History On Record

HAVE you ever walked into a bookstore to find an encyclopedia of Malaysian music? Or have you ever tried to find a decent section on Malaysian music in music stores?
Don’t crack your head because the answer is, you can’t find one!
In this country, music is almost never taken seriously. More attention is paid to the juicy tidbits regarding the mischief artistes get up to, and how much money they make.
In general, music is seen as only for entertainment purposes or even worse, as a mindless way to waste time and money.
Don’t believe it?
Just ask any of your friends who claim to be music enthusiasts, questions like who was the first Malaysian recording artiste and what’s the title of his or her album?
If they have the right answer, please ask them to drop me an e-mail.
Sadly, no one seems to have documented and preserved the factual evidence of the origins of popular music in this country. A part of our national heritage may have been lost forever.
Well, maybe except for Andy Warhoofd, the mastermind behind Steam Kodok: 26 A-Go-Go Ultra-rarities from the ’60s Singapore and South East Asia Underground compilation.
Released in late 2003, the compilation features songs by groups like Mike Ibrahim and the Nite Walkers, Kassim Slamat and the Swallows, Rosnah and the Siglap Five, Naomi and the Boys, the Quests and a lot more artistes that not many of us have ever heard of.
The best part about the compilation is that it was not a Malaysian effort, but by Grey Past Records, a small independent label in Holland!
Oh, to set the record straight, Andy Warhoofd is not Malaysian. He’s Dutch and has never been to this part of the world. (by the way, for those who don’t know, Singapore was still part of Malaysia until 1965).
Now how does it feel to have a foreigner come out with a Malaysian compilation? And who the hell is this Andy Warhoofd guy?
Outside his close-knit circle, not much is known about Warhoofd. When contacted via e-mail, his answers were elaborated via his close acquaintance, MJ Coumans.
According to Coumans, Warhoofd’s fascination for these forgotten music legends started 10 years ago thanks to his curiosity about the disappearance of Dutch rock `n roll music in 1968.
For the last 10 years, he has been collecting obscure Dutch garage beat and psychedelic music and along the way, he released a string of compilations like the Biet Het series, Jeugdzonden (Youth Sins) – (a compilation of early releases of now big Dutch stars) and Waterpipes and
(a compilation of Dutch psychedelic unknown legends).
Warhoofd also wrote a lot of liner notes for US-only releases of Dutch ’60s music. In the ’90s, Warhoofd also worked as a producer in Holland. His resume includes albums for bands like the Krontjong Devils, De Stipjes, the Apemen, the Firebirds and more.
However, Warhoofd preferred to keep a very low profile and has always shied away from interviews.
When asked what led Warhoofd into the unknown world of Southeast Asian ’60s pop music, Coumans wrote: “While collecting the lost Dutch rock ‘n roll music, Warhoofd got irritated by the stupidity of all these old and forgotten Dutch rockers who for some reason were so overwhelmed by the Anglo American cultural supremacy that they forgot their own powers in
their roots and their own original quality.
“That’s the same reason why 99 per cent of all mankind believe that all the good music of the last three decades was made in the UK and the US. For most, a classic hit becomes a classic hit because you’ve heard it over and over again a zillion times. All the superb stuff from all over the
world will never reach that level no matter how much quality it has.
“That’s why generally, not much is known about the Asian scene, the East European scene, the Greek scene, the Spanish scene and the South American scene. Only those who are into obscure stuff would know about it. So something had to be done about it.”
And he did it well too. Listening to songs like Ikan Todak by Les Kafilas, Bad Loser by Naomi and the Boys, Chock Chock Kundong by Mike Ibrahim and the Nite Walkers and Bunga Beracun by the Swallows, one would definitely say this: Wow! I never knew that Malaysian artistes were that good at that time.
Of course they were, not just then but even today. The only thing that prevented us from discovering all these gems is because most of the time it would be overshadowed by below par cash cow-type materials and lack of appreciation and open ears.
People generally smirk at the quality of Malaysian music. To a certain extent, they don’t even care about it.
For instance, when checking with representatives from Malaysia’s governing music body like Recording Industry Association of Malaysia (RIM) and Akademi on whether if there is an archive that preserves recorded music in this country, their answer was no.
Now, let’s try the recording labels.
In a recent visit to one of the recording companies, yours truly was shocked to find out that no one has the master tape for Zaiton Sameon’s debut album Menaruh Harapan!
Is Malaysian music regarded only as cash cows? Something to be erased or dubbed over when it’s no longer useful?
Just try contact any record label and ask them for a detailed biography and discography of let’s say Zainal Abidin or Sheila Majid or maybe OAG.
May Lady Luck be on your side.
One theory why music archives are non-existent is that it involves a lot of money! (Funny how there’s money to spend when it comes to other things like fighting piracy and stuff).
Warhoofd and Coumans said that most of the music featured on Steam Kodok are not being really appreciated and archived in the countries of its origin which they found really surprising. Embarrassing isn’t it?
More from the e-mail: `We hope with such compilations, the level of appreciation would increase. Bands featured on Steam Kodok were authentic cultural pioneers that battled the world.
“It must be taken into consideration that these bands made their music at the border of the Anglo American global cultural takeover and with remembrance of their own pure ethnic feel. They did put Asia on the rock ‘n roll map!
“Maybe not many people realise this but the Steam Kodok compilation surprised a lot of people in the field.”
Well, they might be surprised but we, on the other hand, should feel ashamed because the praise did not come from our own mouths and it took someone in a faraway land to put the compilation together.

* Universal Music Singapore recently released released a five-disc box set featuring 100 greatest Singapore hits from the 1960s [http://mocamborainbow.blogspot.com/2009/05/100-greatest-singapore-60s-definitive.html%5D I wonder bila la hero ngan heroin Malaysia nak dapat due respect camni…