It was heartrending to learn of the untimely passing of master drummer Lewis Pragasam, aged only 66, on 18 December.
A Malaysian legend and percussionist of international standing, Pragasam was an exemplary tower for the music world. The memory of Pragasam, an educator, producer and author, must never fade away from our national consciousness.
Here is yet another ‘born, bred and made in Malaysia’ individual whom the nation has largely overlooked.
That he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and taught as an artiste in residence at East Carolina University suggests that the nation’s leaders – politicians and policymakers – have repeatedly failed to nurture, celebrate and facilitate talent-building.
Where were the local institutions that should have played the much-needed catalytic role to enrich the nation’s talent pool?
- Sign up for Aliran's free daily email updates or weekly newsletters or both
- Make a one-off donation to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB a/c 8004240948
- Make a pledge or schedule an auto donation to Aliran every month or every quarter
- Become an Aliran member
Instead, it was the institutions and the organisations overseas that recognised this precious, high-achieving talent throughout his career. And now, he is a lost icon of the music industry.
Is it then an untruth to say that the effort to use so much taxpayers’ money to bait high-achieving Malaysians working in foreign lands to return has been a farce?
If we continue to allow politics, policies and religious fanaticism to disregard home-grown talents by refusing to nurture and celebrate them, we are then nothing more than a country led by conceited politics, racist demarcations and narrow religious frenzies.
Hopefully, Pragasam’s untimely passing will open the door to the realisation that there is much more that the government can and must do to nurture local talent.