Tuesday, May 29, 2007

News Straits Times article: 'They shared children’s dreams'

A father's day special article written to recognise and show how family support can make such a difference in one's life. Joe Flizzow's father talks about his son and his chosen life path.

Source: New Straits Times (Online and Print)
by K.P. WARAN: They shared children’s dreams

"DAD! Can I stop schooling and become a singer?" This statement at the breakfast table is bound to make you drop your steaming cup of coffee on your lap and scream: "What! Are you crazy?"

All parents want the best for their children and that means the offspring have a limited choice — be a doctor, lawyer engineer or accountant. All other vocations fall by the wayside until the kids grow up and find that they have little choice but to grab the first job that comes their way.

Of course, there are some who want their children to become civil servants — as my grandfather used to quote a saying in India: "Even if you are clearing rubbish make sure it is a government job". Unfortunately, corporatisation has put paid to this ambition for some.

What we see in reality shows, with hopefuls fighting tooth and nail to win a singing competition so that they can carve out a career in the entertainment industry and make tonnes of money, is something most conservative Malaysian parents would not dream of for their children.

After all, in the swinging 1970s, did we not lug guitars, accordions, synthesisers and other paraphernalia to weddings and parties and make the audience tolerate our music, only to leave the instruments in the storeroom to gather dust upon realising that we need a "decent" job to put food on the table?So it was inspiring over the week to meet two dads who not only encouraged their children to become musicians but actually forked out money to get their careers going.

The common factor in the case of Haridas Pillai and Ishak Nengah is that they insisted that their boys fulfil one condition — get a decent education before they could go on stage and rock the world.

Haridas says he does not mind losing his identity.

"It is a small price to pay when people refer to me as Reshmonu’s father than Haridas," said the 60-year-old ex-flight engineer who is now flight operations adviser to Fly Asian Xpress.

He says Reshmonu always wanted to be a pilot.

"I was happy that he wanted to step into my shoes and dreamt of the day father and son would be sitting in the cockpit taking the DC 10 into the skies while chatting about what mum is cooking at home."

But Reshmonu’s astigmatism (a refractive error on the lens of the eyes) dashed that hope and his focus turned into becoming a sound engineer.

"I was in tears on his graduation day. I hugged him and thanked him for fulfilling my dream of earning a degree and soon enough realised it was the wrong choice of words.

"He led me to a chair, told me to sit down and said that since he had fulfilled my dream of getting a degree, it was time for him to fulfil his own dream — to cut an album."

He caught me at my most vulnerable moment. Since I was reeling with joy, I told him I would support his endeavour," he says as he points to his braided-haired son’s photograph.

Haridas reminisced of the days when he was a busker in Scotland to pay for his studies after his father died.

He knew that the road to glory in the entertainment world is paved with obstacles, hardship, trials, errors and one has to pay a huge price (including the ones involving currency notes) to become a successful artiste.

The first order of the day was to convert a room in the house into a sound-proof studio with instruments and equipment which Dad paid for. Preparations, writing the songs and recording, all with the help of friends, included burning the midnight oil.

After the songs were recorded, it was off to the United Kingdom to meet with Streaky of Soundmasters fame whose long list of collaborations include Depeche Mode, Sheryl Crow, Aaliyah and Britney Spears.

After some "softening" of the tracks, with the help of Streaky, it was time for the big launch.

"I was proud of him; he even designed the cover. I admired the enthusiasm, professionalism and energy that drove him. I was in awe when he performed at the launch of the album. In my heart, I knew it had been the right decision to back my son all the way so that he could fulfil his heart’s desire," he says.

Dad helped to fund the music videos for the first three albums, including a trip to Morocco. Since then, there has been no turning back as Reshmonu has made a name for himself.

"Parents should be facilitators and guides. They should not be cooped up in their own world. Parents have to know what the trends are out there. Children should be allowed to go with the flow, with some correction if necessary.

"My expectations for him is that he should not be complacent and think his current success will guarantee his future. He has to adapt to the changing face of the world and music. And he has to give something back to society, maybe to budding singers. He is blessed with a good life and I want him to care and share," said a proud Haridas.

In Ishak Nengah’s case, he realised his son’s talents when he sang into people’s hearts at the age of two. Even at a tender age, Joe Flizzow was a showman and loved to have an audience.

"My wife and I encouraged his involvement in music but insisted that he finish his diploma in advertising so that he had something to fall back on. When he wanted to record his first album together with some friends, we decided to back and fund him.

"We are not very rich but believed that the kids should be allowed to do what they do best. They should take up the vocation of their choice seriously. Being run of the mill is not good enough. They must make an impression that is meaningful and have to be above others," he says.Joe and Malique make up "Too Phat", a successful local hip hop group which is spreading its wings into the regional market.Ishak says he has no regrets backing the group and went into it with the aim of helping some kids achieve their dreams.

"All my son’s talents could have easily been killed, gone to nought, if he was not allowed the opportunity to pursue his dreams, which would have been a total waste," adds the 54-year-old who is often head-hunted for choice master of ceremonies and enjoys his public relations stints.Joe’s parents make it a point to turn up at all his major concerts and also continue to remind him that the message he spreads to his fans has to be generally positive in nature.

"This is important as their music moulds the minds of their audience and many of them are kids. My wife and I enjoy jumping and screaming at Too Phat’s performances, two old fogies reliving our youth but we will not miss it for the world.

"Watching your son perform to a huge and appreciative audience and seeing that he is enjoying what he does best, is good enough for me. Whatever we give our children, we inform them it comes with a responsibility for them to continue it with honesty and dignity.

"I am happy that the core religious and family values that we have inculcated remains strong with him. He knows the importance of having his feet firmly on the ground and that popularity and stardom can go as quickly as it comes," he says.

Rather than inhibit their sons, Haridas and Ishak motivated and strengthened their determination and helped turn their boys into a success.It was Freddie Mercury, the glam rock lead singer of Queen, who said: "I always knew I was a star. And now, the rest of the world seems to agree with me," while David Bowie said: "I’m an instant star. Just add water and stir."If your children have what it takes, be there for them. After all, remember the old expression: "Anyone can be a father; it takes someone special to be a daddy."

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