Monday, June 2, 2014

Guest Blogger Ghaz writes about the birth of Malaysian and Singaporean TELEVISION

In the blog post below,  "menarigogo" readers' favorite Guest Blogger "Ghaz" shares some incredible facts and history with us about TV and RADIO in Malaysian and Singapore:

"Dear Carl,

Before I begin, congratulations for the release of your Pop Yeh Yeh compilation album. Hopefully, it sells well in your country and the territories where it is distributed.

While writing this "e-essay", I'm listening to one of the 6 CDs containing songs by A. Ramlie, recorded between 1966 and 1978 with many bands and orchestras throughout the decades. There are altogether 108 songs, including his duets with his ex-wife Maria Bachok and Sanisah Huri. I'm lucky to buy it as the CD store only has this copy for sale.

In February 1963, Singapore (as a self-governed British Colony then) launched its own TV broadcast. At that time, a television set used to be a luxury item to an average household, and very few families owned it. Those who lived in Johor and Malacca were very lucky to be among the earliest group of Malayans (provinces under the Malay peninsular) to enjoy watching TV then, as the transmission could reach up to these provinces. For the rest in the country, they could only enjoy the entertainment (songs/music, dramas and news) from the faithful Radio Malaya.

After the formation of Malaysia (with Singapore as one of its provinces) in September the same year, the TV broadcast was extended nationwide. This time, music lovers would not only listen to their favourite artistes singing but could also see them performing live on their TV screens.

In Singapore television alone, there were lots of entertainment programmes featuring local talents. Ahmad Jais was the first Malay singer to appear on TV, through a programme called Dondang Sayang and became the programes's resident artist between 1963 and 1971. Others on the lists include Dendang Ria and Kalong Senandong, both produced in 1963. The TV Singapura also had a programme of similar concept to the BBC's Top Of The Pops, which was named Pop Inn. The theme of the programme, which originally titled "Watch Your Step", was later recorded by The Quests in their second SP with a new title called "Pop Inn Theme" in 1965. Another pop show which was popular those days was Istana Pesta (The Palace of Fiesta), the one used to be co-hosted by Rafeah Buang and M. Bakri in 1968.

A 1967 EP sleeve showing M. Bakri singing live on the TV programme "Istana Pesta"

(above photo courtesy of

Besides these programmes, TV Singapura also published a talentime contest called "Juara Bintang RTS". One of the prominent champion was Datuk Sharifah Aini, who then managed to secure a recording contract in 1970, after winning the contest a year earlier.

I have to stop now as I have to go to sleep. I'll continue in my next "e-essay". Meanwhile, I leave you here with some TV clips of the 1960s and 1970s from both RTS and TV Malaysia, including Saloma's final TV appearance in Singapore for your viewing pleasure.


Here's an excellent clip about Radio Singapura 

Diary of a Nation - TV Singapura (1963 - 1988)

A 1968 TV Singapura newsreel on The Tidbits

Comedians Ya Fong and Wang Sa on a 1975 programme in TV Singapura (10th National Day Celebration)

Rita Chao singing "Butterfly" in Mandarin for TV Singapura in 1973

P. Ramlee in an RTM drama called "Intan" (Diamond) produced in 1970

RTM Bakat TV 1972 contest with P. Ramlee as one of the judges

Saloma's final appearance on TV Singapura in 1981 before her death two years later

50th Anniversary Celebration of TV Malaysia (1963 - 2013)

Champions of "Bintang RTM" (1976 - 1983)

The funeral service for P. Ramlee following his death on 29 May 1973


After the end of the golden days of the Malay film industry in Singapore in 1973, many of the talents - technicians, musicians, songwriters and even the actors and actresses from the film studios themselves were given numerous chances to appear on TV stations in both sides of the Causeway, or at least to contribute their expertise to the TV shows and dramas according to their respective areas.

In TV Singapura (later on renamed as RTS), singers were taken into many entertainment shows like Istana Pesta, Pestarama, & Hiboran Minggu Ini, while actors and actresses drama slots like Sandiwara. For example, Ahmad Jaafar, who used to lead the orchestra for the making of film soundtracks, became the head of RTS Orchestra until his retirement in 1982. Some of the Cathay Keris stars also took part in the making of a TV series called Keluarga Pak Awang (Pak Awang's Family). 

Here's the opening to the TV program called Kalong Senandong.  

Meanwhile, the Malaysian boradcasting agency (RTM) also did the same approach. For instance, Ahmad Daud, one of the leading actors in Shaw Brothers' Malay Film Production studio, was given the opportunity to host his own The Ahmad Daud Show. Using his talent as both an actor and singer, plus his experience as a part-time radio DJ and his superb English proficiency, the show went very well in the mid-1970s. The TV Malaysia also used to have its own drama slots, where mix of senior and new talents acted together in dramas under the slot Potret Budipekerti (The Portrait of Good Deeds) which was later renamed Drama Minggu Ini (This Week's Drama). in 1985, in line with the Malaysian Government's privatization policy, the slot Drama Minggu Ini was later given to private production houses to get their dramas or short TV films being aired on the only government channels, thus leading to the opening of a new slot called Drama Swasta (Private/Independent Drama) and further diversification of the country's entertainment industry.

Another element of TV broadcast which I enjoyed up to this day was the screening of popular American series. When I was a little kid, I had always enjoyed watching cartoons like The Flinstones, Road Runner, Tom & Jerry and Walt Disney characters, although these were aired only in black-and-white (before 1978, the beginning of colour transmission; Singapore had that in 1974). 

Not only that, drama series like Charlie's Angels were very popular -- and Farah Fawcett's hairdo became the in-thing among Malaysian ladies ...

 (Farah Fawcett is the one in the red shirt  ^ )

Other programs included Combat (many of the children in my neighbourhood would emulate the scenes, with their toy machine guns and the army cap, like those used by Vic Morrow and Rick Jason!) Man Of Atlantis (from which many of the rich families' children suddenly wanted to enroll into swimming classes ...), Little House Of The Prairie (particularly that pretty smile of Melissa Gilbert acting as Laura that I admired most ....!), Hawaii-Five-O (I love the music anthem by Mort Stevens), Daktari (I remember the naughty chimp and the cross-eyed lion), The Time Tunnel, The Fugitive (a very popular series in 1960s, in both black-n-white and colur versions), Starsky & Hutch (where many coupe owners in Malaysia started painting their cars red with white stripes!), CHIPs (Eric Estrada's police motorbike were admired so much by Malaysian police force ...) and Fantasy Island (the short character shouting "The Plane! The Plane!") became a hit and had an impact to TV viewers in my country back then. Not to be forgotten, that popular Donny & Marie Show, featuring performance by the duo and the rest of The Osmonds.

I remember so well my family's first black-n-white 1973 Hitachi transistor TV which is very small in size. 

Among the basic features include the thin but tall aerial and the channel knob which was too tight for our little tender hands to turn each time we wish to switch the channels. Nevertheless, we were happy enough to have it in our home as a complement to our Toshiba turntable, where we listened to the radio programmes which were broadcasted via AM transmission. (The Malaysian radio broadcast began to be aired fully in FM Stereo in 1992.) In 1982, my Dad eventually bought us a National Quintrix colour TV out of his sympathy towards us who were left behind from the rest of the children in the neighbourhood who enjoyed watching cartoons in full colour.

Until 1984, the TV transmission by RTM began at 5.00 p.m (on weekdays) and two hours earlier on Thursdays to Sundays. This explained why I turned to records as my source of entertainment each time I returned home from school. There was an special TV broadcast by our then "TV Pendidikan" (Educational TV), but I seldom watch it as the programmes were repeated too frequently, and so boring, too .... hehehehehe!

After my admission into a boarding school in 1987, my interest towards TV began to fade, as the school hostel only allowed us to watch TV on weekends for very limited hours. However, after getting married eight years ago, my interest towards watching TV has finally come back into picture, thanks to the influence from my wife - an ardent TV fan, and a consistent follower of Gossip Girl, NCIS and Desperate Housewives!

Ghaz, KL"

Many Thanks to Ghaz (photo above) for sharing this fascinating info with readers here!  

Here are a couple more very interesting articles about TV in Singapore:



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