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!   )  

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