The late musician Iskandar Ismail will not be forgotten

The late musician Iskandar Ismail will not be forgotten
Local music legend Iskandar Mirza Ismail.

He spent the last four years battling lung cancer, but looking at local music legend Iskandar Mirza Ismail (right) over the years, you probably would not have been able to tell.

Indeed, up till last week, the Cultural Medallion winner was still working on projects.

"Even when he was bedridden, he'd light up when you showed him music. He was really a fighter," says his daughter Valerie, 27.

While receiving treatment, the cancer spread to his brain. And yesterday, the illustrious musician lost his fight with the disease.

He was 58.

Mr Iskandar was a familiar name in nationalscale productions, composing, arranging and acting as music director for events such as the National Day Parade and Chingay since the 1980s.

Besides working with local production houses both big and small, his passion for music also saw him working with Hong Kong stars like Jacky Cheung and Aaron Kwok.

"We knew that it was coming soon. His health was generally deteriorating. He was in and out of hospital in the past year," says Ms Valerie, who works in the media industry.

Her father died at 3.10am yesterday.

His death, while heartbreaking, also came as a relief to the family, she maintains.

Ms Valerie elaborates: "One of our concerns was the cancer, that it would be really painful for him. I guess the silver lining in all of this was the way he left us - it was not painful (for him) at all.

"Even when he passed on, he looked really peaceful. We are kind of happy. This is the best way to go as he had fought for so long."

Mr Iskandar leaves behind his wife, Madam Ernawaty Sorainto, 60, and two grown-up children, daughter Valerie and son Emil, 28.

To his children, he was a loving dad who would always go the extra mile for them. Even though they live in the East, Ms Valerie used to get a lift to her school in Bukit Timah every morning without fail.

"Sometimes, when he was around town, he would offer to drive me home. Actually, even if he wasn't that near, he would still do the same," she adds with a laugh.

To local musicians, Mr Iskandar was a mentor who gave them opportunities and helped pave the way for their careers.

"I knew he was an amazing and good man, but when you hear it over and over again, you see the extent of how many people he had helped," says Ms Valerie.

"A lot of them are great musicians in their own right. Hearing them talk about how my dad helped just showed me the extent of his influence."

Mr Abdul Rashid, 52, and his wife, Madam Karmilah Khamis, 44, attest to Mr Iskandar's help in their daughter's music career.

They were part of the 100-odd family members, friends and musicians who paid their final respects to Mr Iskander at the Choa Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery early yesterday afternoon.

"My daughter Amni (Musfirah) was talentspotted by him a few years ago at a concert. He gave her a lot of opportunities that may have helped her obtain her arts scholarship," said Mr Abdul Rashid, a manager.

His wife added in between sobs: "He played a very big role in Amni's musical journey. He inspired her, he motivated her. He's a man we can never forget for all his deeds."

Mr Mohd Jais Minsawi, who was also at the burial, said Mr Iskandar pushed him to be a better conductor for Orkestra Melayu Singapura, adding that he was very humble and professional in his work.

"Although his condition worsened (over time), he still had a positive attitude towards life," he maintains.



Awarded the Compass Artistic Excellence Award by former president Ong Teng Cheong.


Beat 14 nominees to win Berita Harian's Achiever Of The Year award, which recognises outstanding Malay-Muslims.


Awarded the Cultural Medallion, Singapore's most prestigious arts award, for artistic excellence in his musical contributions.


Composed and arranged the score for a 140-piece orchestra for Wonder Full, a free nightly light and water show at Marina Bay Sands. It won the Best New Tourist Attraction at the 25th Aseanta Awards for Excellence.

This article was first published on November 2, 2014.
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