Kerala can boast of much discussed rock culture that took shape in Ernakulam and thrived here back in the 60’s and 70’s. Classic and psychedelic rock from the West had its ripples felt here in Kerala through a handful of musicians who braved the odds to introduce the then groundbreaking genre to masses here. It would be incomplete to mention this era of English music in Kerala without mentioning Emil Isaacs. On Wednesday, the legend, passed away, leaving behind what we know today as the birth of rock music culture in Kerala.
‘What a time to be alive’ said the young guns back then as they listened to Emil Isaacs rip through his guitar. It is widely believed that Emil is the man who formed the first Western music band in Kochi - The Elite Aces. Coming from a family of musicians, taking up music was an everyday affair and natural process for him. Out of his 10 siblings, Rex, Antony, Eugene, Efry, Eloy and Eldrige made music a part of their lives and even formed their own bands. What Emil did differently was to bring the music out of the Anglo-Indian community to the masses. Later on in his life, Emil began performing with Yesudas and Usha Uthup, his own band was then called Usha and The Elite Aces. He then moved to Kolkata to take care of Uthup’s studio.
Musician Jerry Amaldev, who was Emil’s contemporary, fondly remembers him and says, “He was, without a doubt, the greatest guitarist I have ever come across. Both as a lead and bass guitarist. But I have not worked with him. Before he left for Kolkata, I had the opportunity to meet him. In fact, meeting him was the best memory I have before I left to the US for higher studies in music. The Elite Aces, of which he was the leader, threw a small party for me at a hotel in Wellington Island just before I left.”
“The last I had heard of him was that he was unwell and bedridden. He was a bright spirit and there was never a dull moment with him. Making music for him was always fun and games.”
Musician Baiju Dharmajan grew up listening to Emil Isaac. “I have seen him plenty of times, watched him perform. Back then Usha Uthup and 13 AD were huge bands in India. These were the bands that used to frequently perform here in Kerala. I first watched him perform when he was here with Usha Uthup’s band. Listening to him and watching him perform was something that gave us an energy to pursue music. Well, he is a legend.”...