Thursday, October 26, 2017

REST IN PEACE Joe Chelliah

With a heavy heart, I want to share the news that legendary Pop Yeh Yeh musician Joe Chelliah aka Johami Abdullah, or as many knew him "Uncle Joe", passed away this past week after a battle with brain cancer.

Joe Chelliah was the band leader and guitarist of Pop Yeh Yeh group, The Jayhawkers.

 He studied in the US at University of Iowa and received a degree there. He ran a successful event company in Malaysia for many years (NJ Enterprises) and also wrote an autobiography entitled "The Life and Times of Joe Chelliah" which chronicled his life as a musician and music teacher.

Joe was a great mentor to me and was instrumental in my quest to find and meet Pop Yeh Yeh artists during my first and second trips there. We spent many hours talking about the pop music craze of the 60s in Singapore and Malaysia (and its origins) , and I conducted several interviews with him on camera which I do hope to share with all of you out there at some point in the near future.

I remember in particular the time when he and I had dinnner with the late Hasnah Haron, and one evening when we stayed up till 2am talking about music and Malaysian history at a hotel he generously booked for me in Johor Bahru - that was during my first trip - he actually drove all the way from KL to see me.  I also remember, during my second visit to Malaysia, how he drove me to Melaka with Adnan Othman (Joe actually rescued us from the side of the highway when Adnan's car broke down) and we visited with his former singer Roziah Latiff at his house later that day.  (blog post here)

Joe did so many things to help me and the success of my music research projects and I feel very sad that I wasn't able to see him again once more at least to thank him in person.  I knew he had been sick with brain cancer for several months and it must have been a very difficult struggle for him, and his family.  

Joe Chelliah was an eloquent, thoughtful, and inspiring person with a great sense of humor and incredible talent as a guitarist and composer.  He was a music teacher for many years, and that shone through in the way he taught me personally about the music of his youth.   I feel very lucky to have known him, and I will miss him dearly.

Al Fatihah


Here's a video of one of his last recordings
And here's a song by the Jayhawkers - Oh Abang (big brother)

Here's an article that was published in "Free Malaysia Today" magazine :

Another article from The Star:

Here's a blog post from when i first met him in JB in 2010 : 

And here's a blog post from 2014, meeting him for the second time :

And here is his blog site. 

Joe Chelliah, third from left, next to Roziah Latiff and his bandmates - the Jayhawkers.

Left to right: A. Halim, Adnan Othman, Zainal Omara, me, Joe Chelliah, Husaini B, and A Halim's wife Fatimah in Melaka

Joe is third from left here again with the Jayhawkers.

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