Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t going away.

—  Elvis Presley

After such a long pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic plus some other factors, I found out that I could only be about 50 percent of my usual self when rendering Tok Nan’s favourite Can’t Help Falling In Love about a week ago.

The newly-opened eatery next to my residence in MetroCity started a music session on Nov 6. Hungry after work, I conveniently stopped by and ordered Nasi Ayam Penyet and teh tarik.

I had no intention of going for the mic at all but somehow a few patrons from two tables waved at me and asked that I sing — with my face mask on, I wondered how the two couples knew me. In fact, I couldn’t remember meeting them before or knowing them at all.

To satisfy my curiosity, I greeted them (all were not wearing face masks as they were enjoying their meals, but at close scrutiny, I still didn’t register any sign of recognition) by saying: “Hi there, apa cerita tek?” with my face mask still on.

One of the men replied: “Bagus juak ada muzik tok. Kamek tauk kitak boleh nyanyi, memang ada gaya. (It’s good to have a music session like this. We know you can sing; you have the look).

I replied that our Elvis Presley Fan Club of Sarawak (EPFCS) was just done with a month-long mourning for our late president Ges Barundang, also known as Elges Presley.

In fact, my last public performance was in 2018, I told them and singing now would be akin to using a blunt or unsharpened knife to cut an object. With that said, I returned to my table.

After my food and drink were served, I relaxed and enjoyed the singer cum guitarist’s renditions of both Malay and English top hits and realised that one of the men that I spoke to earlier had sent a note to him.

Typical of a busker, the gentleman put a small container in front of him meant for contributions from the patrons.

By then, the crowd had swelled to around 30 people, which was not bad in view it was already past 10.30pm.

The crooner’s rendition of the Bee Gees’ I started a Joke did inspire me. I ordered a small bottle of mineral water to soothe my throat. That was when I went to the front; put RM10 into the busking container, telling him he excelled with his rendition of the song.

“Abang mok nyanyi?” he asked. I nodded and we were on. Despite much poorer than my usual sound, there was a great applause. An elderly man requested me to do Old Blue Eyes’ My Way.

The guitarist cum vocalist, who went by the name of Mat, did the accompaniment very well and that Frank Sinatra’s piece made up for my poor start earlier.

I remember belting this number in Alor Setar, Kedah in 1990 during a dinner held in conjunction with the Malaysian School Principals Conference — Donna Babel and I represented Sarawak — attended by the Regent of Kedah (now he is Sultan) accompanied by Sdr (now Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim, then the Education Minister, who preferred to be addressed as Saudara instead of Encik.

On our EPFCS, a few of us did communicate via WhatsApp during the mourning period pertaining to its survival as we had not held an AGM for two years due to the pandemic.

We agreed for the time being that Azmi Jahidin @ Elaz be our acting president, Major (rtd) Abong Amping as honorary secretary, Adrian David Junior as treasurer, Henry Gerijih Tabor as auditor and yours truly as publicity officer.

Yesterday, I contacted Elges’ widow Helen to thank her after she handed over the files to Adrian.

Honestly, I just sent messages because it would be still painful for both of us — she just lost a beloved husband and for me, Elges was not only a fellow Elvis tribute artiste but he was a very close friend who had performed with me in Kapit, Julau, Bintulu, Sri Aman, Serian, Bau and Siburan (between 2002 and 2018) while as a group, we performed all over the state in Kuching, Sibu, Miri, Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur.

Prior to Elges’ passing, this year alone we lost two ETAs, namely Elvis of Sarawak 1965 titleholder Eskandar Eyaw, 76, in April and Albert Blassan, 74, in July.

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