Heartfelt tributes have been pouring in for the late Cultural Medallion winner Iskandar Mirza Ismail, lauded by many as a legend of the local music scene.
He died at age 58, of lung and brain cancer at 3.10am on Saturday morning. He leaves behind his wife Ernawaty Sorainto and two children - Emil, 28 and Valerie, 27.
Music and theatre practitioners mourned the loss of Iskandar, whom they regard fondly as one of Singapore’s music icons.
Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong also posted his own tribute on Facebook.
Theatre company Wild Rice’s artistic director Ivan Heng, who was by Iskandar’s bedside on Friday, said that his last words to the music maestro was a heartfelt “thank you” for all his contributions as a pioneer on the local music scene.
“Iskandar said: ‘Thank you’ to me,” said Heng. “And I said: ‘No, thank you Iskandar. Thank you.”
Heng, 50, who has worked with Iskandar on multiple occasions including the Youth Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies in 2010, said: “He was always interested in the ‘Singapore sound’ - a sound that is authentic yet contemporary, and a reflection of our multi-cultural society.
“He cared about the future, and would keep trying to break new ground and champion the potential of our local artistes. We always talked about how artistes and music can make the world a better place.”
Iskandar’s music has been synonymous with the National Day and Chingay parades, as well as the Singapore Youth Festival.
He has collaborated with many notable artistes including Aaron Kwok, Andy Lau and Sally Yeh, as well as arranged and orchestrated the music for Cantopop king Jacky Cheung’s popular musical Snow. Wolf. Lake (1997).
Even after getting diagnosed with cancer in 2010, he was still involved in ChildAid charity concerts organised by The Straits Times and The Business Times.
ChildAid’s director and theatre veteran Jeremiah Choy, who posted a tribute on Facebook which said that it was a “heavy hearted morning”, recalled words of advice from Iskandar.
Mr Choy, 50, said: “Iskandar’s advice was to never let go of my quest for artistic perfection, and to never compromise.”
The creative director of next year’s concert Sing50 which celebrates Singapore’s iconic songs added: “We were in the midst of preparing for the SG50 celebrations. We are in the process of finding someone else, and he will be sadly missed.”
Singer-songwriter Dick Lee, who has known Iskandar since they were teenagers studying music at the Yamaha Music School, calls him a “consummate professional”.
His last encounter with Iskandar was at the launch of his biography Iskandar Ismail: The Music Man last year, where he sang a tribute to him.
Lee, 58, said: “The best thing about Iskandar is that he was always very good-natured. In the face of all issues, he was always calm and smiling. He never lost his cool and always delivered on time.
“What I’ll miss most is creating more music with him. He was still so young and had so much more to give.”
Dr Edmund Lam, 54, chief executive officer and director of the Composers & Authors Society of Singapore (Compass), said: “Iskandar’s passing on is a great loss to our music community. It is all the more painful given that he was in a position to contribute to our nation and industry for many more years to come. He is a prolific, all-rounded musician - composer, arranger, producer, and conductor. I have witnessed him excelling in all these roles over the last two decades.
“He had a great heart, and was caring, loving and generous. The outpouring of love and respect for Iskandar demonstrates the extent to which he has profoundly enriched his community. Singapore has truly lost one of her great musical icons.”