I went to karaoke tonight with a bunch of friends that I have never karaoke’d with before. One of them, very surprisingly, chose old Malay 80’s pop songs, which was odd because she was possibly too young to remember these songs properly.
Anyway, it made me checked out YouTube for old stuff, and here are my favourites in no particular order. Where available, I compare the now and then videos, just to show how the singers have progressed over the years.
Aishah – Janji Manismu (Your Sweet Promises), from Juara Lagu (our equivalent of AI) 1990. Aishah was, and still is, for me, the standard bearer for Malay pop singers. She wasn’t ditzy or cutesy like today’s batch of popstars; she was working-class. She was good, hardworking, intelligent (booksmart and streetsmart) and she really put in the effort to master her craft, both on and off stage
For this particular performance, Aishah was the runner-up in the Best Performance category, losing to the rock band Wings (I still protest that decision but oh well). However, Janji Manismu won overall best song of the year. The song is a perfect pop ditty – it was short, it had great hooks, it had cheesy radio-friendly lyrics and one crazy-powerful vocal pipe. Aishah had several massive hits after Janji Manismu, but she significantly decreased her involvement in the music business to concentrate on her studies (I think she took the masters in child education or something like that in New Zealand).
Below is a more recent performance by Aishah, a medley of two of her hits i.e. Camar Yang Pulang (Flying Home) and Janji Manismu. As far as I could tell, she sang both songs in their original key (ok I have checked, she did sing both in ther original key though the tempo for Janji Manismu is a tad slower than the original). She is still singing in limited engagements and private functions; she wears the headscarf now and has put on a few pounds but her voice is still as powerful as ever. Like I said, she’s the standard bearer.
Long before Jaclyn Victor and Suki, there was Francesca Peters. She had always enjoyed a good Malay following (remember the duo Roy & Fran?) but this song, Sekadar Di Pinggiran (At The Edges), really made her into a household name. If you would like to see her live performance at the 1986’s Juara Lagu, please click here. I can’t embed it in this post coz the channel owner disabled that function.
Did you go to the link? How cool was it that she wore baju kurung? She had two songs in the running that year, this one and another called Aku Kehilanganmu (I’m Losing You), and she wore baju kurung for both performances. The best performance that year went to another non-Malay pop act called Alleycats. I think it sparked a protest of sorts coz people were arguing that solo acts had a tougher time to get the best performance title because they were singing to backing tracks as opposed to band who got to play ‘live’, hence had better energy and stage presence.
Anyway, Fran ruled the 80’s and a better part of the 90’s before she migrated overseas to kickstart an international singing career. Subsequently she returned back to Malaysia
and Fran is now the Music Director at UPSI, a teaching college. (IA Note: the bit about UPSI was found to be erroneous. My thanks to the reader who pointed it out). Below is her doing Rihanna’s Umbrella at the “KLCC New Year Countdown to 2008” concert. I am not too crazy about it but I could not find any other recent videos of her live performance.
Azlina Aziz had pedigree. Both of her parents were industry royalty, the late Aziz Jaafar and Normadiah – both were triple threats of their days – they were singers, actors, dancers all rolled into one. Azlina’s distinctive voice is reminiscent of her mother’s; her other sister Azliza also sings but Azlina enjoyed a more commercial success compared to Azliza (though some would argue that Azliza was big on the live gig circuit and performed high energy shows to packed clubs like HRC and Planet Hollywood).
Azlina was very big in the 80’s, she sang mid-tempo moderate pop songs that were not very challenging vocally, but pleasant nevertheless. She married on of the Abu Hassan brothers – Azman, I think – and after tying the knot she had decreased her public performances though she is still active in the industry. This was her live performance of Wajah Siapa Di Hatimu (Who’s In Your Heart), again from Juara Lagu 86.
Despite her parents, Azlina was humble, soft-spoken and had none of the trappings of a moviestar offspring. I could not recall a single gossip about her – she was a good girl through and through.
I cannot talk about 80’s pop singers without mentioning another iconic singer of that decade, the inimitable Zaiton Sameon. Inimitable because her voice was truly unique; it was raw and unrestrained and she was completely unashamed and unapologetic about it. I was not a fan but even I have to admit that she really was something special.
Zaiton received as much derision as she did praises. Many took exception to her dressing, which was then considered too racy and scandalous. These days nobody would bat an eyelid.
Despite the excessive attention to her dressing and personal life (she was a single mother – again, an unusual admission for that time), Zaiton showed her critics that she knew what she was doing when she broke into the scene with Menaruh Harapan (Hope Remains), an autobiographical song written by prolific lyricist Habsah Hassan who openly admitted that she wrote it based on Zaiton’s own experiences. The video shows her performance at Juara Lagu 87. She won best overall song but lost to the late Sudirman in the best performance category.
In 1990, at the peak of her career, Zaiton met an accident that claimed the life of her only son. She was in a coma for a while and though she finally came to and the accident happened 17-years ago, Zaiton never fully recover, both physically and professionally. It is said that the death of her son affected her so deeply that she has blank moments whenever she tries to remember or talk about him. Recently it was announced that Zaiton will receive a RM500 monthly pension from Karyawan in recognition of her contribution and service to the industry.
I don’t have any clips of her recent performance though I remember watching her a few years back in some TV show and thinking, she shouldn’t sing coz she looked visibly unwell, and more importantly, unhappy. So, I leave you with the clip of the late Sudirman singing Merisik Khabar (Yearning for News), the song that won best performance in that year’s Juara Lagu. Since this post is about 80’s female pop singers, I will leave his story for another sleepless night.
Ok I don’t get the lighter thing. But I think he sang this song really well (I am not a fan so it is not like I am trying to score brownie points or anything here). What I mean is, he held on to the song tightly from note to note. You could almost taste his emotions bubbling right under the surface and he almost lost it right at the end of the first chorus (just before the lighter thing) but he reigned it back in and finished the song masterfully. This is a hard song to sing, the key is higher than average, and the song was written with almost no pause from one line to another. Lyrics was written by Habsah Hassan, who again openly admitted that she wrote this for Sudirman, based on his own stories, feelings and experiences.