THE A-GO-GO CRAZE IN MALAY MUSIC IN THE 1960s
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.