Top king’s man leaves the building

Tawie

His kind of music is deplorable, a rancid smelling aphrodisiac. It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people.

– Frank Sinatra, American singer

Initially, I was hoping it was just a dream, but reality struck within seconds — Sarawak’s top Elvis tribute artiste (ETA) Ges Barundang succumbed to a cardiac arrest at the Samarahan Heart Centre. He was 65.

Our youngest ETA Adrian David Jr called me in the midst of my editing on Saturday (Sept 25), telling me that our Elvis Presley Fan Club of Sarawak (EPFCS) president had died just hours earlier.

Better known as Elges Presley, our ex-Tribune colleague (he was a proof-reader for some years) and retired Salcra senior clerk, therefore had left the building and joined our idol the King of Rock N Roll in the afterlife. His demise means the loss of EPFCS’ main pillar of strength; after all, he was instrumental in the club’s registration with ROS in 2014 and led it till his passing.

As the club chief, he was very active in looking for sponsorships from a number of generous individuals comprising a well-known philanthropist, ministers, political leaders, businessmen and other dignitaries.

Funds donated are for the club expenses during shows, meetings, community functions and others. He led the club in getting appointments for gigs whereby we shared with enthusiasts and fans the legacy of the king through his music, making EPFCS an umbrella for the EP wannabes.

I first came to know Ges in the early 90s. Karaoke was the craze of like-minded music enthusiasts. We bonded immediately as both were impressionists of the king. Our friendship was renewed when I came back from Brunei in 2002, the year he won Elvis of Kuching title whereas yours truly came second.

When I was employed as part-time deejay in Sapphire Executive Pub and Lounge (teaching college students in the morning in 2004/2005), Ges was given a slot to appear twice weekly — Wednesday and Friday evenings.  His show did well and attracted good crowds during his six-month stint.

Since then, usually on Saturday, there were also shows that he joined or led in various places in Kuching involving our local ETAs as well a few others from KL and the sole Sabah Elvis (Chris Gomez).

For the two of us — I was the closest ETA to him — we appeared together in a number of shows such as in Bau (2002 when he was still with Salcra); 2007 to 2016 (in Kampung Sorak Dayak Serian); Sibu (2007); Mukah (for Kaul in 2012); Bintulu (in 2012 upon the invitation of my cousin Richard Abunawas, the current Betong Resident who was then Bintulu Deputy Resident); KK (2012 for nine Malaysian ETAs);  Julau (for an Astro show in 2013); Sri Aman (2014 for Pesta Benak); Kapit (four shows since 2013); PJ in KL (2014/2016); and since 2014, there were a lot of shows in Kuching and Samarahan at hotels, pubs and private functions. During our shows outside Kuching and staying overnight, we also shared room most of the time.

In my first Sarawak Tribune column Local Music Scene (every Sunday) using the pseudonym Anya Kedap byline starting 2004, I also wrote a piece on Elges who had just returned from the US, after getting his scroll from a university there and used the opportunity to visit Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.

He was attired in his EP light blue costume (as his photo showed) and stayed at the iconic Heartbreak Hotel, in the 13.8 acre-palatial home’s compound and performed there too. His Graceland trip was the first by an ETA from Malaysia.

A native of Lempaung, Betong, talented and amiable Elges who had a house in Sri Aman — he brought me to check on the tenants who rented there during our Pesta Benak show there in 2014 — had made Samarindah, Samarahan his new home together with his four sons, three of whom had settled in their respective residences there. 

He is survived by his devoted wife Helen Menon, a retired teacher, four sons (all college and university graduates) and their spouses, three grandchildren and all loved ones.

My late buddy was an adventurous guy who enjoyed great challenge. So, when he left Tribune circa 2017, he joined an orchard in the outskirt of Melbourne, mainly collecting apples.

He left after five or six months. Earlier, namely in 2015, he did join a global EP contest Down Under at the Gold Coast Viva Surfers Paradise and qualified for the grand finale, earning substantial OZ dollars.

Elges prided in his 13 EP jumpsuits, one of which was ordered online from New Jersey in US, but self-assembled for our KK show in 2012. It cost about $1,200.

The ‘Eagle King’ was a replica of the real thing used by the king himself for his 1974-75 US tour.

He was laid to rest on Monday.

May his kind and generous soul rest in everlasting peace!