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)  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’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 Strange – and current popular English hits those days.
Photos of Alfred Ho’s EPs
Alfred Ho – Wendy’s Song
Suhaime RoaSuhaime 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.