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My (Finger) Brush with Fame

by | Jun 11, 2024 | 7 comments

Author: G Ly

My childhood was privileged, I see that now that I am halfway through my life span.
But while I was growing up, could I really be blamed for not appreciating the opportunities my parents put in front of me? It turns out, YES, I could really be that ungrateful child – going purely by this story alone. So dear reader, lend me your attention and spare me some empathy.

Right out of toddlerhood, my parents decided that me and my sister would benefit from regular piano lessons. Whether they thought that we had innate musical talent or that we would be provided with a ‘backup’ livelihood should we be dunces in school, they were wrong on both counts.

So, my sister and I suffered through weekly piano lessons (our early teachers didn’t help as they were very strict and no fun at all…one even beat our fingers!) until we each attained the highest level of proficiency our talent (such as it is) and effort could achieve. Throughout our intrepid piano journey, one piano teacher in the town of Seremban stood out because she was the gentlest. Lessons were less feared but alas were still not met with unbridled enthusiasm (see ungrateful child reference above). Thirty years on, I still remember her. Her name was Mrs. Veerapen, who despite her name, was a Chinese lady with thick black-rimmed glasses.

Although I’ve given the piano lessons back to my teachers long ago, my memory of Mrs. Veerapen has stayed with me through the years. She was just simply a down-to-earth nice lady but what really made memories of her richer and deeper was our time in her home when we had our lessons. Whenever our mom was late picking us up, Mrs Veerapen would let us wait in the expansive kitchen-cum-working area of her house. There, dunking cream crackers into a hot cup of Milo, we would occasionally meet members of her family: her retired headmaster husband of who regaled us with stories; her son who took over her lessons with us when she couldn’t; her daughter-in-law who was spending her confinement period there; and her cute baby grandson making googoogaga noises. Her family was just like her – nice down-to-earth people. To this day, I did wonder why she turned over a couple of her lessons to her son Michael, but boy, did I not regret it with hindsight. I still remember being awed by his sheer height but what really stayed with me all these decades later was how long, lanky & lithe his fingers were as they moved across the ivories showing me how a piano should be played.

We all know now who her son Michael Veerapen is – the jazz supremo of the country, some say even the region. Never would I have thought that at some point in my growing up years, a future jazz pianist maestro actually brushed my fingers and hands, never mind that it was just for low grade piano lessons. Not only that, the baby boy I had glimpses of grew up to be Daniel Veerapen, a talented music producer in his own right.

If not for the influence of the inhabitants of Planet Sheila Majid clubhouse room-cum-fanclub, I would not have had the motivation to recall this almost-buried, distant but pleasant memories. Shoutout to Gina, John, Izzey and Victor for encouraging me to put pen to paper on these memories. Also thanks to Galvin for pointing out Michael Veerapen’s latest ‘hangout’ playing venue – SimplyJazz by tinbox (you may find a stalker there who may look like me). May the king and queen of Malaysian jazz perform together before they retire! Muah muah all! 😘


  1. Gina

    GLy…. I absolutely love reading this story as much as i loved hearing it when you relayed to us in the Clubhouse room 😘

    • GLy

      Can’t contribute much except sappy stories…. Glad you enjoyed all the storytelling.

  2. Izzey

    love the brushing of fingers and hands. wow i love it.

    just a nawetayy thought. hey who knows you can still work the keys!

    big love

    • GLy

      You inspired me to write this izzey! Yes I admit I do sometimes miss running my fingers through a piano….

  3. Neil Winward

    Great story, Sheila! I remember that house at 286 Temiang.

    I remember ‘Mummy’ too. This is my in-law family, via Michael’s sister, June. What a privilege it is to belong.

    • John Ong

      Hi Niel. What a small world. Just want to clarify that this is a fan club page, and the article was written by one of Sheila Majid’s fans. Though we secretly hope that she’d come check on our website occasionally.
      I wonder how you found out about this story? One of our members did share the story with Michael himself.

  4. Galvin Tan

    6 degree of separation! And Planet Sheila Majid is bringing us closer together! Thanks for the story, G Ly!


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