Friday, July 30, 2010

going back home

I feel so much love and respect for all the wonderful people I met over these past three weeks in Malaysia and Singapore. They gave me so much help and encouragement, offered me so many opportunities to learn. I am now back in the US, with countless memories, and so much good information to share about this wonderful era in Malaysian and Singapore music.. (as well as an immense respect for what I saw of Malaysian and Singaporean culture in the present day) I feel grateful and humbled by this experience. I hope to create something positive and meaningful from this trip and all the inspiration I have brought back with me.

Also, many thanks to BoingBoing and Kickstarter and all the people who supported my project from the beginning. This trip wouldn't have been possible without their help.

Meeting Kassim Selamat of the Swallows (4 hours before I had to board my plane back home)

Encik Kassim Selamat (Rahmat) looking at a photo from a wedding years ago that Zam Zam brought with him that evening --(i think it actually brought him to tears when he saw this photo - thinking of people he hadn't seen in such a long time... at this moment Zam Zam explained to me that "so many of these people are no longer just makes you sad sometimes")

the photo Zam Zam brought along with him that evening - several Pop Yeh Yeh artist were in this photo -- Zam Zam is top Left

thanks again to Cikgu Yusnor Ef and Encik Zam Zam for helping arrange this meeting with the legendary Kassim Selamat. It was great to see Encik Yusnor Ef and Zam Zam again, and really inspiring to meet yet another one of my all time favorite Pop Yeh Yeh artists -- Kassim Selamat. Actually, my friend Yuana drove Encik Yusnor Ef and Encik Kassim Selamat back home that evening, and we listened to the Swallows greatest hits CD the whole way back. I sat in the back seat next to him and he sang every song..he even elbowed me a few times in the ribs during the freak out guitar solos. This is where I got a little teary eyed.. a memory that I will never forget.... I hope to go back again to spend more time with Encik Kassim Selamat (Rahmat is his real last name -- Selamat is his stage name - taken from a P Ramlee film character) and Cikgu Yusnor Ef.

UPDATE -- Here's a new website that my friend is constructing right now dedicated to The Swallows!

He's also working on a film about them!

CD and DVD Store (Muzika Rekod) in Malay Village area of Singapore (near Geilang)

Malay Filem

Zaleha Hamid, Sheila Majid

A Ramlie, Maria Bachok, Anneke Gronloe

a mix of old and new

J Kamisah - "Irama Go Go" ! Ahmad Jais!

last day in Singapore

Masjid Sultan Mosque (more info here)

ahh.. Durian...


(ate a bunch of these on my last day.. I absolutely love the bitter-sweet taste of mangosteen, a fitting flavor for the day of my departure... unfortunately i probably wont be tasting this native fruit again for a long time..)

Getting lost in Singapore (on purpose)

the Singapore Flyer - world's largest Ferris Wheel - in Marina Centre Singapore

the Singapore Flyer - world's largest Ferris Wheel - in Marina Centre Singapore

Singapore Skyline at Sunset from Marina Centre area

Marina Bay Sands Casino

rehearsal for upcoming Singapore National Day Parade, (August 9)

but the funny thing is... it's pretty difficult to get "lost" in Singapore for very long since everything is basically 45 minutes away from everything else.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Visiting Joe Pereira at home

I met Mr. Joseph Pereira again in Pasir Ris at his home on one of my last days in Singapore. We had a great time "talking music" and looking through his huge collection of rare records and photos. Mr Pereira is the author of "Legends of the Golden Venus" - an excellent book about Singapore Rock in the 60s and 70s. He is also the producer of many compilations of Singapore 60s re-issues including Warner's recent "100 Greatest Singapore 60s: The Definitive Collection" and many other great comps. He has been a great inspiration to me.

Masjid Sultan Mosque in Singapore

Back in Singapore - Little India

Serangoon Road

( ABR Music Video - 92 Serangoon Road ) stocked up on some rare hindi and tamil films here! )

manuequin welcoming shoppers for this saree boutique

Joe Chelliah

Joe Chelliah was the leader of the legendary Jayhawkers, who backed Roziah Latiff on Phillips records. He is also the head of an Events Management Group in Malaysia called NJ Entertainment, Author of several wonderful books on Malaysian music, including an autobiography just released called "the Times and Chimes of Joe Chelliah".

Joe drove down from KL with his wife so that we could meet before I left Johor Bahru for Singapore. It was a huge gesture on his part to drive for 3 hours so that I could interview him and I am very glad that we were able to meet and talk. Joe had many good insights to add for my documentary film project and even though we were only able to meet for one evening, we made the most of the time we had (we stayed up talking till 3am).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More amazing food in Johor Bahru

Met up with Joe Chelliah of the Jayhawkers and his wife (who is Roziah Latiff's cousin) later on and had an incredible meal at a local Gerai (Food Stall). Hasnah Haron and her daughter and grandson accompanied us!

local clams (kerang)

Stingray with chilli pepper wrapped in a banana leaf (Ikan Pari-Pari)

Deep fried prawns

Sea Coconut in shaved ice with lime and syrup..
( You can just barely see Hasnah Haron's hands in the second photo.. what a wonderful dinner we had at this Hawker center/food stand in JB )

Hasnah Haron, A Halim, and M Fadzil

( L-R: M Fadzil, Hasnah Haron, and A Halim )

The following day I met A Halim, Hasnah Haron, and M Fadzil -- all thanks to Dato A Rahman Hassan for arranging for me to meet them together. A Halim picked me up and drove me to Hasnah Haron's house on the other side of town in Johor Bahru. When we arrived, it was getting cloudy and shortly after M Fadzil got there, there was a brief rainstorm. Hasnah Haron gathered us to the table where we ate shrimp and noodles, then she offered us traditional dessert cakes (bright green, and pink - two types) and the most delicious tasting tea. I commented about how i loved the flavor of the tea.. then not long after, two of her grandchildren returned from the local store from buying me a box of that tea. These sort of thoughtful gifts bring tears to your eyes. I have never been treated so kindly in my whole life. Hasnah Haron has been through alot lately - dealing with the loss of her beloved husband, and now recovering from cancer. But she is surrounded by the most beautiful group of grandkids.. all of them running around laughing and chasing eachother around the house and out into the yard. Her daughter has a beautiful baby boy who is just now learning to walk. I really felt so happy to have been able to visit her at her home. Ms. Haron is a very strong lady with a really wonderful sense of humor, a glowing smile, and a kind heart. I feel so honored to have been able to meet her.

Hasnah Haron sang with Les Kafilas, and then later with the Spiritual 70s. One of her songs, Sabar Menanti, which means "wait patiently", is one of the most beautiful Pop Yeh Yeh songs I have ever heard. I could listen to it over and over again and never get tired of it.

A Halim (who sang with D'Fictions) worked in the docks in the days when he was singing - and now runs his own import export business. He's got a very strong character. I had immediate respect for him...very honest and upfront. His wife brought a framed copy of one of his first EPs in the car with her so that I could see it. He also gave me a copy of his latest VCD and also some of his most recent recordings. (The VCD was lost briefly when one of the grandkids took it outside but it was recovered before any damage or frisbee tossing occured. )

M Fadzil (Les Coasters) was yet another incredible artist to meet in person - he was reserved and soft spoken and so polite. Just like Orkid Abdullah and J Sham, M Fadzil was also a schoolteacher for many years.

This was such an inspiring and emotional afternoon for me. My last day in Johor, and I was surrounded by such incredible artists.. just like every day in the past week. Looking back now, I really wish I could have spent more time in Johor. It all happened so quickly.

Hasnah Haron and Les Kafilas - "Sabar Menanti"

A Halim

M Fadzil with Orkid Abdullah in A Go Go 67

A CD seller in JB

Most of the old Pop Yeh Yeh EPs are pretty much impossible to find these days. And so far, the big record labels aren't bothering to re-release the classic Pop Yeh Yeh songs. ( I dont know why, the demand is definitely out there. ) So the only alternative you have sometimes is to resort to buying "unauthorized" copies from street markets like this one. this table was one of the busiest in the whole market that evening. When I heard the sound of the Rhythmn Boys blaring through the night.. my ears zeroed in like radar!!! The Cds i bought were actually pretty good quality rips direct from vinyl. I have to admit, I was really happy to find these CDs, because i wasn't finding much vinyl during my trip to JB.

A Malaysian Coin

Zaleha Hamid - Queen of Dangdut

I've always really liked Zaleha Hamid. Her fashion style was very colorful and flamboyant back in the 60s and her voice was always incredible.. bright, fluid, emotional, and completely unique. She has always been one of my favorite singers. So to meet her and spend part of the afternoon with her was definitely a highlight of the trip for me.

The band she recorded most frequently was called Orkes Zindegi - mixing the Pop Yeh Yeh style with the Bollywood sounds that were also popular in the 60s and early 70s to create a style referred to as Ala Hindustan or Irama Hindustan.

Once Zaleha Hamid arrived at the hotel with her husband and son, we decided to head to a better location for the interview. Thinking of those EP covers she did back in the day where she was always peeking out from behind a palm tree in her most fashionable mod outfit (see her photo at top right of this blog), I suggested a park. Zaleha's husband decided to take us to Taman Merdeka in JB, right accross from RTM studios! I never thought I'd actually meet her in person, let alone do an interview and photo shoot in such a beautiful location!!!

There are even better photos from this day, but i dont want to give them all away yet! : )

Trip to Johor Bahru with Dato' A Rahman Hassan and Datin Azizah Muhammad!

Dato' showing me some of his old photos...

a portrait drawn by a fan...

Datin Azizah, back in the 60s, and the Muzik Muzik Muzik talenttime contest...

(Photos above: on the road to Johor Bahru from KL)

During the ride, Dato' Rahman played me CDs of his golden hits with Orkes Nirwana, and also some re-recorded versions that were absolutely amazing-- not the usual cheezy keyboard remakes. Dato' Rahman's guitar work is better than ever these days. Orkes Nirwana was recently awarded "Longest Surviving Pop Yeh Yeh band" -- after 45 years and counting they're still together! This was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon, cruising around with Dato' and Datin listening to all the classics by Orkes Nirwana. I could even hear Datin Azizah singing along quietly for most of the ride. The whole thing was totally surreal. At times like this during my trip, I could hardly believe all this was really happening to me.

Dato' A Rahman Hassan playing a Shadows tune...

Datin Azizah getting lost in the melody w/ B. Badrun, original rhythm guitarist for Orkes Nirwana


a classic Fender.. from the 60s... so beautiful!!

Dato Rahman and A Rahman Onn in JB.

Photo with Dato A Rahman Hassan and Datin Azizah Muhammad in JB.

Again, I am completely overwhelmed with gratitude for this beautiful couple, who are legendary musical icons in Malaysia, to have shown me such generosity and love to take me all the way to JB to hear them play. They treated me so well - I will always remember this weekend.