ENTERTAINMENT ICON: Datuk Irwan Shah Abdullah @ D.J. Dave
By TONY MARIADASS
Special needs children virtually charted the path of a small town lad from humble beginnings singing Hindi songs as a pastime, to becoming an icon in the music industry.
Datuk Irwan Shah Abdullah, better known as DJ Dave, his real name is Dhammi Jagjit Sukhdev and thus DJ is the initials of his birth name was born on February 14, 1948 in Kuala Kubu Baru and raised in nearby Tanjung Malim.
The 67-year has to thank his late mother who had an excellent singing voice and his grandfather who was a musician playing the tabla and harmonium (pump organ) for his background and inspiration to venture into music.
“It all started when I was young. I enjoyed singing but never ever thought it would someday become a career. It was initially just for fun,” said the father of three grown up children – Arveen, Shazdarween and Davina and grandfather of four.
Dave started his working career as a postal officer before discovering his vocal talent in 1971 when he was invited to appear in RTM show to sing Hindi songs at a shelter for spastic children.
That was the turning point for Dave when a young teenager on crutches walked up to him and told him that the songs he sang was good, but suggested that I do it in Bahasa Malaysia.
“This made me to think. I thought about it and then it occurred to me that it was possible. And so I sought an audition with a recording company (Life),” Dave recalled.
“But the company although saw the potential in my songs, told me that I needed some brushing up on my Bahasa Malaysia, as my scent was rather strong.”
Dave determined to make the break, returned to his office (Section 17 Post Office) and told his colleagues to only speak to him in Bahasa Malaysia as he went about trying to speak Bahasa Malaysia more fluently.
In six months, DJ Dave presented himself to the recording company and they gave the thumbs up to record.
He choose two songs that were his own compositions, and two from Hindi films, to be sung in Malay.
“After recording, the records were not released for some reason and I went to see the lady at the recording company again. She was surprised that it had not been released and immediately asked for the album to be released.
“It became an instant hit overnight and was number one for 13 weeks.”
The songs which captured hearts of Malaysians both young and old were Harum Bunga Kembang, Ku tak ingin menaggis lagi and Maafkanlah.
In 1973, DJ Dave signed up with EMI and with producer Ahmad Nawab and recorded Ingin Bersua (Yeh Kya Hua in Hindi) before he opened up his own recording company called Dave Enterprise.
With his songs, DJ Dave revolutionised music in Malaysia by bringing all the cultures in the country together. DJ Dave besides Hindi, English and Bahasa Malaysia also speaks fluent Tamil and Chinese.
DJ Dave has since released 41 albums to date, held many concerts and besides performing at private functions.
“It was the boy in crutches who made me successful and as a tribute on my birthday, which coincides with Valentine’s Day, I donate my time and love for the last 43 years to Malaysian charities that cater for children with special needs.
Three years ago, he launched an album, consisting of collection of Punjabi songs as a tribute to his father.
His father who is 92 years-old, came to Malaya at the age of 16 with only a pillow and a mat. He later sold newspapers, cycling some 50 miles to Tanjung Malim.
“He sold clothes in the estates and after making some money bought a cow. We eventually owned three cows. I still remember the days when used to graze these cows and many times with my bicycle,” related DJ Dave.
“I still have that bicycle. It brings back lots of memories for me, especially during my childhood days. I haven’t forgotten my roots,” he emphasised.
DJ Dave also spoke of his 2012 major concert at Istana Budaya which was organised to a tune of RM 1 million
“It was my final grand concert. I was getting older and I wanted to give back one mega concert with songs spanning my career. I was not sure if I had the pace to do it. But I am glad that I did it and on the final day of three days of sold out concerts, I took it to two hours and forty-five minutes. I was amazed at myself,” said Dave proudly.
“But I cannot do it again. That was my final curtain for my fans. I just do private functions these days when there are requests,” said Dave who is married to Datin Seema Amir Amar.
That concert raised money for Yayasan Artist I Malaysia to help artistes regardless of race, creed or religion. The Foundation was set in June 2012 for which, DJ Dave is the president.
Following his successful entertainment career in the 70s and 80s, Dave followed his dream and in 1986 furthered his studies in Boston to attain a marketing diploma which enveloped his diversity and foresight to prosper in another passion, the Malaysian environment.
His business interests in Sabah area involves with his carbon and pollution reduction program under his own brand name ‘D1 Eco Energy’.
He is also in another business creating energy from waste through gasification.
DJ Dave’s singing and business ventures aside, has also craved a name for himself in sports - badminton.
DJ Dave who is fit and trim and pays great emphasis to health who starts his day with a five-minute breathing exercise and does push-ups, sit-ups and squats every morning, plays badminton for the last twenty years.
“Football was I first passion in sports, but a broken nose saw me take up badminton,” said DJ Dave who trains three times a week.
In 2013, competing in the World Morning Badminton Cup in Taipei, he proved age is no barrier when he partnered Sabahan veteran Ho Tze Fah and finished second in the men’s double category for 65 and above age-group. He also won the singles silver.
Last year in the All-England veterans’ category, he was the losing quarterfinalist and this year in Taipei the World Morning Badminton Cup, he settled for the singles silver again.
“Maybe, I will be third time lucky next year,” said Dave.
And that is DJ Dave. A person who never gives up easily and is determined to achieve goals he set.
No doubt, it is music that DJ Dave has left an everlasting mark, he has done equally well through his charity involvement, his business and now sporting arena.