Tuesday, June 23, 2015


This photo backs up a story that Rythmn Boys'  bassist Ali Taib told me last summer...  (The Rythmn Boys are Pop Yeh Yeh legends, and were one of the most sought after Pop Yeh Yeh groups in Singapore in 1967). 

They were invited to play several shows with Dara Puspita - an all female Indonesian rock band that were totally ground breaking back then, and are still incredibly popular to this day.  (check out their amazing facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/DARA-PUSPITA/264099200376223?fref=ts )

The two groups also did a photo shoot for the December 1967 issue of Majalah Filem (see photo below).

Unsurprisingly, several of the members of the Rythmn Boys  fell "head over heels" in love with members of Dara Puspita.

Ali Taib told me that, even many years later,  at least one of the Rythmn Boys band members still wrote letters to one of the members of Dara Puspita... 

I would love to see the remaining members of these two groups get together again to play some music.

Monday, May 25, 2015

"Malay cover versions" - by GHAZ, KL

Our favorite guest blogger, Ghaz, continues with more colorful stories and history about Malaysian and Singaporean music - and specifically Malay music from those countries - during the 60s, 70s,  and all the years before and after!  

We hope you enjoy this fascinating article below from Ghaz in Kuala Lumpur where he discusses the phenomenon of "Malay cover versions"

IN THE 1960s AND 1970s 

In the mid-1990s when I was still a student of an international university in my country, I used to listen songs by the late Ismail Haron (1946 - 2012) a.k.a. Singapore’s Tom Jones at my campus dormitory. Well, in actual fact, I was introduced to Ismail’s songs for the first time after browsing through a collection of records owned by my classmate’s father during my visit to his house in 1987. I was only 13 years old then when we got to know each other, by attending the same boarding school. It took me about 10 years until I eventually decided to get a copy of Ismail’s compilation album out of curiosity, just to learn how his voice sounds like!  

One of the unique features of his songs is that many of them are adapted from current English songs of the 1960s originally recorded by Tom Jones himself and Engelbert Humperdinck, or any other singers whose voices are in resemblance to both. Nevertheless, Ismail manages to inject his own style of singing until one hardly realizes that his songs are actually cover versions.

Ismail Haron & The Vigilantes – Senyuman Terakhir (The Last Smile) [1967]

Ismail Haron & The Guys – Delailah [1968]
Original song: Delilah by Tom Jones

Ismail Haron &The Guys – Ribin Biru (Blue Ribbon) [1968]
Original song: Pretty Ribbon by Engelbert Humperdinck

DJ Carlito adds this bonus clip just for fun:  Englebert, Tom, and Billy Preston  

After conducting some research of my own, it was found that there used to be a trend whereby many of the Malay artists tend to record many of English, Hindi or Japanese songs with Malay lyrics. Although the practice has been in existence since 1950s, it grew rapidly beginning the late 1960s, particularly after the May 13 racial riot, and lasted until the late 1970s.
I can still remember one of the songs by the late R. Azmi (1923 – 1974) which resembles that of a Spanish tango. The title of the song is Memikat Hati (Capturing My Heart), recorded somewhere in the early 1950s. It was a big hit in Malay-speaking territories and Indonesia.  However, Azmi preferred to sing Hindi songs in Malay instead of those originally in English, perhaps due to its suitability to his mood and temperament. Other singers from the said decade who share the same approach as Azmi include sibling duo Razak & Zainab Majid.

R. Azmi – Memikat Hati (Capturing My Heart) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbiztzVCTys

R. Azmi – Hitam Manis (Tan But Sweet) [1954] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eykBIOcCE4

Original song (both of the songs above, i think - is that right Ghaz? -   Carl )   : Isle of Capri

Razak & Zainab Majid - Harapan Hatiku (My Heart’s Hope)

Razak &  Zainab Majid – Marilah (Come Here, My Dear)

The 1970s saw more Malay cover versions being recorded. Singers like Sharifah Noor (a.k.a. Singapore’s Lata Mangeshkar), Hussain Marican, A. Ramlie and M. Shariff recorded Hindi songs in Malay .  

Sharifah Noor & Orkes Zindegi – Tak Mungkin Ku Lupa (It’s Impossible For Me To Forget)

Hussain Marican & The Sangam Boys – Adekku Halizah (My Baby, Halizah) [Early 1970s]

A.Ramlie – Intanku Liana (My Gem Liana) [1975]

M. Shariff & The Zurah – Pujaan Hati (My Heartthrob) [1970]

… while their peers such as Eddie Ahmad, his sister Hamidah, Rahimah Rahim and others recorded mostly English songs in Malay.

Eddie Ahmad – Madah Perpisahan (The Parting Words) [1971]

Hamidah – Sudahlah Tiada Lagi (It’s No More) [1974]

Rahimah Rahim featuring Ahmad Daud – Pakcikku Bergaya (My Stylish Uncle) [1972]

There are a few of them who recorded Japanese, Mandarin and other East Asian-language songs in Malay, too like Rafeah Buang, J. Mizan and the late Rahman Kadir.

Rafeah Buang – Ku Kekosongan (I’m in Emptiness) [1972]
(Original song: Anata by Teresa Teng in Mandarin, Khuong by Elvis Phuong in Vietnamese)

J. Mizan – Hari ini Dan Semalam (Today and Yesterday) [1974]
(Originally a Japanese song)

Rahman Kadir – Hari Ini Tak Seindah Semalam (Today Is Not As Beautiful As Yesterday) [1978]
(Original song: Airport in Japanese)

There is no exact theory on why cover versions were made available those days. One could be that these songs were recorded following a growing demand from listeners who had always wanted Malay songs be further transformed by imitating the originals from both east and west. Some of the cover versions did have been well-positioned in the Malaysian hit charts, such as Ismail Haron’s Enam Belas Lilin (his Malay version Sixteen Candles) which remained in the charts for 15 consecutive weeks in 1968.

Another theory could be that cover versions were done as a medium to unite the people of Malaysia and Singapore from different ethnicity through music, which has always been regarded as a universal language. In the 1960s, people from both sides of the Causeway had experienced the aftermath of racial riots (July and September 1964 in Singapore; May 1969 in Kuala Lumpur). As such, efforts had been put up by various quarters to cool them down by promoting racial harmony, learning and accepting each other despite many differences, by which music was found to be an effective tool for such purpose. When songs from different languages were re-recorded into another group of different languages and then became top hits on the charts, this was indeed a good sign where listeners from different ethnic and cultural background began to appreciate the work of art of the others and enjoyed them together with their peers.

However, such development in the entertainment industry remained to be closely monitored by the Malaysian Government. In 1969, the Copyright Act was made into force, with the objective of curbing record and film piracy, besides ensuring that all copyrights are properly reserved. Meanwhile, there had been growing concerns among the entertainment industry players on the lack of creativity of local composers and songwriters resulting from too many cover versions flooding into the music market. To make things worse, issuing and circulating cover versions had been highlighted by certain quarters as an infringement of copyrights, hence leading to the possibility of legal suits by the owners of the creative arts from their countries of origin. Eventually, after careful consideration on various opinions over this issue, cover versions were banned from being aired on Malaysian radio and TV shows in 1979.

In spite of tight control, cover versions still continued to be published years after. I wonder why. During my childhood days in the mid-1980s, I could still recall how Michael Jackson’s Beat It being re-recorded in Malay by a Malaysian comedian as Bidin, Kenny Login’s Footloose became Fulus (Money in Arabic, which is also uttered in colloquial Malay), Inner Circle’s Sweat (A La La La La Long) became Saman (A La La La La Tok) [Saman = Summons] and others of similar nature. I believe that songwriters and performers were trying to include some elements of humour, which deviates from their previous songs which usually bore serious love theme.

Poe – Saman (A La La La La Tok) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbrTXMF0FZ8

I think the relevant authorities had become a little bit lenient when they allowed Lobo to re-record P. Ramlee’s Getaran Jiwa into English as Whispers In The Wind back in 1993. Otherwise, his rendition would have been banned too.

Lobo – Whispers In The Wind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGIy8pSZw00

As midnight is approaching, that’s all for now, folks. Before I go to bed, I leave you with the Malay version of Steam’s Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye. Till then, have a nice day ahead. Bye!

The Rezas – Na Na Na Hey Hey Tinggallah (1972) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJeFcjO_Pvs

Warmest regards,

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

(NB: This article is dedicated to my 1987-batch classmate Wan Mohamad Nadzri, ex-student of Class One Red, Federal Religious-Type Secondary School in Labu, Negri Sembilan, Malaysia. We had lost contact after he transferred into MARA Junior Science College at Jelebu in the same province. I hope that we could keep in touch after he read this article.)

from Carl (Dj Carlito) in the US: 

  This blog and research project would not have existed without people like Ghaz who are willing to share the knowledge about this incredible cultural heritage - Malay culture!  Terima kasih, Ghaz. I really enjoyed reading this article and I know everyone else who reads this blog will too. 

A note to our readers :  We welcome blog submissions for this blog from anyone who's got something to share about Malay music in the 60s and 70s.  Whether you're an artist or a fan or someone who grew up with this music and has some stories to share.  This site is all about collecting info about the golden era of kugiran guitar bands in Malaysia and Singapore, as well as all the music before and after that.    Feel free to get in touch! Just click my profile - DJ Carlito - to email me.  no sp@m please though,  Thanks!  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Article "RETRO MANIA" in MANJA magazine - "The leading Malay entertainment and lifestyle magazine in Singapore"

A couple of months ago a reporter for MANJA Magazine in Singapore asked me to reply to a few questions about my research on Pop Yeh Yeh in Malaysia and Singapore in the 1960s --- I was really honored to be included in an article like this.

I hadn't realized until I actually got a copy of the magazine (thanks Hamlau!) that I had been included in an article that also featured original 60an legendary artists like Fatimah M Amin, Sanisah Huri, LIFE records manager Osman Ariffin.   This 5-6 page article has tons of cool history about the era... so honored to be included!! 
The cover says ""'Mat Salih' Bawa Pop Yeh Yeh Ke As!" - which I think translates to 'westerner, caucasian who loves pop Yeh yeh and brings it to America"      

So cool!!  Thanks to everyone at MANJA

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Guest Blogger Ghaz writes:

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.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pop Yeh Yeh in Eastern Malaysia

Today, I am happy to share some very interesting information (beginning below the map image) sent to us by our favorite guest blogger, Ghaz, about a question that has always interested me... What about Eastern Malaysa? weren't there bands from other parts of Malaysia besides Western Penninsular Malaysia?

Before sharing Ghaz's essay, I'll start by saying that the answer, of course, is YES.... Pop Yeh Yeh and the 60s kugiran style spread throughout Malaysia - including the eastern areas of Brunei, Sarawak, and Sabah.  The history of these areas is complex and I need to do more research to put any of that story together, but currently, the following information is apparently true (according to Wikipedia): 

 Brunei is actually a sovereign state, but 66% of its population is made up of Malays : "In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate and was assigned a British resident as colonial manager in 1906. After the Japanese occupation during World War II, in 1959 a new constitution was written. In 1962, a small armed rebellion against the monarchy was ended with the help of the British. Brunei gained its independence from the United Kingdom on 1 January 1984." .... "Brunei's small, wealthy economy is a mixture of foreign and domestic entrepreneurship, government regulation, welfare measures, and village tradition. Crude oil and natural gas production account for about 90% of its GDP. About 167,000 barrels (26,600 m3) of oil are produced every day, making Brunei the fourth-largest producer of oil in Southeast Asia. It also produces approximately 25.3 million cubic metres (890×106 cu ft) of liquified natural gas per day, making Brunei the ninth-largest exporter of the substance in the world" (from Wikipedia).

 Sarawak is situated on the northwest of the island, bordering the state of Sabah to the northeast, Indonesia to the south, and surrounding the independant state of Brunei. (from Wikipedia).

Sabah is Malaysia's easternmost state, one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo. It is located on the northern portion of the island of Borneo and known as the second largest state in the country after Sarawak, which it borders on its southwest. It shares a maritime border with the Federal Territory of Labuan on the west and with the Philippines to the north and northeast. (from Wikipedia).

Here's a map for clarification.

The following Essay was sent by Ghaz.  I always appreciate his talent and skill in clarifying the complex musical history of this era:


Another Malay territory which also had quite a handful of popular Pop Yeh Yeh singers in the 1960s is the kingdom of Brunei Darussalam.

Although small in number, the artists and their songs were also made popular in Singapore and Malaysia. They came to the republic to do their recordings with the accompaniment from musicians who already signed their contracts under the existing recording labels, while some of them brought along Bruneian musicians to record with them in Singapore.

Due to the increasing popularity of the Bruneian artists during the said decade, a band of Brunei-origin called Kugiran Irama Perindu Brunei was given the opportunity to record on Olympic, accompanying various artists from their country, way back in 1967.


In a separate development, there was a also a Bruneian singer named Hussein Haji Tuah who recorded with D’Acrobats from Johor Bahru, also on Olympic Records. The outcome was indeed satisfying. 


The late singer Rafeah Buang, in her memoirs written in the Malaysian entertainment magazine called Utusan Radio & TV (URTV), recalled on how she and a few other Pop Yeh Yeh singers were invited to perform in the kingdom in 1968. Among the artists included in the delegation besides her was A. Ramlie, Ahmad Jais and a Singaporean band called The Sandblues. After end of the show, one of the Sandblues’ members did not return to Singapore as he decided to reside in Brunei after falling in love to a girl there, whom he eventually married! 

The Sandblues, who had used to record with Hussein Ismail, A. Hozaini (both under Olympic) and Don Aimin (on Ngee Fat-Playboy) in Singapore, began to accompany Bruneian singers such as Dayangku Aminah, Awangku (now Pengiran) Tajuddin, Awangku Emran, Noorsiah A. Hamid and M.Y. Muhammad. Dayangku Aminah then recorded with a splinter band of the Sandblues called The Sandpipers in the early 1970s, besides a Bruneian band called The Heavy Machine. Meanwhile, M.Y. Muhammad also recorded with The Brothers 5, a band from his own country.


In 1968, another Bruneian singer named A.B. Shaari and and his band, Seroja, were signed under Philips, one of the large international labels in Singapore to record an EP. His popular song, Tanda Mata Dari Kasehku (A Gift From My Lover) was composed by his father, Awang Besar Sagap, a popular orchestra leader in Brunei in 1960s. This was regarded as a success as Bruneian singers had begun to gain trust from an international recording company.

Regarding Sarawak, Ghaz also adds ... 

For the time being, I forward to you this image on one of the Sarawakian Pop Yeh Yeh band called the Skeletons with a singer named Hassansani. in this EP, they recorded two Iban songs, one of which is the cover version of Del Shannon's "Runaway."

Another singer that The Skeleton covered also under Philips was H.M. Ahmad, who also hailed from Sarawak. before that, Hussein Ismail also used to perform with The Skeletons, but they had never done any recording work together.

  ( Thanks to Ghaz for his research efforts above.... this not only solves some mysteries for me personally, but also inspires me to go through my collection and find other groups from this area.....  I will try to post some more album covers from my own collection here eventually - and I will also try to find more information about groups from Sabah and Sarawak as well as more info about bands from Brunei  ... i'm also really glad Ghaz opened this topic because it makes me realize there's much more research to be done!   )