"The recent Chinese New Year holiday was a quiet week for me and my wife. Most of our weekend was spent at our family's place. After a small family kendoori, somehow my wife reminded me about the Pop Yeh Yeh concert to be held at Istana Budaya, the national Palace of Culture which has become the pride of our country. She insisted that I try booking for tickets for both of us through the Internet, but after a few attempts, I failed.
Eventually, that Saturday night, we tried our luck by dropping by the Palace's booking counter, just to check if there were still some tickets available for sale. The staff told me that the RM 80 - tickets were sold out, but the rest above that price were still available. I managed to get two tickets worth RM 123 each (which were discounted from the actual RM 160) for the final Sunday show. Before I left, I grabbed a book called Sejarah Muzik Melayu Semenjak 1940an written by Yusnor Ef, the famous lyricist of Malay pop songs from Singapore, in which a CD of old Malay songs from the featured decade was included was included in a sleeve on the last page! I was hoping that Cikgu Yusnor would turn up to sign his autograph the following night.
The big day came when we returned to Istana Budaya, where we met lots of people. Unlike those who brought along their parents (or their grandparents), we were the only young couple in our 30s who came on our own to enjoy the best music of the past! I just hope that with a little bit of investment for our attire to meet the Palace's strict dress code, it would be the best show for us.
After a long wait, the comedian Abon as the host for the show announced, "Here they are - A. Halim and De Fictions!!!". The crowd started to roar with full excitement... then Halim began his renditions of Salam Mesra, followed by Doa Dan Harapan and Kisah Dan Tauladan. Based on his introduction of the members of the band, I learned that most of them were not the original line-up, as my indirect relative Abdul Wahid Haron, being the original drummer, did not turn up.
Next came The Strangers who began their performance by playing a tune of The Shadows, which is to me, very impressive. Their vocalist, A. Rahman Onn, sang Cincin Emas, Peracun Kalbu and Aku Nak Pulang.
Then, J. Sham and The Wanderers took the stage, where I could see both the singer and the band members were very energetic in their performance. The act by Wanderers' bassist Haji Latiff, with his "professor" grey-hair-long-beard look, excited me most with his showy guitar playing gimmics amazed the crowd. Sham made full use of his long breath and strong powerful voice to sing Ku Akan Pulang, Di Pinggir Kali and Suratku Untukmu.
As a first interval, the audience were entertained by dance performance by Istana Budaya's dancers, following the recorded version of the late M. Osman's Suzana.
The Rythmn 60s made their turn to accompany Roziah Latiff (for Aku Kecewa and Cinta Pertama), Fatimah M. Amin (Di Manakah Bahagia and Alam Seni) and A. Roszaini a.k.a. "A. Ramlie's Clone" (Kenangan Mengusik Jiwa, Oh Fatimah and Dendang Anak Tani). I was a little bit disappointed that Roziah forgot the first lines of Aku Kecewa, while Fatimah did not sing her own signature tune Oh Teruna. Nevertheless, the disappointment was relieved when Roszaini managed to get the crowd's attention for his exact resemblance to Ramlie, both in terms of appearance and the voice.
Another interval was held in replacement of Kassim Selamat who could not make it for the show due to poor health, where the Palace's dancers played their role once again to perform La-O-Be. Abon played his tricks again by requesting the audience to sing along this number, which they did willingly!
Before that, Zam Zam and his band The Twillites performed their best hit numbers Bibir Mesra Jiwa Parah, Setahun Tak Jumpa Sesaat Tak Lupa and Senandong Teruna Merantau. Clad in a uniquely-designed black-and-white striped outfit, Zam Zam brought to us his encounter with the famous lyricist (the late) Salamah Basiron, who wrote many Pop Yeh Yeh songs which hit the top charts then, including those assigned to him for recording.
Then came the three singers whose names are regarded as the pioneers of Pop Yeh Yeh. The tarbus-wearing Datuk L. Ramli and his accompanying band Orkes Teruna Ria entertained us with Ayahku Kahwin Lagi, Selengkar Melor, Siapa Bilang Aku Tak Sayang and Dara Pujaan. While performing his last song, a female in the audience (a Muslim-convert Filipino from Singapore) decorated Ramli with a garland. As Ramli was very touched by her high respect, he invited her to be with him till the end of the song. The lovely young girl was so touched by his gentlemanly gestures that she was seen brimming with tears.
After another comedy talk by Abon, then appeared Orkes Nirwana featuring Datuk A. Rahman Hassan, his wife Datin Azizah Muhammad and their son, Khairul Ilmi, the band's Mr. Tambourine Man. Azizah looked very ill till she had to be attended by Ilmi and Abon, but she still remained strong to sing Syurga Idaman and Bahagialah Hendaknya, though she had been advised to perform only one song by her husband before the show as she is in recuperating process. Upon the request by the audience, Rahman and his son Ilmi sang a medley of their hits - Perpaduan Hidup, Semoga Berjaya, Aku Kan Pergi, Harapanku, Bimbang, Hanya Untukmu and Hanya Laguku - before concluding with Tak Mengapa in full, with the audience themselves helping out in the chorus. Meanwhile, he announced a good news that the Johor State Government had agreed to include Pop Yeh Yeh as its musical heritage, from which a proper documentation of this genre will be seriously be carried out for such purpose.
Datuk Jeffridin was indeed the crowd-puller, who concluded the show with Termenung, Kenanganku and Siti Haida, backed by The Siglap Five. It was strategically arranged that he became the last performer so that the crowd remained in the hall till the end.
After a brief closing ceremony led by the Palace's Director-General and his wife, I joined the rest of the crowd to get the autographes from each singer. Except for Fatimah M. Amin and A. Halim, I managed to meet the singers personally to introduce myself and take their autographs.
L. Ramli's signature filled in the most of my book's inner cover. Jeffridin was so impressed knowing that I work at a place where he used to operate a canteen. A. Rahman Onn was happy to know that I used to live at a place very close to his restaurant. Besides being busy taking photographs with his fans, J. Sham was kind enough to give his autograph to me. A. Roszaini continued to impersonate his idol when I met him to get his autograph. Roziah Latiff was delighted to meet my wife, whom since our marriage, has learned to appreciate my favourite music.
"What? How could you trace me so far till my hometown just to hear my voice? Hehehehe!" That was Zam Zam's response when I told him that I used to bump into him in the bathroom of Joo Chiat Complex at Singapore's Geylang Serai.
The response by A. Rahman Hassan and his family touched me the most. As he and my dad used to be our mosque's muezzins, he told me to send his regards to my dad and the rest of my family. Although her health was not that good, Azizah still had her strength to see me, while their son Ilmi greeted me with a sincere smile, knowing that we used to live in the same neighbourhood and learned in the same religious class conducted by our mosque during our childhood days.
Indeed, this is the first time in my life attending a marvellous Pop Yeh Yeh show, after spending 27 years admiring the music and its most skillful, talented performers that the Malay entertainment circuit ever has."
Ghaz, KL - January 24, 2012
(A special thank you to Ghaz for sharing his memories of this wonderful night with us here.... )
And here's another account of the show published in the Straits Times.
Check out some really wonderful PHOTOS from meportal.net