Monday, 20 August 2018

Funky Band celebrates muhibbah

By Meriem Arif

A SHARED love of music led Dennis Appaduray, Captain Abdul Rahim Othman and Wong Yoke Kong to forge a lifelong friendship, which also led to the formation of their band called Keyboard Fungus, way back in the 1960s.

Representing multiracial Malaysia, the band with its muhibbah line-up is set for a private reunion on August 31 to celebrate Malaysia's 61 years of independence.

The wonderful bond that the band members share started in their secondary school days - all were classmates at the Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur.

Two years into their friendship, the boys decided to embark on a musical journey which began with jamming sessions in the garage in Dennis' house

"It was really like home. Dennis' mum was like a mother to us. When we played our songs, she would prepare tea for us, with all sorts of things to eat and drink," shared Wong

Using tables, lamp shades, a harmonica made from metal hanger wires, a RM12 guitar, and a keyboard, the trio didn't let their limited resources stop them from having a blast.

In 1972, the young men earned themselves acclaim when, persuaded by Dennis, they decided to join the Radio Televisyen Malaysia's Bakat TV musical contest.

"We had to think of a name for the band ... we wanted something that stuck to the keyboard, but also a funky name, as funk was the in-thing in those days," said Wong.

Keyboard Fungus was formed with Dennis as keyboard player and frontman, Abdul Rahim as drummer amd Wong as guitarist.

With their authentic sound and chemistry, they made it to the semi-finals. They remember being labelled in the newspapers as "the first avant garde artistes in Malaysia."

"For the contest, I managed to borrow a set of bongos with no stand, so I tied them up on my wooden clothes rack made of three horizontal bars - and that became my instrument for the show!" quipped Abdul Rahim.

"I think it was our sense of adventure and the unusual instruments that we used that caught the judges' eye," he added.

In late 1972, the band members set out across the world to pursue their individual careers. Abdul went to Liverpool to become a sea captain, while Dennis and Wong went off to London and Manchester to pursue careers in law.

Being "stars" at the time, the trio's fame followed them abroad.

"In my first year in Britain, during Christmas, I travelled from Manchester to London, and was eating in a Chinese restaurant in the West End, when three girls from the next table recognised me from the band and asked for my autograph!" shared Wong.

"When our families, friends and former schoolmates found out we were planning to have a reunion this year, they were very keen to attend our show, so we decided to host this private get-together on a public holiday."

The band will be playing mostly covers, such as Santana's Evil Ways and Van Morrison's Brown-eyed Girl.

The men, now 64, say their children are inspired by their music and are following in their footsteps. Dennis' daughter has been winning vocal contests abroad and Wong's son plays the harmonica.

"They sing along with us, our legacy lives on! Our children are now the new Keyboard Fungus," said Abdul Rahim.

On the secret to their lasting friendship, Dennis shared: "We never really cut ties even when we weren't playing. We would still get together whenever Rahim came back from his sea travels. We are all really a family .. brothers ... and we can't see each other in any other light."

The band's little reunion concert will be held at the Drum Asia Jamming Studio in Desa Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur, and admission is by invitation only.

Dennis said, "This event is a celebration of our long friendship and also our country.

"There is a lot to celebrate, and we have always seen ourselves as united Malaysians."

Keyboard Fungus played at the V.I. Genting Grand Gala Reunion on July 25, 2018

VI The V.I. Web Page