Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Legendary singer Datin Orchid Abdullah passed away on May 13 2011

It has been more than a week since Datin Orchid Abdullah passed away. By now the news of her passing has spread all over the world, not just within the Malay community, but also to thousands of others around the world who knew of her wonderful music. The newspapers in Malaysia had published many articles about her in the few months leading up to her death, and I had recently read that she was suffering from cancer caused by a hormone deficiency. But I had no idea that the illness would take her so quickly. It was quite a shock for me to hear this, first of all, because she looked so healthy when I met her last year. And also, because here in the US, we dont really get the news about the classic Malay Pop artists so quickly. Nevertheless, a few friends in Malaysia wrote to tell me the sad news on the very same day they heard it. Apparently her husband also passed away just 4 days later, which proves that they were truly inseparable.

For her adoring fans, it must be very difficult to believe that this legendary singer and iconic cultural ambassador is really gone.
To her family and close friends, especially her fellow musicians from the 60s era , I wish to express my sincere condolences. I know they all kept in touch over the years and remained close and loyal friends who were there with her, supporting her during her struggle with illness, up through her last days.

In my brief meeting with her at Dato' A Rahman Hassan's house last July, It struck me immediately that she was a very kind person - a genuine, honest, caring person as well. She had been a music teacher for many years. While she was ill, I saw dozens and dozens of posts on her Facebook page from her students praying for her recovery and wishing her to get well so she could come back and teach. It's obvious that her students cared about her alot. I know her fans did too, and her music will surely be something that will continue to be cherished for years to come. I bet Klassic National (the KL radio station) has been doing some incredible tributes to her also.

I really consider myself so lucky to have met her and to have had the chance to interview her. It will be great to be able to finally share this interview once the documentary is complete.

Here's some additional information from my good friend Ghaz in KL.

""Ikatan Janji" was the only song by Orchid and M. Fadzil in the filem "A-Go-Go 67". My favourite Orchid's hits beside those usually mentioned are "Chari-Lah Ganti" (Find Another) and "Penawar Rindu". Unlike other of hers, "Penawar Rindu" is a ghazal song, recorded in 1970.

Ghazal is a traditional music from Johor, the southernmost peninsular Malaysian province neighbouring Singapore. There are lots of ghazal party group in the province, particularly in Muar district. Ghazal is usually played on Malay weddings in Johor or at any place where the hosts are the Johoreans.

Orchid has always been easily recognized for her Caucasian look, and her natural beauty had made her gaining lots of secret admirers. In the past, audience had mistakenly thought that she is an English woman who could sing and speak Malay fluently. There was also even a hearsay that Orchid was an English baby girl adopted by a Malay family during the World War II in then Malaya during Japanese Occupation when her parents went missing! Eventually, when reporting on her death recently, the dailies revealed that she was born from an English-Arabic parentage.

According to the newspaper reports, her talent was spotted when she sang for the first time on our national Children's Day celebration in 1965. Since then, she never looked back after she managed to secure a recording contract with EMI Singapore in 1966 with accompaniments by Les Coasters. Among the earliest records was an EP of two songs. She continued her stint with EMI until 1970 after whcih, she went ahead recording under independent labels. However, she was more inclined towards Malay asli songs, including ghazal.... She was a schoolteacher and a wife of a businessman holding the Dato' title, which is highly respected among the Malay community.

There are many articles online about her passing, mostly in Malay. Here's a good one in english. Some blogs have even published photos of her in her last days while in the hospital, and one of her funeral also. As for me, I dont want to post these here, the photos are all over the web.. it's not necessary. I prefer to cherish the memory i have of her during the interview I did with her last summer.. smiling and laughing as she recalled her days as a great Pop Yeh Yeh singer.

Rest in peace Datin Orchid Abdullah