Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Guest Blogger Ghaz reminisces about turntables and Western music he heard as a kid growing up in Malaysia

May 2012 - Ghaz writes:

"Hi Carl, 
Like yourself, I've been travelling out of KL for the past two weeks to Kemaman (in the coastal east-coast province of Terengganu, the home-state of Adnan Othman) and Port Dickson (in Negeri Sembilan province) . Next week, I'm going to leave for Sungai Petani (in the northern Kedah province), before going to Port Dickson again.

Looking at the picture of you listening to the records, I remember that my parents used to have their own Toshiba turntable in their early years of marriage in the mid-1970s.

 My aunt managed to take a photo of myself as a young boy looking at the spinning vinyl; I remember very well that it was a Cliff Richard’s LP issued jointly by EMI-Columbia. 

In 2001, I bought the same LP from an antique shop in KL and learned that the title was Cliff’s Hit Album. It motivated me to buy my own a 1960 4-speed JVC Nivico portable turntable worth 300 ringgit (about 100 US dollars today).

random YouTube video of a 1960 JVC Nivico portable: 

 Unfortunately, the JVC turntable could no longer be used as the stylus was completely worn out and the motor was not functioning properly. It was impossible for me to repair it as the spare parts were not available, so I disposed of it.

My mom was amazed at how I managed to get the Cliff Richard LP, as her own copy was long gone; even her Toshiba turntable was completely damaged due to mishandling by the transport company who carried it along using its truck along our journey back to KL from JB in 1985, following my dad’s transferring back to our hometown.

My mother is an ardent fan of Cliff herself, and she also used to love to play another record by him, which was a 1968 EP containing songs such as I Love You Forever Today, Mr. Nice, Marianne and Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon.

Besides Cliff’s records, we used to have a few more records, which I could still recall the artists and their song titles as follows:
(a) Neil Sedaka - Little Devil, Oh Carol, Run Samson Run, One Way Ticket
(b) Engelbert Humperdinck - Sweetheart, Woman In My Life, Put Your Hand In My Hand
(c) The Hollies - He Ain’t Heavy … He’s My Brother
(d) Tom Jones - You
(e) Lynn Anderson - Rose Garden, Hello Darling
(f) Tommy Roe - Dizzy
(g) The Bee Gees - How Can You Mend My Broken Heart, Country Woman
My parents also bought two compilation LPs, each containing about 20 current English songs from the 70s and early 80s. I have forgotten the song lists, but among the singers featured include Conway Twitty, Glenn Campbell, The Stylistics, Dusty Springfield and K.C. & The Sunshine Band.
There were only two Malay records in our collection then. One was a soundtrack album from the 1976 film called Hapuslah Airmatamu (Wipe Away Your Tears) ....

.....and Nasheed (Islamic spiritual) songs sung by an all-ladies group called Al-Mizan (The Scale) : 

During one of my visits to my grandpa’s kampong (village) in northern Singapore in 1984, I discovered a collection of EPs belonging to my dad and his brothers left idle inside my late grandpa’s chicken hut. To my surprise, there were lots of collections of a mixture of Malay, Hindi and English hits being kept there. I believe that my grandparents put them there as the turntable at their home had been no longer playable. When the whole village was demolished two years later, only the speakers were managed to be brought to my uncle’s apartment.
It is very sad that both the turntables and the records were completely damaged. Nevertheless, the nostalgia of seeing or having them during my childhood days has never fade till today. In fact, it triggered my interest towards both local and international music of the past, which finally brings both of us together.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia"

Guest Blogger, Ghaz, discusses popular dancers and dance groups of the late 50s and early 60s

Ghaz writes: 

"In general, the dancers usually dance in rhythm with A-Go-Go beat.

Actually, I don't have enough details on the dancers. For the list of dance groups, I suggest that you refer to the opening credit of the film A-Go-Go 67 as their names appeared on the footage.

But I do aware that The Young Lovers comes with both the band and the dancers.

Meanwhile, the Malay film industry in earlier days use to have professional choreographers. One of them that I came across in the film was Edith Castillo. The Castillos family members were also film actors, among them include Don Castillo (active in 1930s) and a child star named Tony Castillo (between 1956 and 1958).

Then came the actress Normadiah (her pre-Islamic name was Edith Sumampauw) who was also good at dancing and used to create the dancing steps for the movies, particularly those based on ancient Malay epic themes.

In the early 1970s, another actress, Saadiah, also had her own dancing troupe called Saadiah's Dancers, which featured, among others, her own nephew, another child-star named Bat Latiff [1953 - 2006].

When Bat grew older, he set up his own dancing troup called Bat Latiff's Dancers. He also had another troup specially for children called Anak-Anak Belalang, named after his character Belalang which he played as in P. Ramlee's film Nujum Pak Belalang in 1959. (Of course Ramlee acted as Belalangs father named Pak Belalang ... hehehe!)

A little trivia - Anita Sarawak and her elder half-sister Murni (from the same mother, actress Siput Sarawak) also used to be A-Go-Go dancers, too, either on films or on stage.

Siput (her actual name is Ramlah Dollah, daughter of veteran actor Dollah Sarawak) also used to dance in opera troup circa 1930s till late 1940s, just before the Shaw Brothers' studio in Singapore's Jalan Ampas be reorganized after the World War 2, where she was later admited into film arena in 1947. She got her stage name Siput (Snail) after an opera troop called Siput Kuyong based in Sarawak during her childhood days."

Thanks again to Ghaz for sharing this rare and valuable information!! 

here is some pre-a go go dancing called Joget.... 

Joget "Go To Hell" - filmed at SB Jalan Ampas Studios Singapore featuring Normadia and Omar Suwita

Guest blogger, Ghaz, writes about the 70s Indonesian musical "invasion" in Malaysia and Singapore

April 2012, Ghaz writes: 

"While remembering one of Ed Sullivan Show's episodes in 1964 featuring The Beatles and later on, the British Invasion on American pop music, it triggered me to write on the similar phenomenon here in the Malay archipelago.

As observed, Indonesia, Malaysia and the 14% Malay population of Singapore share similarities in terms of language and cultural background. Some of the main ethnics in Indonesia like the Javanese, Minagkabaus, Mandailings, Achenese, Banjarese, Boyanese, Kamparese and Bataks could be found in many parts of its neighbouring countries.

Many of the Malay entertainers in music and films those days originated from Indonesian territories; only a small number of them were purely Malayan (States of Malay Peninsular excluding Sabah and Sarawak) and Singaporeans. Even the legendary P. Ramlee himself , although born in Malaysian island of Penang, is a son of an Achenese aristocratic family who migrated to the island in 1920s. Other recording artists and songwriters since the 1930s till the early 1960s came from Indonesia in search of better opportunities in Singapore, the then leading hub of recording industry in the Southeast Asian region. The same applies to actors and actresses, who eventually carved their own stardom in two giant studios - Shaw Brothers' Malay Film Production and Cathay Keris.

Those Indonesian singers who made it to the top in 1940s and 1950s include Momo Latif, Rubiah, Tarminah, Ta'seah, Ribut Rawit, M. Yatim a.k.a. Maroeti, Ahmad C.B. (C.B. = Chass Bara) - as well as their accompanying composers like Ahmad Jaafar, Zubir Said, Yusoff B. (B = Blugok), Saiful Bahri and Wandly Yazit. Meanwhile, actors and actresses like Daeng Harris, Daeng Idris, Mustarjo, Aziz Sattar, Noormadiah, S. Kadarisman, Osman Gumanti, Siti Tanjong Perak and Maria Menado were among those who were admitted into the studios soon after the demise of stage operas (or Bangsawan as the Malays call it) at the end of World War II.

Together with their local colleagues from Malaya and Singapore, they formed a very established and comprehensive entertainment industry, with their songs and films being made popular in the these territories, thanks to the loose immigration control of post-independence Indonesian Government led by President Soekarno and the British colonial masters in Malaya and Singapore.

Nevertheless, the joy in entertainment was later disrupted by political difference between Sukarno's administration and the post-independence Malayan Government led by Tunku Abdul Rahman, in particular, on the proposed establishment of a new country called Malaysia (which Singapore was also admitted, together with Sabah and Sarawak which were neighbours to Indonesia's Kalimantan region on the same Borneo Island), and partly, on the move by Indonesia to protect its own entertainment industry.

At that time, a strict regulation on film distribution was enacted in which for each Malayan/Singaporean film entered into Indonesia per year, it must be reciprocated by at least three Indonesian films to be distributed to Malaya/Singapore. An effort was made to adapt to such ruling by producing films through joint-ventures among film-makers in both countries but still, only two films were known to be done - Korban Fitnah (1959) and Bayangan Di-Waktu Fajar (1963). Eventually, Malayan/Singaporean films were totally banned from being distributed to Indonesia, thus making it hard for the Malay film industry in Singapore to survive.

Meanwhile, through the Crush Malaysia campaign, many of the Indonesian songs with anti-Malaysian sentiment were composed and recorded, thus leading to a further rift between both the governments and people of the two countries.

The moment of anguish was cleared at last with the declaration of an end to the confrontation in 1966 between Malaysia (this time, without Singapore who became a republic of its own a year earlier) and Indonesia, from which the co-operation between Malaysian/Singaporean and Indonesian entertainment industry players were resumed. Beginning 1966 onwards, Malay music listeners began to enjoy once again the the product of joint collaboration of composers, songwriters and singers from the three countries, which still previals up to the present day. 


Between 1966 and mid-1970s, lots of Indonesian musicians, composers, songwriters, singers and film stars played their parts towards the popularity of Malay songs. They met in Singapore and later on in Kuala Lumpur to record Malay songs and to act in Malay films.

In 1966, Alina Rahman made an EP with Indonesian band The Rollies providing the musical back-up. All the songs from this EP were composed by the band's drummer, Iwan Krishnawan. A year later, M. Osman and another Indonesian singer/actor Rima Melati cut an EP together where they sang a few songs in duet. Ernie Djohan made two EPs with a Malaysian band called The Bees 5 in 1968 under a Malaysian recording company called Penerbitan PMT.

Meanwhile, Malay music lovers in Malaysia and Singapore began to appreciate more Indonesian artist, such as Lilis Suryani, Tetty Kadi, Alfian and Tiar Ramon in their collection of EPs at home.

In 1970, another band called Clique Fantastique made their first EP under EMI Singapore, besides accompanying other singers under the same label such as Sanisah Huri, Sarena Hashim and M. Fadzil. The band recorded their fourth and the last EP in 1972, before returning to their homeland to continue with their career there. Meanwhile, another Indonesian band, The Commandos, also created their own success in Singapore under Panda Records, making their own instrumental albums besides accompanying A. Ramlie, Maria Bachok, Ahmad Din, D. Swatinah, J. Kamisah and Salim I.

The joint-venture between Indonesian and Malaysian/Singaporean artistic players were also active during this period. In 1971, the Indonesian film "Dunia Belum Kiamat" (It's Not The End Of The World) became a hit in Malaysia and Singapore, thus making the songs from the soundtrack recorded by husband-and-wife duo Muchsin and Titiek Sandhora very popular in both countries. Two years later, another box-office film from Indonesia, "Akhir Sebuah Impian" (The End Of A Dream) (1973) featuring singers Broery Marantika and Emilia Contessa, became another success, from which Panda Records management in Singapore were inspired to issue a drama LP with songs and dialogues called "Menangis Sesudah Ketawa" (Cry After Laughter) in the same year.

During this period too, many Indonesian bands began their invasion into the Malaysian/Singaporean music scene, such as Favourite Group (whom were featured in Akhir Sebuah Impian), D'Lloyd, Koes Plus and Bimbo. Their albums, distributed by Life Records of both Malaysian and Singaporean branches, became best sellers in both countries.

In 1975, the Malaysian branch of Shaw Brothers who took over KL-based Studio Merdeka 11 years earlier tried their luck following such success to produce a joint-venture film with an Indonesian film company called "Semalam Di Malaysia" (A Night In Malaysia) featuring Norzie Nani and an Indonesian singing trio, Bimbo. The song bearing the same title became an instant hit till it was re-recorded by singers from both countries till the present day.

Another remarkable performance was in 1976 where a Sabahan millionaire, Deddy M. Borhan under his own company, Sabah Film Production, made a film which made it to the top in box-office as well as in the music industry. "Hapuslah Airmatamu" (Wipe Away Your Tears), which starred Broery Marantika and Christine Hakim from Indonesia and Sharifah Aini and Latiff Ibrahim, had made a huge impact in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. The soundtrack featuring songs sung by Broery and Sharifah Aini, all of which composed by Datuk Ahmad Nawab are still available till today, and was re-issued by EMI following the death of Broery himself in 2001, which again became a best-selling album.

The last two Malaysian film with Indonesian artists being featured during that decade were "Panglima Badul" (Badul The Warrior) (featuring comedian Benjamin S.) and "Pendekar" (The Warrior) (featuring Farouk Affero), but then the popularity of such approach began to fade.

During my childhood days where the revival of the pop-yeh-yeh craze in the mid-1980s, there was a live concert at KL's Stadium Merdeka combining many singers of the 60s from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to perform. The man behind such effort was our Malaysian Fenderman, the late M. Shariff with his band, The Zurah II.

 The Malaysian entertainment industry tried very hard to enter the Indonesian market in the early 1980s, but only few players had managed to do so, as the latter's entertainment industry itself became very protective on its own players. Anita Sarawak began to cut a few album specially for the Indonesian market, so did her peers like Datuk Shiela Majid and later on, Datuk Siti Nurhaliza.

Still, the impact was not that strong until the new millenium, when the industry players from both sides began to appreciate each other's audience on the needs to enjoy some difference in creativity.

Throughout my observation, the Indonesian counterpart is more aggressive in making its industry players remain marketable in Singapore and Malaysia, as the end-product from there is regarded as the one made for the love for their country, compared to those in Malaysia who treat theirs as their own individual efforts, and to serve their individual needs, in the midst of stiff competition within the local market itself. Had they been united, they could be more succesful than what they had achieved today.

Ghaz, KL"

Adnan Othman compilation - Coming SOON!

I am pleased to announce that in addition to the current Pop Yeh Yeh compilation (Vol 1. - on Sublime Frequencies)  which is VERY near completion, I have been given permission by Adnan Othman himself to commence work on a compilation featuring the best tracks of his career.  This release will feature mastered tracks from his EPS and one LP, as well as in-depth liner notes and rare photos.  Watch this blog for more information!!!

Below: Bershukor - which translates to "gratitude/thanks to God"

Cikgu Yusnor Ef continues his work in promoting Malay culture and music.. a few recent clips

Having had the opportunity to meet Cikgu Yusnor Ef in 2010, I've been following his tremendous efforts to promote the history and culture of Malaysia and Singapore ever since.

 Cikgu Yusnor Ef is not only a historian and cultural advocate, but also a very prolific lyricist, and has written songs for many of the top artists from Singapore and Malaysia, including Sanisah Huri, Sharifah Aini, Ahmad Jais, A Ramlie and Rahimah Rahim.

 He has written some incredibly informative books in recent years, and also has been awarded many times for his work.

Recently, Cikgu Yusnor Ef asked me to record some interview clips about my own western opinion (and undeniable love) of Malay pop in the 60s.  I completed this video clip a week ago (with help from jlawrva) and sent it to him.. maybe it will end up on Singapore TV as well!  I will certainly post it here if it does!

Below, I am posting 3 videos that I found on Youtube today. The first one is in honor of his recent award, and the second two are from a mini-series which aired on TV1 (in Malay - no subtitles).