Pop legend Aloma wins cancer battle in time for TV tribute
Welsh pop legend Aloma James has spoken movingly about how she was in a “dark place” after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
After battling chronic fatigue syndrome or ME for decades, the news earlier this year that she had cancer came as a huge shock to Anglesey-born Aloma, one half of the hugely popular duo, Tony and Aloma.
Thankfully, she has been able to “ring the bell” to mark being all-clear after undergoing radiotherapy.
She received the treatment just before recording a special episode of the S4C entertainment series, Noson Lawen, which will celebrate the pair’s 60 years in showbusiness.
Their popularity soared in the 1960s and 70s when they bewitched Welsh audiences with classic songs like Mae Gen i Gariad (I Have a Love) and Dim Ond Ti a Fi (Only You and Me) and sold more than 100,000 albums.
The duo performed nightly to audiences all over Wales, topping the bill in cabarets, TV shows and concerts – opening stores and singing for the royal family.
They later took over the Gresham Hotel in Blackpool – described by Super Furry Animals star Gruff Rhys as “to Welsh pop music what the Hilton, Las Vegas was to Elvis” – where they carried on performing to their ardent fans.
The Noson Lawen special paying tribute to their huge contribution to the Welsh music scene will be broadcast on S4C on Saturday, January 6, when Kris Hughes will be chatting to them about their long career.
There will also be performances of their best known numbers by some current Welsh singing stars, including Rhys Meirion, Dylan Morris, Ffion Emyr, Aeron Pughe, Catrin Angharad and, Wil Tân, with Aloma’s husband, Roy, accompanying some of the song on the piano.
According to Aloma, she and Tony were grateful to Caernarfon-based TV production company Cwmni Da for making the special programme after she was given the all-clear.
Aloma said: “In the next few months the doctors will continue to monitor me and I’ll have scans and such but thank God, the cancer’s gone.”
She believes her determination to fight the chronic fatigue syndrome, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or ME helped her overcome the latest illness.
“I was diagnosed with ME nearly 30 years ago. It was relatively unknown illness at the time and it took a while to be diagnosed.
“There is not much in the way of treatment for ME but it has had quite an effect on me but in our business the show must go on.
“One example is when we were doing a summer season in Eastbourne with the comedian Tom O’Connor and we had to smile and play and sing but some nights I came off stage and passed out.
“It was the same in the hotel. We had to make sure the guests were happy. I’ve fought it over the years and haven’t let it rule over me and it was the same with the cancer diagnosis.
“I’ve been down and in a very dark place and thinking the worst and then saying to myself ‘come on, it could be worse, and thankfully I received good news. Many people don’t get the all clear and I’ve been lucky,” she said.
Olwen Meredydd, producer of Noson Lawen, said: “Tony and Aloma are giants of the Welsh pop scene who are beloved by generations of fans and the show just underlines how absolutely brilliant they were.
“This programme is a special in the true sense of the word because it’s another opportunity to roll-out their back catalogue of fantastic hits, really memorable songs that make your toes tap or your heart weep.
“At the end of the recording, today’s crop of stars who took part in the show were queuing up to take selfies with Tony and Aloma which speaks volumes of their enduring popularity and legendary status in Wales.”
Aloma added: “We’re grateful for Cwmni Da believing we deserve a programme like this after such a long time.
“At first we didn’t think we could do it. Tony didn’t want to do it because he thinks he’s too old, he’s 84 now.
“I had been diagnosed with cancer and had just had treatment but we couldn’t refuse the offer and I was really glad we did. We had a very special day.”
Noson Lawen is the longest-running light entertainment programme on television in Europe, and videos on its YouTube channel have been viewed 10 million times.
Olwen Meredydd added: “Noson Lawen is one of the most popular Welsh YouTube channels in the world and we kept getting requests for lyrics to the songs. That was the impetus to create the Karaoke channel.
“We hope it will be a resource for young singers to learn songs for concerts, auditions and competitions; an opportunity for Welsh learners to practice through song and an opportunity for everyone to enjoy singing Welsh karaoke at parties, weddings, social evenings, in the pub or even at home in front of the mirror!”
The Noson Lawen special paying tribute to Tony and Aloma will be broadcast on S4C on Saturday, January 6, and the Karaoke channel can be found at www.youtube.com/@NosonLawen
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