10 October 2013: Musika – Malaya’s Early Music Scene

Rediscover the groundbreaking artistes that helped to shape Malay musical heritage!

MUSIKAIf the song and the melody were separated, there would be no soul, wrote P. Ramlee in Getaran Jiwa, one of his many compositions. Indeed, music in all its forms is so interminably woven into Malaysia’s history that we could never contemplate ever having being without it. From the days of bangsawan during the Malay Sultanate to the era of shellacs and gramophones, films, weddings and live performances, there never seemed to be a significant moment in our lives where there was no music of any sort. The latest book celebrating Malay music over the last century is Musika, Malaya’s Early Music Scene written by Azlan M. Said. The historical stories and sepia shots included within were passionately compiled from a personal collection of vinyl discs and memorabilia belonging to the writer’s father, a talented musician. Such were the heady and halcyon days before the advent of digital, when shellac, vinyl, radio and dance halls reigned supreme!

musika-2The 256-page, book, written in both English and Malay, opens with a pictorial timeline, starting with the 1900s and the popularity of bangsawan or Malay opera, moving to the introduction of the gramophone, the first Malay talkie, the advent of radio broadcasting, and WW2, and closing with the ’60s, the golden era of youthful Malay pop music. The biographies of artistes includes musicians, composers, bandleaders and singers, with very brief descriptions of their early years. Some names, like the incomparable P. Ramlee, Saloma, Siput Sarawak and Ahmad Jais, will be known to most admirers of Malay music and movies. Others, like krontjong chanteuse Miss Tijah, bangsawan composer Wan Jarr and singer/actress Zeera Agus, are less known but no less fascinating – their stories are likely to send readers scurrying into antique stores and rummaging through piles of dusty shellacs and vinyl! Suffice it to say that if you are a diehard fan of vintage Malay music, this book is a must-have.