© Legendary Musicians of Karachi
Category ~ Musician Profile
As Bob Dylan would sing…. For the times, they are a changing…. From what I remember of yester-year, the times have already changed so much, well at least in the world of Music.
Lynette has requested that I do this special write up of my two brothers Alan and Gerard Vanderlowen. I do not remember everything and some of what I remember may not be in the right sequence but I am giving it a try anyway. Also, I admittedly do not have all the knowledge of music so if you see some errors, just excuse me but try I will as above everything else I love both my brothers dearly and am equally very proud of them. So here goes……
Alan’s music days began when he was just a little boy, way before I was even born. My mum and dad lived in Saddar just above Aziz (PIA) Tailor. Alan was 4 or 5 and would take out a hockey stick and put on his “Elvis” look and do a show for all the air hostesses that would come in to have their uniforms stitched.
Most times he would stand on the thin wood railing of the balcony, which I am sure caused my mum to skip many a heart beat, singing his heart away. My uncles would pump him up saying ”c’mon Elvis shake your pelvis” and there Alan would be up on that railing trying to impress anyone who would see and hear.. And over the years that followed that is exactly what he did with his kind heart, gentle ways and soulful music, he left an impression on the hearts of many.
Alan did not go to any music school or have any one come in to teach him. He played it all by ear and before my parents knew it, Alan could pick up any musical instrument and play… and bloody hell he could get anyone on the dance floor.
With cousins like Colin D’Souza, Geoffery and Tony Besterwitch, Charles D’Souza, Brian D’Souza (RIP), Alban and Craig D’Souza, all of them great musicians, my brother Alan was introduced to the guitar and my dad seeing his enthusiasm for music finally got him one too. Alan’s love for music just grew from there and has not stopped since.
Coming from a large family, Alan did not have the resources to get the best of equipment but I do know my dad tried and Alan was one of the first boys to have the good ole Sardinia build him this big speaker and amp and if my memory is not failing me; I think the name of it was Sound City, Alan was so proud of that set in those days and many other musicians also benefited from it as Alan being so generous with his musical ability encouraged many musicians to grow as well and would always let them borrow his stuff. Much to our dismay cause that always led to loads of guys coming over to learn from him or jam with him and that always meant cups of tea being made by my sisters or me.
Alan landed himself a job at the age of 14 and guess where? Being a ladies man it should not come as a surprise, but yes it was at a strip club I think the name was Roma Shabana…. Oooops this meant disapproval from my mum and dad for sure and a lot of opposition, but Alan had his heart set on giving his music to the world and he did not want anything or anyone standing in his way. I am sure he created quite a ruckus in the house trying to get the permission to earn some money while still following his passion for music .
Finally my dad relented and gave in after my dear cousins Valerie and Neville Rodgers (RIP) told my mum that they would keep a close eye on him and they would bring him home to their house after his stint.
Alan just carried on from there, constantly pushing his abilities as a musician and that must have been a tough task as my mum and dad both insisted that his studies had to carry on with good grades too! Alan then moved up from one strip joint to another Excelsior, LIDO whatever, but he knew he was good and he was just going to give it his all. He would also still have to go to Church and do his duties there too and teach the kids music and play in the choir, my mum would have it no other way.
Alan finally got a job my mum and dad could approve of in Rawalpindi with the Inter-Continental, he played with Nino and Geoff Francis and dear Ricky Cummins (RIP), from there they moved on to Tarbela and his big break finally came somewhere in 76-77 when they were asked to play in Iran. There were many tears when we knew our brother was going so far away, but yes we were all so proud of them.
The war in Iran ended their contract in 1979; a little after my dad passed away and Alan had to come home and be the man of the house. It was a tall order but he did it well. He did anything and everything to see us through school and see that we were all well looked after. I think he joined the Inter-Continental in Karachi at that time and then moved on playing with other bands. I think he performed at every hotel or restaurant in Karachi and Rawalpindi/Islamabad.
Through the years I saw and got to know many good people, even dated some of them…lol… musicians like Alan Dias, Edgar Saville, Glenn Boyle, Richard Thomas, Errol D’Silva, Frankie, Nobby, Iggy, Dr. Shamim, Sydney, Max, Malcolm who till this day I refer to as ‘Drummer Boy’ and so many others I would need ten more pages just to mention some of them if not all. I remember Amir Zaki, who was a friend of my ex-husband Asif Khawaja, also coming to my mums house years later to learn from Alan. Alan and Zaki have remained friends to date.
Alan later got married and moved to the States, where in 1988 better than his music he gave us the most precious gift; our precious nephew Christopher Otto Vanderlowen… Kitto Otto we love you very very much.
In the States too Alan continued with his music exploring, playing and learning and carried on till he moved to Canada in 2006. Two days after he arrived here he suffered a stroke, which left very little or no power in his hands, but Alan was determined. He was still going to play the guitar no matter what. When he got back from the hospital, before he could get any professional therapy for his hands; He started his own therapy, picking up my little grand-sons, building toys or anything that would stimulate movement again and yes HE DID IT! He picked up the guitar again and started playing again. It brought tears to our eyes, for my sister Linda-Mae and I it was after 17 years that we got to see our brother again so for us that was the finest music to our ears. But to Alan and believe me he was the only one who knew; he said he made some mistakes and that disheartened him and he did not want to play more.
A year later Alan lost his lovely beautiful wife Lolo Fletcher to cancer and also the loss of Alan’s soul as he was so depressed. His hands gave him more trouble also as by then it was the dead of winter, something Alan was not used to in Canada. This was really difficult for us to see. My sisters and I looked up every doctor we could in Canada and finally we managed to arrange some surgery for his hands. He had multiple operations on both hands and yes our Alan did it again. My basement is full of wires, speakers, amps, guitars and other music related ‘stuff’ again.
Even though it’s a constant mess, I am happy to see life back in my brother eyes. He is playing his guitar again and will carry on giving all he has.
I want to say a special thank you to all his friends who constantly call him and give him the support to carry on. It means a lot to our whole family.
………To be contd