RTM Orchestra, accompanied by renowned veterans singers like Dahlan Zainuddin, Salamiah Hassan Tomok, and Bob Yusof. Even artistes of the newer generation like Ernie Zakry and Aisha Saifa are joining in to pay tribute to this legendary figure.
“The donation drive is one thing, but the concert will also make the public aware of Datuk Jin as a key figure who has given countless years in contribution to the Malaysian music industry,” Mokzhani said.
“It doesn’t matter the sum of the amount donated, be it small or big, as long as we are able to gather as much help as possible to ease his burden,” said the President of Karyawan, Datuk Freddie Fernandez. “We should not forget the old musicians who had shaped our music industry.”
As we exited the interview room, Ooi leaned closed and whispered: “It was a great pleasure coming back to RTM. I know every inch of this place. I even missed the canteen food.
“This is the happiest day my life,” he added, before being ushered away.
To aid the cause of Datuk Ooi Eow Jin, donations can be sent to Persatuan Karyawan Malaysia (Public Bank account 3108024130).