Pillay, who died on Tuesday after a heart attack, was a well-known face in the entertainment industry in the 1950s, when he sang alongside music legends such as Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba and Dorothy Masuka.
Pillay’s niece, Professor Suria Govender, described her uncle as an interesting person.
“He was enigmatic. He was very unusual and very interesting. My uncle was extremely cultured. His father was a violinist and his mother spoke to him in Tamil.
“He developed his love for jazz at an early age and his talent was recognised,” she said.
Govender said Pillay, 87, had the kind of voice that made people forget about everything else happening around them.
“He would often tell us his tutor made him practise on the beachfront and he would sing against the sound of the waves. He had a powerful voice,” she said.
Govender said Pillay’s death was a huge loss to the family.
Friend Robbie Naidoo said he first met Pillay 10 years ago.
“I asked him if he still sang, and he said it had been a while. I arranged a music evening and without much advertising, we filled the venue. It was the greatest performance I had ever seen in my life. I have travelled and seen many shows, but this was remarkable,” Naidoo said.
Naidoo said many residents wouldn’t know of Pillay’s music because the restrictions of apartheid led to Pillay leaving South Africa and living abroad for many years.
Pillay will be cremated tomorrow at Clare Estate Crematorium at 3pm.