Lewis Pragasam’s hidden passion for philanthropic endeavour, home-cooked food

It was a bittersweet moment for singer-songwriter and dancer Justin Lewis, who launched the first locally produced Bachata song – Por Favor Mi Amor – for the Malaysian and Southeast Asian dance community on Sunday night.

One of the VIP chairs was empty as his uncle, the legendary drummer and percussionist Lewis Pragasam, was performing at the ‘Music of Christmas’ concert at the Good Shepherd Assembly of God Church in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, when he suddenly collapsed. He was rushed to a private hospital but unfortunately passed away at 3am this morning.

“Uncle Lewis was delighted that I was about to launch my song but was also ‘upset’ that it clashed with his event. He had promised the organisers that he would perform but said he would attend my launch, even for a short while,” said Justin.

“I was hoping to see him as he was the one who pushed me into the entertainment business. I started as a dancer before becoming a singer. He was by my side every step of the way, always encouraging me as that was the kind of person he was.”

Justin said that despite Pragasam’s fame, he always remained humble and did lots of charitable work behind the scenes.

“He never publicised his acts of kindness, but I can tell you stories of how he went out of his way to help the less fortunate. Those who worked alongside him would probably tell you the same,” said Justin.

“He would sometimes drive outstation just to help those in need. He did plenty of work for the church, too.

“As everyone knows, music was his passion, and he would use it to inspire everyone he met. It did not matter to him who that person was. Uncle Lewis would always help.”

Justin (right) with his ‘Uncle Lewis’.

Pragasam was also a ‘foodie’ who adored his mother’s cooking and made it a point to invite his musician friends to his home to share a meal.

And that was Lewis’ introduction to the music world.

“I grew up in my grandmother’s house. Uncle Lewis would bring his band, Asiabeat, for ‘makan-makan’ sessions, be it lunch or dinner,” said Justin.

“Not only them, but most of Malaysia’s top talents like Datuk Sheila Majid and Datuk Zainal Abidin would sometimes drop by.

“Uncle Lewis loved Chicken Assathi. The recipe has been in the family for generations. My mother has since mastered it, and he would visit for meals.”

Justin said he also enjoyed rides in Pragasam’s “American-made car” as a child.

“He used to take me for drives in his American-made car. I have forgotten whether it was a Cadillac or a Pontiac. Sometimes, his musician buddies would join us,” added Justin.

“Lately, we used to go out for a cup of Masala tea (mixed herbs and spices tea) and Kesari (Indian sweet) – his favourite tea-time treats.

“We would talk about the entertainment business and life. I will miss him very much. I want to dedicate my latest song to him,” added Justin.

Wake Service
Venue: Church of the Holy Rosary Parlour, Kuala Lumpur
Date: Monday, Dec 18: 3-10pm
Tuesday, Dec 19: 9.30am-10pm

Funeral service
Venue: Church of the Holy Rosary, Kuala Lumpur
Date: Wednesday, Dec 20: 10am, thereafter to DBKL crematorium, Jalan Kuari Cheras.

* Editor’s note (Dec 18, 2023; 3.40pm): This article has been revised to include the wake and funeral services

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