Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Doo Wop influence in Malaysia in the 1960s

In this post, KL based Pop Yeh Yeh/Malay music scholar, Ghaz, shares with us his analysis of the immense influence that Doo Wop had on early groups of the 1960s in Malaysia (before pop yeh yeh was born)

Ghaz writes:

"Lately, somehow, I have been yearning for a switch in my music listening back to the English 60s songs. Last year, I bought a 5-CD set containing altogether 100 songs of the decade, but it was left idle on my shelf for so long. So, I put a stop for a while my routine listening to Klasik Nasional FM and those Malay 60s songs CD in my car and instead, lent my ears to these ones while driving to work.

James' Brown's I Feel Good, Mamas' & Papas' California Dreaming, The Four Tops' Reach Out, I'll Be There, Spencer Davis' Group Keep On Running and The Supremes' Stop! In The Name of Love had in fact made me very energized. There are other hits of course, which I believe you have heard them back in your country. It's just regretted that The Platters were not included in this collection, which made a little bit frustrated ....

I was introduced to The Platters in 1983 (I was 9 then) by my aunt when she bought their cassette that year. The Canadian-based doo-wop group really amazed me, till I could listen to their numbers as a lullaby! You'll be surprised that theyq did influence the Malay pop arena in the early 1960s. This was how the story goes.

Sometimes in the mid-1950s, one of the Platters' members went to Singapore and paid a courtesy visit to the Shaw Brothers' Malay Film Production studio, where P. Ramlee acted, directed many of the films there and wrote the songs for the film soundtracks. They managed to meet each other and discussed a lot on each other's involvement in music. Ramlee had always wanted to inject some improvement to his compositions, and eventually he adopted the doo-wop tune to his next series of songs. How it was done?

With Ramlee himself as the group leader, he teamed up with his pupil Kassim Masdor plus their colleagues in the studio - Aziz Jaafar, Noormadiah, Ahmad Daud and Ahmad C. to set up a singing group similar to The Platters whom he named Pancha Si-Tara (The Five Stars in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language). The group had its own radio programme of the same name in 1960, besides having their songs recorded between that year and 1962, and become the guest stars in the film Labu & Labi (1962).

To maintain professionalism, Ramlee made a rule that none of the guys in Pancha Si-Tara could be in love with the female singer. However, the rule was broken when Aziz Jaafar married Noormadiah in 1961, leading to their withdrawal from the group. At the same year, Ramlee wedded Saloma, whom he later brought in to replace Noormadiah, and Ramlee took over Aziz's role as the leading male vocalist!

Like The Platters, Pancha Si-Tara also changed their lines-up twice following the death of P. Ramlee and Saloma. The second line-up were completely new members and recorded their cover versions of the original songs, but the team did not last long. However, the third line-up maintained most of the original line-up, with Ramlee's son Nasir taking over his role; Noormadiah replacing Saloma, and comedian veteran actor Aziz Sattar replacing Ahmad C.

I enclose below some selected audio and videoclips of Pancha Si-Tara for your easy listening and viewing. The audios featured Aziz Jaafar as the leading vocalist, while the video was an excerpt from the film Labu & Labi featuring Saloma as the leading vocalist.



Meanwhile, the success of the ladies group in the US such as The Shirelles, The Ronnettes and The Supremes were also admired both in Malaysia and Singapore that time. A ladies' group called Tiga Bidara (Three Charmers) was set up, consisting of Alina Rahman, Fatimah Huri and Fazidah Joned and they made their debut LP in 1963. In this album, they performed as a group on one side of the record, while for the other side, each singer recorded two songs each. They also recorded their own individual EPs, too. Fatimah Huri and Fazidah Joned recorded their respective songs with John Lee Orchestra between 1963 and 1965, while Alina had a longer stint - with Johen Lee Orchestra (1963 - 1965), The Bateks (1966), The Rollies (1967) and Band Irmadu (early 1970s.)

Enclosed below Tiga Bidara's hit called I Love You, which is adapted from a traditional Thai music called ramvong .


I hope that you'll enjoy them, and continue to learn how the Malay pop tunes emergered and transformed throughout the years. Cheerio!

Ghaz, KL "

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Les Kafilas

more great clips from the film "A Go Go 67"

This one apparently was cut from the recent re-release of the film!
A. Nadar & The Zaraks - Kenanganku

Sabar Menanti by M Noor & The Night Shadows

Saturday, November 26, 2011

History Channel pays tribute to the legendary Tansri P Ramlee!

(this is part 1 of 2. Follow youtube links within the video page for part two!)

My friend shared this great video clip with me yesterday. She also noted that for her, a Malaysian living in the US, "it's pretty huge" that the History Channel has chosen to do a feature on her beloved national hero - Malay/Singaporean composer, actor, director and timeless cultural icon, Tansri P Ramlee. (I can only hope that someday they'll do a feature on Pop Yeh Yeh too! Maybe they'll consider airing my film when it is released!)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Three-Day Pop Yeh Yeh Reunion concert - This January!!!

When I saw this poster last week, I nearly fell out of my chair.. I have to go to this!


Where: Istana Budaya - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

When: Friday, January 20, 2012 at 8:30pm until Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 11:30pm.


Original Singers with Original Bands :

- Jefridin @ Siglap 5
- A Rahman Hassan @ Orkes Nirwana
- A Halim @ D' Fiction
- J Sham @ The Wanderers
- Kassim Selamat @ Swallows (update: Kassim Selamat will not be attending unfortunately)
- L Ramlie @ Teruna Ria
- Fatimah M Amin @ The Clans
- A Rahman Onn @ Strangers

note: although i just read some recent dialogue on the event page (fb) that some of these bands might not all actually be composed of entirely original members, the singers will certainly be the real deal. I hope it's a huge success, for these artists' sake alone... they're living legends all of them and they will hopefully be welcomed by a sold out audience!

Below: some recent newspaper articles about this three day concert series (Unfortunately I wont be able to make it to this...I had hoped I could but the timing didnt work out)

Apache over Singapore

Joseph C. Pereira - author, music expert, journalist, record collector, mentor, and friend (met with him several times during my stay in Singapore!) has published yet another outstanding book about the Singapore 60s Pop Music Era entitled "Apache over Singapore" (According to Mr. Pereira, "Apache refers to the Shadows hit of 1961. It became a rite of passage for Singaporean bands then")

(I posted an entry about his first book on this subject, Legends of the Golden Venus, earlier in this blog.)

Released on October 2011, this book traces the development of the Singapore Sixties music scene. Publisher: Select Books

Mr Pereira has a really great perspective on this subject, having grown up in Singapore during the 60s. He's been studying this subject for years and he has also released several box set compilations of Singapore 60s music through various record labels in the past few years.

From what I gather, this book is full of fascinating stories, interviews, and rare photographs from the era. Definitely a must-read ! (I still need to get a copy for myself!!)

(Photos copyright J Pereira 2011)

Great article on Cikgu Yusnor Ef - Legendary Singapore Malay Lyricist

Read Article Here

Friday, October 14, 2011

a bit of good news

A week or so ago, I finally received the green light for the The Pop Yeh Yeh music compilation - and it will finally be released in a just a few months time (hopefully this coming January). I am working on the cover art and liner notes now.

Datuk Ahmad Jais

2011 has been a really tough year for Pop Yeh Yeh artists.... Another great artist passed away this past week..
Rest in Peace Datuk Ahmad Jais
March 28, 1936 - Oct 11, 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hasnah Haron

It grieves me to share the sad news that Hasnah Haron passed away today, after a long battle with cancer. She will be greatly missed... She was a very strong woman, and had been fighting the illness for a long time. It seems that she spent her last days with her family, with loving care of her daughter and other family members. I often think back to last summer when I was lucky enough to meet her and have lunch with her at her home in the company of M Fadzil, A Halim, and Hasnah's wonderful family. She made an impression on me with her kindness, wisdom, and generosity that I will remember always.
Her music will live on..

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Adnan Othman's painting website

As you may know already, pop yeh yeh legend Adnan Othman is a talented painter. When I had the chance to visit him last year, he showed me some of his work. He has built up a catalogue of literally hundreds of large paintings and smaller drawings and sketches. I think his work is really incredible, so I'm excited that he's finally sharing some of this work online, and I hope his work will get some well deserved attention.

Im sure there will be many future posts on this site. Check out his paintings here on his new blog!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Legendary singer Datin Orchid Abdullah passed away on May 13 2011

It has been more than a week since Datin Orchid Abdullah passed away. By now the news of her passing has spread all over the world, not just within the Malay community, but also to thousands of others around the world who knew of her wonderful music. The newspapers in Malaysia had published many articles about her in the few months leading up to her death, and I had recently read that she was suffering from cancer caused by a hormone deficiency. But I had no idea that the illness would take her so quickly. It was quite a shock for me to hear this, first of all, because she looked so healthy when I met her last year. And also, because here in the US, we dont really get the news about the classic Malay Pop artists so quickly. Nevertheless, a few friends in Malaysia wrote to tell me the sad news on the very same day they heard it. Apparently her husband also passed away just 4 days later, which proves that they were truly inseparable.

For her adoring fans, it must be very difficult to believe that this legendary singer and iconic cultural ambassador is really gone.
To her family and close friends, especially her fellow musicians from the 60s era , I wish to express my sincere condolences. I know they all kept in touch over the years and remained close and loyal friends who were there with her, supporting her during her struggle with illness, up through her last days.

In my brief meeting with her at Dato' A Rahman Hassan's house last July, It struck me immediately that she was a very kind person - a genuine, honest, caring person as well. She had been a music teacher for many years. While she was ill, I saw dozens and dozens of posts on her Facebook page from her students praying for her recovery and wishing her to get well so she could come back and teach. It's obvious that her students cared about her alot. I know her fans did too, and her music will surely be something that will continue to be cherished for years to come. I bet Klassic National (the KL radio station) has been doing some incredible tributes to her also.

I really consider myself so lucky to have met her and to have had the chance to interview her. It will be great to be able to finally share this interview once the documentary is complete.

Here's some additional information from my good friend Ghaz in KL.

""Ikatan Janji" was the only song by Orchid and M. Fadzil in the filem "A-Go-Go 67". My favourite Orchid's hits beside those usually mentioned are "Chari-Lah Ganti" (Find Another) and "Penawar Rindu". Unlike other of hers, "Penawar Rindu" is a ghazal song, recorded in 1970.

Ghazal is a traditional music from Johor, the southernmost peninsular Malaysian province neighbouring Singapore. There are lots of ghazal party group in the province, particularly in Muar district. Ghazal is usually played on Malay weddings in Johor or at any place where the hosts are the Johoreans.

Orchid has always been easily recognized for her Caucasian look, and her natural beauty had made her gaining lots of secret admirers. In the past, audience had mistakenly thought that she is an English woman who could sing and speak Malay fluently. There was also even a hearsay that Orchid was an English baby girl adopted by a Malay family during the World War II in then Malaya during Japanese Occupation when her parents went missing! Eventually, when reporting on her death recently, the dailies revealed that she was born from an English-Arabic parentage.

According to the newspaper reports, her talent was spotted when she sang for the first time on our national Children's Day celebration in 1965. Since then, she never looked back after she managed to secure a recording contract with EMI Singapore in 1966 with accompaniments by Les Coasters. Among the earliest records was an EP of two songs. She continued her stint with EMI until 1970 after whcih, she went ahead recording under independent labels. However, she was more inclined towards Malay asli songs, including ghazal.... She was a schoolteacher and a wife of a businessman holding the Dato' title, which is highly respected among the Malay community.

There are many articles online about her passing, mostly in Malay. Here's a good one in english. Some blogs have even published photos of her in her last days while in the hospital, and one of her funeral also. As for me, I dont want to post these here, the photos are all over the web.. it's not necessary. I prefer to cherish the memory i have of her during the interview I did with her last summer.. smiling and laughing as she recalled her days as a great Pop Yeh Yeh singer.

Rest in peace Datin Orchid Abdullah

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Happy Anniversary to Orkes Nirwana - March 25, 1965 - present

I'm a few days late, but I wanted to say ~*~*~HAPPY ANNIVERSARY~*~*~ to Orkes Nirwana - longest running Pop Yeh Yeh band in existence.

The band formed in Johor Bahru on March 25, 1965 after a meeting at Dato' A Rahman Hassan's father's house, where they all officially agreed to the conditions that Dato proposed. That night, it was a Thursday as Dato' recalled, they decided that they were going to form a proper group. Then, they decided the roles of the band members (not only what instruments they would play, but what aspects of "band business" each member was responsible for.) Dato' was unanimously elected as leader of the group. Two other things were decided that night: that they would give the band a Malay Name - Orkes Nirwana, and that they would "give priority to Malay songs."

According to Dato' A Rahman Hassan, the members had all, for the most part, attended the same classes in school together and often recited the Q'aran together. The group had a good foundation and discipline from the beginning, which is a big reason they are still together.

They performed in weddings and areas around JB and practiced every week -- sometimes all day into the night. Dato's father supported the band wholeheartedly and even designed a custom guitar for the band.

Soon after they formed, they went to Singapore and recorded a split EP with the late great M Osman at his invitation.

This year, March 25, 2011, marks the 46th consecutive year that this incredible band has been in existence.

I had the honor of accompanying this band with Dato A Rahman Hassan and Datin Azizah Muhammad last summer to JB (where the band was formed) to hear a practice session with the full band. I will never forget that afternoon spent with one of the most legendary Pop Yeh Yeh bands in history.

Hearing the band play live, in a small, private studio, was an incredible experience for me. In the moment, I could hardly believe I was actually there. But it definitely happened, and some of the footage from this session will be included in the forthcoming documentary which I am still very busy editing!

Today, this band is the very center of the Pop Yeh Yeh community, carrying on the tradition for young and old. Orkes Nirwana recently performed at the most recent Pop Yeh Yeh reunion concert to a sold-out audience in JB a few months back. They did all of their hit numbers and also served as the house backing band for all the other great Pop Yeh Yeh artists in attendance. Dato' himself is the primary organizer of concerts like these, which often benefit charitable causes, and also serve to introduce younger generations to this inspiring tradition of great Malay pop music.

Thanks again to Orkes Nirwana for sharing the music over the years!! May they continue for many more to come!

Orkes Nirwana original members: E. Elias (bass), B. Badron (guitar), M. Radzy Jalil (drums), A. Rozy Ashari (tambourine), Datin Azizah Mohamad (vocals), and her husband Datuk A. Rahman Hassan (guitar and vocals). (The band is playing with a new drummer recently, but they still keep in touch with the original drummer)