Farewell September

It’s hard to pen in words which only the heart can feel so acutely.

The past few days have been one of the most difficult in my life.
My dear friend Keyjohan Ismail passed on after his hard-fought battle with cancer.

Diagnosed with nose cancer a few years back, he fought hard to stop the disease in its tracks.

His passing is hard for many of us to take.
To his band mates and friends, they’ve lost a timekeeper, Mr. Groove or Pocket Man and a friend.
To his family, they’ve lost a son and a brother.
To his wife Suzy and his 3 young sons, she has lost her soulmate and they have lost a wonderful father.

For me, I’ve lost a long-standing friend of 25 years, a brother, producer, and most importantly, an immaculate musician. Jo’s the perfect musician that I am so blessed to have worked with.

Jo is one of my closest and unwavering supporter and friend. I felt confident whenever Jo performed with me, simply because he always had my back.

He was a dedicated and talented drummer who had the grooviest knack. While working on my album Deeper Than Purple where Jo was the producer, he dedicated his attention and time whole-heartedly and professionally throughout the countless late nights we spent in the recording studio. And this was despite having to juggle his huge role as the sole breadwinner to his young family (his wife was pregnant with their third child then) and his full-time job as a drummer with his band Energy.

Even when he was sick, he never stopped to think about music. I visited and texted Jo often, our conversations often about his recovery and him looking forward to work on my 3rd album. A few times he said if we have enough funds, he will ask Steve Gadd to do one of the songs. But after that we’ll laugh it off knowing it’s only a wistful thought.

I missed the times we spent chatting and laughing over teh tarik, Jo.

Here I want to share a conversation I had with Jo the night before he passed away.

I was by his bedside together with 3 other friends and his wife. He was so weak then it was difficult watching over him. Yet he mustered enough strength to whisper to me, about a CD he had played on and had asked me to listen a month ago. I leaned in really close, putting my ears to his lips. No one knew or could hear our conversation.

“I miss you, sidekick.”

“I miss you too and I’m here.”

“My chest is heavy and it’s hard to breathe.”

(I rubbed his chest but stayed silent)

“How was my drumming in the CD?”

“It was perfect.”

Sounding slightly frustrated, he replied, “I haven’t got the chance to listen to it.”

“But you played on it. That’s the beauty.”

Then he closed his eyes.

I struggled not to cry. I don’t know what went on in his mind at that point in time, but what I saw was that even on his death bed, he was still so concerned about how well he had done his work.

Jo’s not a perfectionist, he’s a perfect musician.

I lost both parents to cancer, and now Jo.
Cancer is a debilitating disease, so let us pray for those who are going through it and also for those who have lost their loved ones to cancer. If possible, please support the various cancer societies and foundations we have in Singapore.

To our fans and friends, we can never fully express our thanks and gratitude towards your support of our musical journey all these years.
And especially to Jo for being so amazing and a wonderful blessing in our lives.

In return, we want to help Jo’s wife Suzy and their 3 young sons get through this difficult time in whatever ways we can.
If you like to help them via monetary donation or other means, here are the details:-

Suzyana Bte Sulaiman
E-mail: zykey_06@yahoo.com.sg
Bank Account: (OCBC) 528-8-045130

Farewell and thank you, Jo.
Till all of us see each other again hereafter.

– RM

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