Wednesday, January 17, 2024

“GELOMBANG” (THE WAVE) - A Tribute to R. Ismail - written by Ghaz



In memoriam of R. Ismail (1937 – 2020)


One of the songs that inspires me to remain strong in facing life challenges is the one titled “Gelombang” (The Wave), sung by the late R. Ismail (1937 – 2020).  It was jointly written by Kassim Masdor and S. Sudarmaji for a television film by TV Singapura of the same title, produced in 1966.

R. Ismail accompanied by John Lee Orchestra: “Gelombang” (The Wave) (1966)

R. Ismail "Gelombang" (1966) - MuzikNusantara - YouTube


Born Ismail Abdul Rahman in Singapore on October 1, 1937, he followed the footstep of his father A. Rahman, a popular Malay singer in 1940s – 1950s. His recording career began as early as in 1948 when, at the small age of 11, he recorded his first song called “Setangkai Bunga Raya” (The Hibiscus) on record. As a child singer, he also performed in shows organized by an art group called Sriwana and on Radio Singapura. Beginning early 1960s, he became a playback singer for films produced by Cathay Keris studio and later on, Shaw Brothers’ Malay Film Production studio, both located in Singapore. His voice was borrowed by a Cathay Keris actor, the late Noordin Ahmad (1932 – 1971), due to their voice resemblance.

Among the classic Malay films in which R. Ismail was the playback singer: “Laila Majnun” (1962), “Jula Juli Bintang Tujoh” (1962), “Bidasari” (1965), “Gurindam Jiwa” (1966) and “Anak Buloh Betong” (1966).


R. Ismail & Rosiah Chik – “Menanti” (Waiting) – from the film “Laila Majnun” (1962)

R. Ismail & Rosiah Chik - Menanti (Official Audio) - YouTube


R. Ismail – “Nasib Malang” (Being Unfortunate) – from the film “Jula Juli Bintang Tujoh” (Jula Juli, The Seven Stars) (1962) R Ismail ~ Nasib Malang (

R. Ismail & Rahimah Simin – “Arti Chinta” (The Meaning of Love) from the film “Bidasari” (1965)*

Kini Dah Tiba - R Ismail, Rahimah Simin (

*In 1966, this song was re-recorded as “Kini Dah Tiba” (The Time Has Come) by Ahmad Daud and Saloma, accompanied by John Lee Orchestra on EMI/Parlophone. Then, A. Ramlie and Maria Bachok re-recorded this song as “Saat Bahagia” (The Moment of Happiness) in their LP titled “Kasih Berbunga Sepanjang Musim” (The Love Blossoms Throughout the Season) on Senada in 1976.


R. Ismail & Rafeah Buang – “Gurindam Jiwa” (Sonnettes for My Soul) from the film of the same title (1966) Rafeah Buang & R. Ismail "Gurindam Jiwa" Daripada Filem Gurindam Jiwa (1966) - MuzikNusantara (

R. Ismail & Rafeah Buang – “Dari Hati Ke Hati” (From Heart to Heart) from the film “Anak Buloh Betong” (The Magic Bamboo’s Son) (1966) Rafeah Buang & R. Ismail "Dari Hati Ke Hati" (1966) - MuzikNusantara (


Due to the popularity of his songs on the said films, many recording companies invited R. Ismail to record songs in their respective studios. From a playback singer, he became a recording artist and remained active in this field between 1963 and 1973. During the pop yeh yeh craze, he also managed to cut an album of the said genre with The Pretenders.


Studio recordings made by R. Ismail from 1963 to 1973.


Rosiah Chik & R. Ismail accompanied by Megawati Orchestra – “Lagu2 Melayu Asli” (Malay Asli Songs), Mega Records (1963)


(1) “Kaseh Dan Rindu” (Love and Kindness) sung by R. Ismail & Rosiah Chik

R.Ismail & Rosiah Chik - Kasih dan Rindu (

(2) “Joget Kenangan Budi” (Joget of Memories on Kindness) sung by R.Ismail & Rosiah Chik


(3)“Gunong Panti” (Mount Panti) sung by R. Ismail

rosiah chik & r ismail _ gunong panti (


R. Ismail & John Lee Orchestra – “Chemburu” (Jealousy) – EMI/Parlophone, 1966


(1) “Ilham Penchipta” (A Creator’s Ideas),

(2) “Chemburu” (Jealousy),

(3) “Budi Dan Chita “A Deed and an Ambition”,

(4) “Di-Ambang Senja” (In the Brink of an Evening)

R. Ismail "R. Ismail (Chemburu)" 1966 FULL EP (


R. Ismail Dengan Pancharagam The Pretenders – Philips, 1967


(1)   “Tinggal Kenangan” (Only Memories)

(2)   “Harapan Tinggi Menggunong” (A Mountain-High Hope),

(3)   “Hayalan-Ku” (My Dream)**,

(4)   “Ku Pergi Ta’-Kan Lama” (I Won’t Be Away That Long)

R. Ismail & The Pretenders “R. Ismail Dengan Pancharagam The Pretenders” (1967) - FULL EP Remastered (

**The song “Hayalan-Ku” was also recorded by Rahmah Ali and The Pretenders for the 1967 Cathay Keris film “Dosa Wanita” (A Woman’s Sins).


The Times dengan R. Ismail dan Afidah Es – Olympic, 1969


(1)   “Seloka Budi” (The Gutter of Kindness) sung by R. Ismail & Afidah Es

R. Ismail & Afida Es - Seloka Budi (R. Ismail) - 1969 (

(2)   “Berpadu Chita” (Integrating Ambitions) sung by R. Ismail & Afidah Es

R. Ismail & Afida Es - Berpadu Chinta (Nani Sajang) - 1969 (



The Times dengan Bintang2 Radio dan TV: Zaleha Hamid, Jamal Awang, R. Ismail, Sulaiman Idros – Olympic, 1970


“Tiada Jaoh” (Not That far Away) performed by R. Ismail & The Times

R. Ismail dgn. The Times - Tiada Jauh (R. Ismail) - 1970 (


The Times dengan R. Ismail dan Maria B. – Oscar/Olympic, 1970


(1)   “Semarak Hati” sung by R. Ismail & Maria Bachok***

r ismail & maria b _ semarak hati (1970) (2nd upload) (

*** This song was originally sung by P. Ramlee and Rubiah for the film “Juwita” (1951).

(2)   “Sudah Takdir” (It Has Already Been Destined) sung by R. Ismail

R Ismail dgn. The Times - Sudah Takdir (R. Ismail) - Mac 1970 (


R. Ismail dan Siti Aishah – EMI/Parlophone, 1973


(1)   “Bulan Dan Juga Angin” (The Moon and the Wind)**** sung by R. Ismail & Siti Aishah,

(2)   “Wanita Dan Teruna” (A Woman and a Man)***** sung by R. Ismail & Siti Aishah,

(3)   “Tidurlah Permaisuri”(Go to Sleep, My Queen)******

(4)   “Gunong Banang” (Mount Banang) sung by R. Ismail.

**** Originally sung by P. Ramlee & Noormadiah for the film “Panggilan Pulau” (The Call from the Island) (1954)

***** Originally sung by Jasni & Lena for the film “Iman” (Faith) (1954)

****** Originally sung by P. Ramlee for the film “Putus Harapan” (The Lost Hope) (1953)

R. Ismail & Siti Aishah "R. Ismail Dan Siti Aishah" 1973 FULL EP (


After the above recording work, R. Ismail took a break from the entertainment circuit to focus on his job in the field of transportation. Nevertheless, in 1990 and 1992, he was invited by Life Records to record some traditional songs and re-record some hits from classic Malay films.


R. Ismail featured on the above albums by Life Records in the early 1990s.


R. Ismail – “Direnjis-renjis” (Being Sprinkled) (1990)********

R. Ismail - Di Renjis Renjis (Official Audio) (

******** Originally sung by P. Ramlee for the film “Taqdir Illahi” (The Act of God) (1950)


R. Ismail & Maznah Ali – “Inai Pengantin” (Henna Leaves for The Bride and The Groom) (1990)

Maznah Ali & R. Ismail - Inang Pengantin (Official Audio) (


R. Ismail – “Pengantin Bersanding” (The Bride and The Groom on the Dais) (1990)*********

R. Ismail - Pengantin Bersanding (Official Audio) (

******** Originally sung by Jasni for the film “Bujang Lapok” (The Old Bachelors) (1957). In 1977, it was re-recorded by Sanisah Huri on Senada’s LP “Namamu Nyanyian Hidupku” (Your Name is the Song of My Life).


R. Ismail – “Gunung Payung” (Mount Umbrella) (1992)**********

R. Ismail - Gunung Payung (Official Audio) (

********** Originally sung by P. Ramlee & Saloma for the film “Batu Belah Batu Bertangkup” (The Devouring Rock) (1959). In 1976, it was re-recorded by Suara Perindu on Senada.


R. Ismail – “Selamat Pengantin Baru” (Best Wishes for the Just-Married Couple) (1992)

R. Ismail - Selamat Pengantin Baru (Official Audio) (


The establishment of Klasik Nasional (then renamed Radio Klasik) by RTM in 2006 has indeed brought back the light to R. Ismail’s singing career after years of hiatus. He then appeared more frequently on TV and stage shows both in Malaysia and Singapore. To facilitate this arrangement, he had also resided in Kuala Lumpur, while at the same time, continued to visit his children and undergoing medical check-ups in Singapore.


R. Ismail performing “Gelombang” live onstage at the grand finale of Bintang Klasik Nasional 2008 singing competition organized by RTM. R.ISMAIL - GELOMBANG (


However, his health had begun to deteriorate, hence forcing him to return to the republic for good. Eventually, on September 13, 2020, R. Ismail passed away at the age of 83 in Sengkang Hospital, Singapore due to heart, lung and kidney failures. 


Three of his children – Elfee, Iskandar and Aslina – had followed his footstep in the rendition of Malay traditional songs. In 2023, they performed together in memoriam of their late father at Singapore’s National Library Board.


R. Ismail and his son Elfee singing together a traditional Malay song called “Pak Ngah Balik” (The Middle Uncle Returns). R.Ismail dan Anak Elfee Ismail lagu Pak Ngah Balik - YouTube 


Ku hadapi dengan tenang (I face the challenges calmly) ….

Ku tempuh juga gelombang (I still fight the strong wave) ….

Biar hanya tinggal tulang (Even though only my skeleton remains intact) ….

Aku tak akan tumbang (I will never fall down to surrender)!


Alfatihah to R. Ismail (1937 – 2020), may he rest in peace … Ameen!


Ghaz, KL




I wish to put on credit the providers of inputs whom I referred to in writing this article, particularly:


Radio & Television of Malaysia (RTM); Radio & Television of Singapore (RTS); National Library Board, Singapore;

Shaw Brothers’ Malay Film Production, Singapore; Cathay Keris Film Production, Singapore; EMI Records, Singapore; Life Records, Singapore and Malaysia; Olympic Records, Singapore (now defunct, copyright subject to current owners); Berita Harian (Malaysia); Berita Mediacorp; Hamlau Lahabau of Muzik Nusantara; Cikgu Hj. Hassny of Nostalgia Hassny; Pop OK Clasical; Yudhie (ud) from Sarawak; Discog; and other contributors of R. Ismail’s songs (names as mentioned on respective YouTube Channels).

No comments:

Post a Comment