Sandra Jackson – Memories are made of this – FROM TREVINE RODRIGO IN MELBOURNE
If memories are measured by those hurriedly departing this world for heavenly refuge, the consequence from the untimely demise of Sandra Jackson has not registered this yet in the hearts, minds and perspective of many. A year has lapsed, and many of us are yet in shock and denial that the Queen of Sri Lanka’s music scene in Australia has left us forever, and baffling as it is, she’s left a void that will sadly, never be filled.
Yes, its already a year since Sandra Jackson took her earthly presence away from this world to join the choir of angels in Heaven but her memory lingers on although the reality and her lack of physical presence is now slowly sinking in.
The much-loved singer/ entertainer left a lingering image of a larrikin performer for her sexy overtures and flamboyance on stage, enhanced by a powerful and well-balanced voice that was often likened to legendary Tina Turner for her sassy delivery.
On that fateful day, June 29, 2018 the life of a marvelous personality, not just a musician, came to a tragic end leaving behind a distraught hubby, Esric, daughters Candice and Tatum son-0in-laws Toufic and Richard, and grandchildren Mischa, Cruz, Makai and Brooklyn and countless friends who were unprepared for the events that unfolded so quickly.
Although ailing with pulmonary Fibrosis for a while, the extent and potential outcome of Sandra’s illness was not fully comprehended by her family due to the brave front put up by her to shield them from worry and distress.
Undoubtedly the best in her multi-faceted vocal delivery, Sandra left an indelible mark not just on the music scene here and in many other countries, but on her fellow musicians whom she pushed and encouraged to excellence, which was an integral part of her own makeup, which she was fiercely proud of in her own outstanding ability. Yet, her demeanor was one of simplicity, empathy and humility and the self-confidence she exuded was almost infectious.
Much like her carefully thought out, and meticulously executed magical performances on stage, Sandra Jackson exited it similarly, on her own terms, leaving everyone oblivious to the pain and suffering she was enduring in silence as she battled through those final years with pulmonary fibrosis which was slowly but surely eroding her health before finally taking her away from her doting family and countless friends.
Gone, but will never be forgotten, Sandra Jackson has left behind a rich legacy, especially in music, with daughters Candice and Tatum, (and granddaughter Mischa), proving to be as talented as their proud mum.
Together with Esric, her husband of forty-three years, they juggled a fabulous musical career spanning over four decades and bringing up two beautiful daughters who not only blossomed with their good looks, but not surprisingly complemented it with a similar ability in music to their parents.
Her musical journey began with the Pioneers in Sri Lanka where, as a budding talent she announced herself in no uncertain terms. The band which included husband Esric and included legends such as Raj Dissanayake (Band leader) went places in the Sri Lanka music scene until she migrated to Australia. It wasn’t long after that their romance blossomed, and they eventually wed in Australia.
In Australia, Sandra, Grant Smith and Esric formed one of the best bands in Melbourne, ‘Replay 6’. The band was fortunate to have had multiple contracts at some of the leading venues in Melbourne such as the Swagman whereby they supported local and overseas artistes including “The Village People”, “Dr. Hook”, “Smokey”, Gloria Loring, with a 32-piece orchestra, Marcia Hines, Ricky May, Jade Hurley and Kahmal to name a few.
Throughout the band’s illustrious career they had a wide array of talented musicians which included Grant Smith, Jesse Jansz, Arnold Joseph, Gordon Gunn, Chris Mant, Cameron Colombage, David Trower, Lindsay Guillemain, Dallas Achilles, Derek Stewart, Horace Walker, to name a few. The current set up with later members Alex Sonny Boy Cajili , Darrel Jansz, Fernand Poupinel De Valence, Pamela David and Enrico Hipolito have picked up the mantel and plan to carry on with the band for Sandra who was so loved and was an integral part of. There is also the band ‘No Limit’ consisting of Ryan Watts, Angelo Vardon, Ryan Vardon, Jordan Vardon, Whitney Pereira and Cameron Colombege who Sandra adopted a few years ago to complement Esric and her love for country music. There are few outfits around that can perform at the level of this young and very talented setup.
The band she and Esric commandeered for many decades have performed alongside some of the best musicians in the world and. The legends Sandra and Esric have rubbed shoulders with are too numerous to mention during a fabulous team-oriented career in which they complemented each other for nearly 50 years. There are few top venues in Melbourne that they have not performed in.
Esric and Sandra have recorded many CD’s ensuring that their fabulous musical talent lives on. Sandra’s CD, ‘At Last’ dedicated to the memory of her mum Esther, dad Rex and sister Rebecca shows off her wonderful talent encouraged by Esric and recorded by highly professional Stan Azzopardi of Premier sound recording studios. In it she also acknowledges Rob Foenander, Desmond De Silva, Cameron Colombege, Esric and daughters Candice and Tatum for their part in making the CD a massive hit.
If there was a sadness about the timing of her passing, it was leaving this world without seeing her grandkids develop. Her whole world revolved around them and her depression at leaving them as the end neared was ever so obvious. She was a responsible family focused wife and mum and a fiercely loyal friend outside of her musical profession. And a consummate professional at other matters.
Anne and I have shared some wonderful times with Sandra and Esric and although our friendship does not stretch as far as many others, the bond we had and the fun times we enjoyed travelling overseas together will live in our memories forever. Like so many others, we also belonged to that ‘phone conversation club’ Sandra shared with Heather Jordan, Michael and Suzette Prins, Audrey and Brinsley Rosairo, Mazar and Melanie Rauff, Adrian and Monica Jordan, Desmond and Phyllis De Silva, Ruwanal and Philomena and several others making her time management skills better than most outside her numerous other activities.
The tribute to Sandra organized by Esric will see a galaxy of some of the best musicians from here in Australia and some travelling from Sri Lanka who have been an integral part of her musical journey, many voluntarily offering to perform as a mark of respect to one so dear that has left an indelible mark on the music industry. And there are some such as legendary Desmond Kelly who sent his heartfelt condolences and asked to be excused due to his inability to attend because of his current limited physical activity. Des had known Sandra since she was a little girl and in fact knew her family hailing from the cooler climes of Diyatalawa in Sri Lanka.
Among the massive lineup of musician who have volunteered their time for the night to pay tribute to Sandra are Willie Rezel from England, Donald Peiries, Benjy Ranabahu,and Marlon Amarasekera from the band Mirage in Sri Lanka, Dalreen Suby, Shafi from the band Gravity, Melantha Perera from Riversheen School of music in Sri Lanka, Desmond De Silva from Sydney, Malcolm De Kauwe from Perth, and from Melbourne, Chris Mant from Cloud 9, Cameron Colombege from No Limit, Andrea Marr, Rob Foenander, Kerrigan Labrooy, Dallas Achilles, David and Tilarni Senn, Des White, Derrick J, Lozaine Paul, Kelvin and Vanessa Speldewinde, Conrad De Silva, Eddie James, Shehera Rodrigo, Ash and Allison Jayasina, Elmo Wells Jansz, Raj Dassanayake and daughter Tatum.
Tributes from family and friends.
From daughters Candice, and Tatum;
When the time came to say goodbye to mum, we tried to express how much we loved her through lumpy throats and streams of tears. We told her that we thought she was the best mum ever, to which she replied, “I know I am”. In that moment we all giggled, and upon reflection, that in a nutshell was the nature of our relationship- immense love, fierce loyalty and a tad bit of silliness all rolled into just over 30 years.
In the grand scheme of life, being adored by your mother for a little over 30 years may not seem like much. But the sheer fact that we had Mum as our mother means that we were blessed beyond our wildest dreams.
Mum accomplished so many wonderful things in her short 64 years, however, there was never a doubt that we were, by far, her greatest achievement. She always made us feel safe no matter where we were at different times of our lives growing up. She was our rock and taught5 us everything we know from parenting to cooking, to how to tell a good lie so that Dad would not pick up on us being out so late at night.
Having lost a parent herself in her early twenties, Mum always told us that when the time came and she was no longer here, it would be tough, but life goes on. She didn’t however tell us how tough it would be. Not a day goes by where we do not think of her or share stories with her precious grandkids. She lived and breathed her family and that was the only thing that mattered to her. To many of you, she was the rock star on stage but to us she was just a loving mum that would have done anything to still be here with us.
One year has passed and it still feels like she is going to walk back through the door with groceries in her hand or a new outfit to wear on stage, talking about something random. We know that she will never leave us because she promised to watch over us and keep us safe. This is a bittersweet day because it is a day the heavens gained an angel, but also a day where we both lost our best friend. Holding onto her hand as she took her final breath and passed away so peacefully with us by her side, leaves a feeling of comfort in our hearts. Our precious mum left this earth knowing that she was very much loved and will never be forgotten.
A reproduction of most of Sandra’s Eulogy compiled by grandson Damian Jordan;
On behalf of my mother, Heather Jordan, I have the privilege and absolute honour of saying a few words about her best friend and my Godmother, Sandra Jackson. As we are still coming to terms with Sandra’s sudden passing.
At 10 years of age, Sandra arrived at Presbyterian Girls school in Sri Lanka where she instantly formed a special friendship with my mum through their mutual love of Athletics and Netball. This was the beginning of many visits back and forth from each other’s houses and plenty of fun times together, getting up to all sorts of mischief. I’m told that right from a very young age, Sandra had a very special gift as a profound connector of people. This was an innate quality and when I look around now, it couldn’t be more obvious. There are many different co-horts of communities here, whether it be through music or various circles of friends thus showcasing Sandra’s ability to bring people together and her immense popularity.
Sandra migrated to Australia in 1974, one year after mum had arrived to marry Roger Jordan and they continues their close friendship in Australia. Sandra was chosen as a bridesmaid at mum’s wedding and once Esric married Sandra, the four of them were inseparable did absolutely everything together with numerous interstate trips, especially to Sydney. It was common for the four of them on Sandra’a instigation, to act on impulse and suddenly decide to go on a road trip with no planning in advance, such was their carefree nature and zest for life in their younger years.
Once all of us kids were born, both families would continually visit each other’s houses and loved to party together. The Jackson residence became a welcoming and comforting place for all the kids to muck around and share countless memories that will never be forgotten.
Our families would go to every dance, not just to support Sandra, Esric and the entire band, but mainly because we loved to hear her beautiful singing. She was an entertainer and known by all for her Tina Turner voice that put a smile on everyone’s face and for being life of the party. She was also quirky, witty and even wore a fake bum when performing at a dance one night to make her bum look bigger. The fake bum was a very short lived experiment, as, believe it or not , Sandra accidentally dropped it down the toilet. Sher had a great sense of humour and enjoyed a good laugh even sometimes at her own expense.
Sandra was a very caring person and never once missed mum’s birthday, regardless of whether mum was having a party. Sandra would call mum mostly every night for a long chat (even during the footy show much to mum’s dismay), and they would tell each other absolutely everything and talk for hours.
Even over the last couple of days whilst Sandra became extremely ill, she was insistent on knowing how mum was getting home and making sure she was safe, typifying her selflessness and how much she cared for others. Sandra loved talking to mum about Candice and Tatum and then, in the years later, her beautiful grandkids. She was always showing pictures on her phone of her kids and grandkids and was an incredibly proud mother and grandmother that loved nothing more than spending quality time with her family. Her sense of humour, generosity and family-oriented approach to life has left an indelible mark on all of us.
I’d like to finish off by reading directly from what my mumhas written about her best mate:
“You fought hard to keep going for everyone and our only comfort is knowing that you are finally free and surrounded by all our love. I will miss hearing your voice on the other end of the line and our long chats at night. Sandra, it is a great privilege to call you my best friend and I will cherish all our memories and will miss you every single day”.
From Desmond Kelly;
She was someone I knew as a “toddler” in Diyatalawa, living with her mum and dad, Rex Rode, who was a member of the Royal Ceylon Airforce, and a good friend of mine.
Like so many others, Sandra and her family migrated to Australia, and because of work commitments we lost touch until, much later, I heard that Sandra was now involved in “Showbiz and had formed her own band, Replay 6.
Sandra then married Esric Jackson, and not much later, Sandra and Replay 6 became one of the best-known bands in Melbourne.
To Esric and and all the rest of the family, on behalf of eLanka, and the Lanka Times, I send our deepest sympathy.
Goodbye, Sandra Jackson. May the good Lord bless and keep you. All your many friends will miss you, especially “on stage”. Rest in peace now.
From David Trower:
“Music was Sandra’s passion and drove her as an individual, molding her identity. Sandra’s immediate and extended family were her life’s dedication, her pride and her joy.
Her Passion and involvement with music included her family and friends and made her “Complete”. Sandra always loved her clothes and shoes and looking her best. She never lost her smile and gentle loving demeanor – even through the thickest life threw at her.
She never changed or faltered as an individual- she always remained the same caring, empathetic, gentle, softly spoken and lovely person.
In all the 40 plus years I had known Sandra, she never had a bad word to say about anybody.
Sandra was a big part of my life and had always been there for me and my family when times were challenging. We shared so much of our musical journey that included and broadened our circle of friends and fun we had along the way.
Sandra your legacy lives on in all of us. I will never forget you.
Rest in Peace”.
From Beverly De Neise (in New York);
I always thought I would look back on our friendship and laugh, but I never thought I would look back on our friendship and cry- on this first anniversary of your death.
I always thought we would grow old together – I really did, you and me, in our old age, laughing and talking about the good old days growing up in Sri Lanka, but that was not to be. I still remember the little girl who came to school in the 5th grade- with your father, Uncle Rex, who looked so much younger than mine. Yes, I have known you from 5th grade.
As the years passed, we became good friends. For a short while you lived down the same lane as me, and I would visit you and I almost became a daughter to your wonderful parents. Your mum, always so beautiful and stylish too. I was good friends with your uncles and aunties, especially uncle Brian, aunty Anne.
Sport, especially netball, bound us together, where you were the Goal shoot, and I was Goal attack all those years on the school team. Then later, you were the games Captain of Tweed House and me of DE Clerk House and boy they were stiff, yet friendly competition. I still remember those wool Gollywogs we used to make as mascots – yours in Red for Tweed House and mine in pale Blue for De Clerk. I hope you are looking down and smiling as you read this.
Singing also bound us together. I will never forget, “Red river Valley”, “The lightening express”, Swanee river” among the many songs we would sing in harmony during our school breaks surrounded by our classmates. I still remember “Elasto” Radio show finals where we came second, as though it was yesterday.
Then Australia beckoned and you married your Knight in shining armour, Esric, who I called “Aiya”, and I was your bridesmaid. I will always be grateful for your friendship and your generosity- I was at your house every weekend, before and after you married, where your mum used to conjure up amazing breakfasts for us, with a smile-always welcoming me like a daughter. I remember enjoying my 21st birthday party at your house. Those were the good old days.
In Australia- those night Netball tournaments where you were the big organizer were so much fun. And then I left for the USA. You would think that the miles that separated us would sever our friendship, but we never lost touch. In all those 28 years of being apart, we still managed to keep our friendship going, even though telephone calls expensive. There was no free WhatsApp then.
I was always scared to tell you that I liked Love cake and Rich cake at Christmas time, because I would find it on my doorstep the next week.
And just six months before you passed away, you came to New York and we had so much fun, buying makeup at Sephora, shopping and having dinner at Sigiri, and we laughed and laughed, and you promised to come back the following year. Little did I know that when we said goodbye, it would be the last time I would see you. You were gone before I knew it, my dear friend. Kind, gentle, Sandy who never had a bad word for anyone. So sad.
I hope you are running free with the wild horses in Heaven and one day I promise, we will meet and laugh again.
Au revoir my friend.
From Desmond and Phyllis De Silva:
“We consider Esric and Sandy as family. We became very close to them each time we visit Melbourne and enjoyed their warm hospitality. Sandy’s warm smile was ever present the moment we walked in the door. We had a close and silent understanding between each other. We even had a key to the front door… and we still do.
“Sandy’s bubbly and easy nature was quickly demonstrated to me when I was introduced to both Esric and herself 16 years ago at the Airport in Auckland, New Zealand. They were with Des to meet me off a flight and to be introduced”.
We clicked immediately and I will never forget that day! Des went off to practice and Esric, Sandy and I went to check out the shops in the city. Esric had hired a car and off we went with Sandy the Navigator! What a hoot. We had no Google maps back then. Sandy had a map which she spread out wide in the front seat and peered at it as she gave Esric instructions. I sat at the back watching her turn the map right way up then upside down! Never worrying for a moment how distracting it was for the driver. This went on for a couple of hours as we became hopelessly lost. Ever cool Esric managed to keep his cool as we drove in circles with Sandy promising that she had ‘got it right this time’, only to find us passing and repassing the same landscape! We finally decided to flag down a taxi and pay him to lead us back to the hotel!
Since that day Sandy and I bonded and our bond with each other became so close that we considered each other sisters. I had so much joy going shopping with Sandy! We enjoyed our late night chats and we shared many confidences. She knew she could count on me as I always knew I could count on her.
“Sandy was strong and feisty. She was fiercely loyal and protective. Sandy was a true professional. She was a delight to work with…I really enjoyed being on stage with her… her support and sense of fun was always refreshing as she sang with a gifted voice”, says Des.
She was hardworking, loving and had a cheeky sense of humour. She was a winner- she played to win and yet although she bravely fought every step of the way, she lost her final battle.
We have found it difficult to accept her loss. “Our Sandy girl” will always stay close in our hearts”.
From Cameron Colombege;
In 24 years of knowing Sandra and Esric as a member of the band Replay 6 my respect and love for them as friend and family has been unshaken.
Sandra Jackson was undoubtedly a unique talent among Sri Lanka’s wide array of limitless female vocalists and in my experience rated as one of the best I have ever heard. She had a powerful yet well balanced style that stood out from the rest and was much loved in the music industry for her encouraging and giving ways.
My cherished memories of Sandra were her selflessness, particularly when hosting visiting bands from Sri Lanka, always giving up the limelight to them and choosing to remain in the background in a supporting role. Many top bands will testify to this. She had a heart of gold.
To me and my family our friendship with Sandra and Esric did not stop as just band members, we bonded more like a family and Sandra’s warm hospitality quickly springs to mind where after gigs or practices she would whip up a meal or Kiribath and curries to feed the band.
I was privileged to sing duets with her and what bonded us together was the rare trip to Sri Lanka in 2012 where Replay 6 was invited to bring in the New Year at the Galadari Hotel in Colombo by General Manager Sampath Siriwardene alongside resident band Mirage.
I will miss Sandra Jackson, a wonderful loving person, and a true friend who made music a joy to be part of during my time with Replay 6.
From Grant Smith;
Having known Sandra for 40 years was to have to know one of life’s treasures, a truly loving person and one of the kindest ever.
Sandra was always a happy and fun person to be around and without a cross word to be said about anyone. Sandra loved and was truly loved by everyone that knew her.
And as we all know Sandra was an amazing singer who just loved to put on a new outfit to perform and perform, she did with all her heart and soul. What a voice.
We had some amazing fun times working together with Esric, over 20 years of wonderful memories.
And to top it all, a wonderful mother, wife and exceptional cook to boot.
Thanks for the wonderful memories Sandra.
Gone, way, way, way too soon.
Love from Grant.