Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones is an otai who, together with his band mates, still has what it takes to be relevant in today’s music scene.

IT was with a weird set of coincidences that I found myself suddenly playing keyboards in a makeshift band called The Launchpadders that was featured one morning on Malaysia Hari Ini on TV3 recently.

The band was made up of my young colleagues who did a little performance during the farewell surprise for our outgoing chairman, Tan Sri Johan Jaafar. I was just called the night before to join the band as they thought it “would be nice if you sat in”.

Our performance during that farewell event was pretty ok considering it was very last-minute. But little did we know that the producers for Malaysia Hari Ini (MHI) were there in attendance. Next thing I knew, we were asked to perform on MHI.

So with barely-contained excitement and nervousness, we performed three songs on the nation’s No.1 morning talk show programme.

I thought we did quite well, considering we only had one practice the night before. The guys sang and performed really well and I sincerely thought we could pass off as a semi-pro band.

But that experience with my younger colleagues is not the purpose of this article.

No, this article is about a text message I received after texting them about what a pleasure it was to play with such a talented bunch of musicians. The text came from one of the youngest in the band, Nabil (who just happens to be a singer as well), who wrote: “It was such an honour to play with an otai like you.”

As most of you know, otai is short for old-timer.

I read that message and remember that I actually stopped walking. In fact, I actually stopped breathing.

How did I get to become an old-timer? How and when did this phenomenon happen?

Wasn’t it just a few years ago that I was the youngest in any situation? Whether I was producing urban music and artists or making TV shows or hanging around with government-types, I always thought it was cool that I got to talk to people much older than me.

How did it suddenly get here? How did I suddenly get to become the oldest guy in the room? I don’t want to be the person you say “it’s an honour to play with you, sir”. I don’t want to be that person... yet.

But then, I soon realised, I needed to face the hard facts.

We. Get old.

It’s the circle of life. We. Get. Old.

We were once the bright-eyed wannabes. We were once the guy who would lap up all sorts of experiences, run from gig to gig full of energy, expectations and optimism. We were once the guy who could pull all-nighters and still be bright and early at a 9am meeting without needing any caffeine-based pick-me-upper.

And before you know it, ...and let me tell you the transition is not smooth or expected ..., SUDDENLY we’re thrust in the position of the uncle with the good advice, the experienced guy who has been there and done that and, horrors upon horrors, the otai.

We are suddenly not considered the bright-eyed wannabes. We find ourselves too lazy to lap up experiences and the idea of running from gig to gig just makes us wish for a nice reflexology session. We can’t even stay up past midnight, let alone do an all-nighter.

And God help us, we need our caffeine before any 9am meeting or we will bite off the head of the colleague next to us.

This transition from bright prospect to self-proclaimed fading light, as I said, is sudden. No warning. No memo to tell us to expect this coming. Yesterday it was “Young man, you got so much ahead of you!” Suddenly, it’s “Uncle, tell us again about those days of yore.”

I know we should accept this as part of life. We get old, and we pass on our experiences and knowledge to the young, in hopes they will build on it and create a better tomorrow.  We should, right?

But somehow. I am reminded of what the great poet Dylan Thomas once wrote:

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

That’s right, Dylan! I’m not going to go down this easy! This otai will now listen to all Top 40 songs on his playlist and spout cool Gen Y and Gen Z terms and yes, rage against the dying of the light!

But, of course, only after my afternoon nap.

Ahmad Izham Omar runs some TV stations, a production house dabbling in movies and TV shows, and gets panicky trying to figure out his next tweet. Email him at nstent@nst.com.my

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