Thursday, April 16, 2015

Article "RETRO MANIA" in MANJA magazine - "The leading Malay entertainment and lifestyle magazine in Singapore"

A couple of months ago a reporter for MANJA Magazine in Singapore asked me to reply to a few questions about my research on Pop Yeh Yeh in Malaysia and Singapore in the 1960s --- I was really honored to be included in an article like this.

I hadn't realized until I actually got a copy of the magazine (thanks Hamlau!) that I had been included in an article that also featured original 60an legendary artists like Fatimah M Amin, Sanisah Huri, LIFE records manager Osman Ariffin.   This 5-6 page article has tons of cool history about the era... so honored to be included!! 
The cover says ""'Mat Salih' Bawa Pop Yeh Yeh Ke As!" - which I think translates to 'westerner, caucasian who loves pop Yeh yeh and brings it to America"      

So cool!!  Thanks to everyone at MANJA

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Guest Blogger Ghaz writes:

Before the mid-1960s, Malay songs were mostly accompanied by large orchestras or at least by a quintet. The orchestras were usually led by composers of the said songs or employed by film studios and recording companies. Until the later part of 1965, music from the western part of the globe such as rock-n-roll, mumbo, samba, rhumba, cha-cha, twist and the doo-wop were the most dominant genre that inspired local composers to write songs backed up by those kinds of music.
The craze towards a-go-go began when the Pop Yeh Yeh phenomenon hit the Malay-speaking music listeners in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei. It was observed that this phenomenon was found to be influenced by the UK-origin bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the midst of the British Invasion on western music those days. The way the a-go-go dance was performed was made visible through the airing of US and British entertainment TV shows such as Hullabaloo, Hollywood A-Go-Go, Top of the Pops and Shindig! by local TV stations.
On the other hand, a-go-go music did not have much influence on Indonesian music following restrictions imposed by the Sukarno’s administration on the republic’s entertainment industry. Nevertheless, there were some exceptions to this when some singers and musicians from there did their performances and recording works in Singapore and Malaysia and being exposed to such kind of music.

The opening and closing credit of “Hollywood A-Go-Go”
The a-go-go music was well accepted by the Malay youngsters. Between 1966 and 1968, many Malay films in both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur would include some singers and local bands to perform songs from this genre in order to attract movie-goers of that age. As television transmission had begun to pose a threat for the film industry, this approach was found to be a strategy to bring back the dwindling size of the movie market then.
In the beginning, the were some initial drawbacks as musicians, singers and dancers tend to jumble up, where they produced some mixtures of genres (particularly with twist and other music) as can be seen in the following film footages:
Ahmad Daud & The Swallows – “Si Manis Tujoh Belas” (Sweet Seventeen) from the film “Sayang Si Buta” (Love of The Blind) (1965)
Aziz Jaafar & MFP Orchestra – “Senyuman-mu” (Your Smile) from the film “Dahaga” (Thirst for Love) (1966)
Among the gradual shift towards the adoption of a-go-go music in Malay songs could be observed in some of the Malay films produced from 1966 to 1968 as presented below.
Rafeah Buang & Dendang Perindu Orchestra –“Aksi Kuching” (The Cat’s Act) from the film of the same title (1966)
Jeffridin & The Siglap Five –“ Jangan Merayu” (Don’t Beg Me) –from the film “Aksi Kuching” (The Cat’s Act) (1966)
Norma Zainal & Les Kafilas – “Playboy” – from the film “Kacha Permata” (Glass Diamond) (1966)
The most successful attempt to make a-go-go a legendary beat in Malay music was carried out by Shaw Brothers through their film A-Go-Go ’67 directed by Omar Rojik in 1967, in which many Pop Yeh Yeh artists and bands being featured, and of course a-go-go became the main theme preferred, although there exist some moral elements in the story line.
Sanisah Huri & The Trewellos – “Siapa Gerangan” (Who’s There?) from the film A-Go-Go ’67 (1967)
A.  Nadar & The Zaraks – “Kenanganku” (My Memories) from the film A-Go-Go ’67 (1967)
M. Ishak & The Young Lovers – “Menari A-Go-Go” (Dance A-Go-Go) from the film A-Go-Go ’67 (1967)
In the meantime, the Shaw’s rival in the same base, Cathay Keris, also did not want to be left behind in the competition. The film giant also featured other a-go-go singers and musicians in their films, among them include the following:
A.Rhymie & The Rythmn Boys – “Ikatan Janji” (The Pledge Committed) from the film “Dosa Wanita” (A Woman’s Sin) (1967)

S. Salihin & The Pretenders – “Balasan Budimu” (In Return to Your Good Deeds) from the film “Dosa Wanita” (A Woman’s Sin) (1967)
Unfortunately, such development had put film-and-music legend like P. Ramlee to his most unhappiness and disappointment. He lamented that Pop Yeh Yeh and the a-go-go beat was very wild to be emulated by Malay youngsters to a certain extent where it was indeed a rude shock to the conservative Malay community who are well-known for their good manners.
However, as it has been observed, the taste of the crowd ruled the show, and Ramlee had no choice but to include the a-go-go theme in films under his direction during the said years, in order to maintain his relevance to the entertainment circuit.
Saloma – “Pesta Muda Mudi” (A Youngsters’ Party) from the film Nasib Do Re Mi (The Fate of Do Re Mi) (1966)
Saloma – “Hati Muda” (The Young Heart) from the film Nasib Do Re Mi (The Fate of Do Re Mi) (1966)
Saloma – “Bulan Bintang Jadi Saksi” (The Moon and Stars as The Witnesses) from the film “Sesudah Suboh” (After Dawn) (1967)
P. Ramlee – “Terbang Burung Terbang” (Fly, Bird … Fly!) from the film “Anak Bapak” (Papa’s Pet) (1968)

One of P. Ramlee’s EP where a-go-go beat songs were featured. Ramlee recorded the songs with the accompaniment of The Veterans, a band that that he formed specially for such purpose.
In 1968, the Studio Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur had issued another famous film which featured the a-go-go music to the Malay audience.
Annuar Idris & The Hunters – “Mencari Pasangan” (Searching For A Partner) from the film “Lain Jalan Ka-Shorga” (Another Path To Heaven) (1968)
Saloma & The Hunters – “Musim A-Go-Go”(A-Go-Go Season) from the film “Lain Jalan Ka-Shorga” (Another Path To Heaven) (1968)
The soundtrack EP of the film “Lain Jalan Ka-Shorga” (Another Path To Heaven) (1968) jointly issued by EMI Singapore and Studio Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur
The a-go-go craze was , however, short-lived. Shortly after the the May 13 racial riot in Kuala Lumpur in 1969 [[a tragedy that many Malaysians refer to as a turning point of the era]]the Malay music witnessed another change - an emergence of cover versions adapted from the current English, Hindi, Japanese and Chinese songs, with lyrics completely in Malay.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pop Yeh Yeh in Eastern Malaysia

Today, I am happy to share some very interesting information (beginning below the map image) sent to us by our favorite guest blogger, Ghaz, about a question that has always interested me... What about Eastern Malaysa? weren't there bands from other parts of Malaysia besides Western Penninsular Malaysia?

Before sharing Ghaz's essay, I'll start by saying that the answer, of course, is YES.... Pop Yeh Yeh and the 60s kugiran style spread throughout Malaysia - including the eastern areas of Brunei, Sarawak, and Sabah.  The history of these areas is complex and I need to do more research to put any of that story together, but currently, the following information is apparently true (according to Wikipedia): 

 Brunei is actually a sovereign state, but 66% of its population is made up of Malays : "In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate and was assigned a British resident as colonial manager in 1906. After the Japanese occupation during World War II, in 1959 a new constitution was written. In 1962, a small armed rebellion against the monarchy was ended with the help of the British. Brunei gained its independence from the United Kingdom on 1 January 1984." .... "Brunei's small, wealthy economy is a mixture of foreign and domestic entrepreneurship, government regulation, welfare measures, and village tradition. Crude oil and natural gas production account for about 90% of its GDP. About 167,000 barrels (26,600 m3) of oil are produced every day, making Brunei the fourth-largest producer of oil in Southeast Asia. It also produces approximately 25.3 million cubic metres (890×106 cu ft) of liquified natural gas per day, making Brunei the ninth-largest exporter of the substance in the world" (from Wikipedia).

 Sarawak is situated on the northwest of the island, bordering the state of Sabah to the northeast, Indonesia to the south, and surrounding the independant state of Brunei. (from Wikipedia).

Sabah is Malaysia's easternmost state, one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo. It is located on the northern portion of the island of Borneo and known as the second largest state in the country after Sarawak, which it borders on its southwest. It shares a maritime border with the Federal Territory of Labuan on the west and with the Philippines to the north and northeast. (from Wikipedia).

Here's a map for clarification.

The following Essay was sent by Ghaz.  I always appreciate his talent and skill in clarifying the complex musical history of this era:


Another Malay territory which also had quite a handful of popular Pop Yeh Yeh singers in the 1960s is the kingdom of Brunei Darussalam.

Although small in number, the artists and their songs were also made popular in Singapore and Malaysia. They came to the republic to do their recordings with the accompaniment from musicians who already signed their contracts under the existing recording labels, while some of them brought along Bruneian musicians to record with them in Singapore.

Due to the increasing popularity of the Bruneian artists during the said decade, a band of Brunei-origin called Kugiran Irama Perindu Brunei was given the opportunity to record on Olympic, accompanying various artists from their country, way back in 1967.


In a separate development, there was a also a Bruneian singer named Hussein Haji Tuah who recorded with D’Acrobats from Johor Bahru, also on Olympic Records. The outcome was indeed satisfying. 


The late singer Rafeah Buang, in her memoirs written in the Malaysian entertainment magazine called Utusan Radio & TV (URTV), recalled on how she and a few other Pop Yeh Yeh singers were invited to perform in the kingdom in 1968. Among the artists included in the delegation besides her was A. Ramlie, Ahmad Jais and a Singaporean band called The Sandblues. After end of the show, one of the Sandblues’ members did not return to Singapore as he decided to reside in Brunei after falling in love to a girl there, whom he eventually married! 

The Sandblues, who had used to record with Hussein Ismail, A. Hozaini (both under Olympic) and Don Aimin (on Ngee Fat-Playboy) in Singapore, began to accompany Bruneian singers such as Dayangku Aminah, Awangku (now Pengiran) Tajuddin, Awangku Emran, Noorsiah A. Hamid and M.Y. Muhammad. Dayangku Aminah then recorded with a splinter band of the Sandblues called The Sandpipers in the early 1970s, besides a Bruneian band called The Heavy Machine. Meanwhile, M.Y. Muhammad also recorded with The Brothers 5, a band from his own country.


In 1968, another Bruneian singer named A.B. Shaari and and his band, Seroja, were signed under Philips, one of the large international labels in Singapore to record an EP. His popular song, Tanda Mata Dari Kasehku (A Gift From My Lover) was composed by his father, Awang Besar Sagap, a popular orchestra leader in Brunei in 1960s. This was regarded as a success as Bruneian singers had begun to gain trust from an international recording company.

Regarding Sarawak, Ghaz also adds ... 

For the time being, I forward to you this image on one of the Sarawakian Pop Yeh Yeh band called the Skeletons with a singer named Hassansani. in this EP, they recorded two Iban songs, one of which is the cover version of Del Shannon's "Runaway."

Another singer that The Skeleton covered also under Philips was H.M. Ahmad, who also hailed from Sarawak. before that, Hussein Ismail also used to perform with The Skeletons, but they had never done any recording work together.

  ( Thanks to Ghaz for his research efforts above.... this not only solves some mysteries for me personally, but also inspires me to go through my collection and find other groups from this area.....  I will try to post some more album covers from my own collection here eventually - and I will also try to find more information about groups from Sabah and Sarawak as well as more info about bands from Brunei  ... i'm also really glad Ghaz opened this topic because it makes me realize there's much more research to be done!   )  

Friday, December 26, 2014

Congrats to Dato' A Rahman Hassan and Datin Fadhilah Mansor

Photo from

Articles from translated by guest blogger Ghaz! 

Monday, October 20, 2014


Being blind is indeed hard. In older days, a blind person was perceived by his own family and community as a fully handicapped individual with limited capabilities to survive on his own, and therefore, could not go far. The disadvantage of being blind was reflected in many of Malay films during its golden era in late 1940s up 1960s. 
Among them include those acted or directed by P. Ramlee, which include Juwita (1951), Miskin [Poverty] (1952), Ibu [Mother] (1953), Siapa Salah [Who Is Wrong] (1953), Ibu Mertuaku [My Mother-In-Law] (1962) and the last film of that kind produced by Shaw Brothers called Sayang Si Buta [Love of the Blind] (1965). Not to forgotten, the Indonesian film which featured a story of a blind girl searching for true love called Akhir Sebuah Impian (The End of a Dream) [1973] which contains hit songs sung by Broery Marantika, Emilia Contessa and the Favourite’s Group.

However, such perception was proven wrong when quite a number of blind singers and musicians in both Malaysia and Singapore who managed to record their songs which became top hits in the radio charts in the 1960s up to the early 1970s, and a few of them in 1980s. While enjoying songs by American’s remarkable and talented blind singers of the 1960s like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Jose Feliciano and the like, I will never forget our own talented blind vocalists back in my country and its neighbouring territories.

S. Jibeng (1942 – 2006)
Born Jaafar Sidek in the city of Medan in Indonesian Sumatera island to a family of five children, S. Jibeng lost his eyesight at the age of two after an injury.  After he turned five, Jibeng was then brought to Singapore by his family and was raised in the colony until he reached adulthood. In late 1966, Jibeng secured a recording contract with Suria Records where he and another lady singer, S. Latifah shared the same EP recording with a band called Sri Arjuna. His debut number, Musafir Di Aidilfitri (A Traveller in Aidilfitri) became an instant hit and was regarded as one of the festival theme until today. Another song from the same EP was Terimalah Laguku (Please Accept My Song). Due to this success, Jibeng recorded his first full EP of four songs with the same band, and from it, Selamat Tinggal Pujaan (Goodbye My Love) became his second hit.

S. Jibeng & Sri Arjuna – Musafir Di Aidilfitri
S. Jibeng & Sri Arjuna – Terimalah Laguku

S. Jibeng & Sri Arjuna – Selamat Tinggal Pujaan
Jibeng's singing talent, despite his complete blindness, was brought to the attention of film-maker Shaw Brothers in 1967, from which he was invited to be a special guest star in its film A-Go-Go 67. The song Nasib Si Buta (A Blind Man’s Fate), jointly composed by Kassim Masdor and Yusoff B. and companied by the former's Dendang Perindu Orchestra, became another hit both in the film and on its soundtrack SP. The song earned Jibeng a VIP treatment by the then Malaysian Education Minister, Tan Sri Khir Johari, who requested him to perform it once again at the end of a concert in Kuala Lumpur in the same year. 

S. Jibeng & Dendang Perindu Orchestra – Nasib Si Buta (from the film A-Go-Go ‘67)
Between 1968 and 1970, Jibeng had another contract with Times Record to record songs for the company's Olympic album. This time, he teamed up with The Mountaineers, from which a few more hits were issued, including Inai Di Jari (Henna Leaves on Your Finger) and Cik Ainon Janda Muda (Cik Ainon The Young Widow) . After the end of pop-yeh-yeh craze, his popularity began to fade.

S. Jibeng & The Mountaineers – Inai Di Jari
S. Jibeng – Cik Ainon Janda Muda
The revival of pop-yeh-yeh in 1985 was a good chance for Jibeng to regain his popularity. As a result, his songs Inai Di Jari, and Selamat Tinggal Pujaan was re-recorded by Life Records. In 1986, Jibeng recorded a full LP of new songs under the title Di Manakah Cahaya.

Since the Pop Yeh Yeh revival, Jibeng's popularity had never ceased to grow and he continued to perform on-stage with his fellow pop-yeh-yeh colleagues. He was also co-opted as a resident artist at Juwita Lounge in Johor Bahru for a while.
His very last recording was with Malaysia's nasheed group Raihan where they grouped together to re-record the song Taqwa Dan Iman (Taqwa and Faith), which was earlier recorded by Ahmad Jais. 

S. Jibeng & Raihan – Taqwa Dan Iman
Jibeng died in 2006 at 64 after a series of diabetic complications upon his return from a show in Batu Pahat.
Throughout his life as a singer, he had never made a fortune. In his dilapidated house in Johor Bahru's Dewata slum, he raised his own children with his wife who was coincidently one of his fans.
Regarding his hardship, a printed mainstream media concluded that only Jibeng is the rightful person to perform his signature tune Musafir Di Aidilfitri, as it reflects his real life situation, both as a handicapped and a hardcore poor individual.
Jibeng had once requested a magazine reporter: "Please write in your magazine that 'S. Jibeng Is In Dire Need'."

The Braille Boys featuring A. Kadir Jailani
Despite being blind, all members of The Braille Boys, including their leading vocalist, A. Kadir Jailani, are very talented musicians. Due to this fact, they were invited to accompany M. Osman in one of his recordings, among which include Mencari Sinar Bahagia (Searching for the Light of Happiness) and Mini Skirt.
M.Osman & The Braille Boys – Menjelang Hari Bahagia
M. Osman & The Braille Boys – Mini Skirt
After the success of this record, The Braille Boys were given the opportunity to record their own songs. One of its members, Jihi Anak Merjin, a Sarawakian Iban who received his education at Queen Elizabeth School for the Blind in Johor Bahru, acted as the composer and wrote the lyrics. One of their hits, Desiran Ombak, is in fact, a Malay cover version of an Iban popular song.
The Braille Boys featuring A. Kadir Jailani – Desiran Ombak
The Braille Boys featuring A. Kadir Jailani – Debaran
The Braille Boys featuring A. Kadir Jailani – Rintihan Sukma
I love their song called Dia Ku Rindu (She’s The One I Miss), which has been aired by Radio Klasik many times on its daily programme Masihkah Kau Ingat (Do You Still Remember).
The Braille Boys featuring A. Kadir Jailani – Dia Ku Rindu
(Note: The young A. Kadir Jailani is the second from left in the photo on the record sleeve.)
There has been no news about the rest of The Braille Boys, but A. Kadir Jailani is still active and performing in various functions, mostly in wedding feasts.
A.Kadir Jailani performing at a wedding party in 2010 with D’Aromas
M. Rashid Noor
I believe he was the only male blind singer being accompanied by Orkes Zindegi, and recorded only one EP. His one hit wonder was Taqdir Tuhan (God’s Plans), which was recorded together with other three songs which Rashid himself composed and wrote, issued by Great Union Organisation (GUO). Taqdir Tuhan was then re-recorded by S. Jibeng in 1985 on Life Records.


(The sleeve reads: “The Blind Star, M. Rashid Noor”.)

M. Rashid Noor (featuring Suhaime Roa) – Taqdir Tuhan

Alfred Ho
Alfred Ho’s talent was discovered from his participation in RTM’s Bakat TV contest in the early 1970s where he managed to qualify up to the semi-finals, before being given the opportunity to a series of shows on the Malaysian now-defunct private radio station called Rediffusion.  The show was called The Take 5 Show. Then, he was given the opportunity to record on small local labels, including Malaysian Musical Industries (MMI). Being non-Malay, Alfred is more inclined to record in English, and he used to record his own compositions of English songs - Train To Tennessee, Lillian, Wendy's Song and Love Is Strangeand current popular English hits those days.
Photos of Alfred Ho’s EPs
Alfred Ho – Wendy’s Song

Suhaime Roa
Suhaime Roa was a blind Malay composer and songwriter. He was featured in an album joinly recorded with A. Romzi in the 1980s, a Pop Yeh Yeh singer who recorded many songs in the previous two decades.

The songs from Suhaime Roa in solo and duets could be listened from the following URL:

(Photos and songs courtesy of Muzik Nusantara.)

The blind individuals share something in common with their normal human kind – their interest in a universal language called music. Though living in darkness, they have a light in their heart that many people hardly have. As such, these unique creatures of God deserve a right of respect and acknowledgement by their communities surrounding them.
In this case, my advice to my fellow human being on earth is very simple. Regardless of how ugly or deformed your appearance could be, or how imperfect you are in the eyes of other people, just accept yourselves for what you are, as beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.
Ghaz, KL