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 "

1 comment:

  1. A well-written piece by Ghaz. I have not heard of that 3 Bidara song in ages! Fatimah Huri's vocal stands out. Thanks for the rare find. Somewhere in my cassette collection is version 3 of Pancha Sitara; need to find it.