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Atlantic Waves 20jul10: Music from Malaysia

The Rough Guide To The Music Of Malaysia delves behind the tourist-destination facade to explore a wealth of musical styles: from Arabic-influenced pop with a distinctive Bollywood flavor to the pulsating roots sound of local Malay groups. Featuring a heady mix of both traditional and modern sounds, this album presents Malaysia’s potent musical force.

Blending a huge variety of styles and cultures, from Arabic and Chinese influences to rock and roll and Malay folk, Malaysian music is instantly appealing to a wider audience. Siti Nurhaliza is probably Malaysia’s leading female singer in any genre and an icon for Malaysians at home and abroad. It was her third album, Cindai, and especially the title track which features on The Rough Guide To The Music Of Malaysia, that brought her into the mainstream.

A composer, producer and accordion player, Pak Ngah has written numerous popular songs and produced many leading singers. ‘Hati Kama’, his song included here, features his trademark sound and production and is from an album that featured both Siti Nurhaliza and Noraniza Idris. Born in 1968, Noraniza Idris is one of the greatest stars of modern Malay music and she can be heard on ‘Yo Allah Saidi’.

In the 1960s, under the influence of (primarily) the Beatles and other 1960s British pop groups, a new music emerged in Malaysia that was dubbed pop yeh-yeh, the term derived from the Beatles lyric, ‘She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah’. A pop yeh-yeh group, Fredo and The Flybaits were one of the most popular bands in the 1970s and ‘Nasib Si Gadis’ mixes Malay elements with rock and roll.

S. Atan has worked with many of Malaysia’s leading musicians over the years. On this album, he performs one of P. Ramlee’s (a cultural icon who appeared in over sixty films and wrote over 250 songs) most famous tunes, ‘Berkorban Apa Saja’.

The opening track features the group Mari Menari blending ghazal and masri. Performed at weddings, ghazal combines Indian, Arabic, Malay and Western music, and masri is a rhythm of Middle Eastern origin that is sometimes compared to a bellydancing rhythm. Zaleha Hamid was in a ghazal group before turning her attention to singing other Malay traditional styles and dangdut, the Indian and Arabic street music that emerged in Indonesia in the late 1960s. She combines Malay roots music with dangdut on ‘Setia Menuggu (Main Chali Main)’.

The album contains a data track that includes an interview with the compiler Paul Fisher, music information from The Rough Guide to World Music book and travel information from The Rough Guide To Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei book. Paul Fisher is the founder of Far Side Music – the leading specialist in music from East Asia – a broadcaster, DJ, journalist and cameraman.

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