The Long And Short of Malaysian Music

This was originally published in The Malay Mail On July 23, 2007

Me, I like role playing.

Assume I am a foreign student who is doing a Masters degree programme.
Being the adventurous person, I decide to do a thesis on Popular Music in South-East Asia: A Case Study on Malaysian Music.

The first thing I would do before starting work on my thesis is to log onto the Internet and gather as much information as I can.

My search on the subject of `Malaysian popular music’ on Google yielded 2,870,000 results. Topping the list was `Welcome To Musical Malaysia: The One-Stop Site For Information on Malaysian Music’ (

There were a lot of links, including Artistes on the EMI Malaysia label; Artistes on other Labels; Malaysian heavy metal sites; Malaysian radio stations on the web; Astro radio stations; and other Malaysian popular music related sites.

Sadly, nothing was helpful.

The site, A Brief History of Malaysian Pop Music, had a very brief description on how Malaysian music was pioneered by the bangsawan in the 1890s, followed by Tan Sri P. Ramlee, The `Pop Yeh Yeh’ explosion during 1965 to 1971, the soft rock era of the 1980s, and contemporary artistes like Mukhlis Nor and M. Nasir, to name a few.

Maybe it was not the best website for me. Let’s check out whether Wikipedia has anything.
True enough, its Music of Malaysia site had more information about Malaysian music. Broken into six chapters – traditional music, pop music (which includes five sub-sections namely Pop Yeh-Yeh, changes in musical tastes, Islam-influenced pop, underground music scene (1990s to present), underground music (including a sub-section on Terengganu Punk: The Origins of Malaysian Punk Rock), Chinese music, Indian Music, jazz, classical, and world music.

Good enough but not deep enough.

Then I came across another website, Psych, Crossover, Beat, A Go-Go, Fusion From Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, China… (
There, I got to learn about groups like Cells Unlimited, D’4 Ever, The Esquires, Fried Ice, The High Ground, The Jets, Les Kalifas, Naomi & The Boys, October Cherries, Pests Infested, The Quests, Siglap Five, Straydogs, The Burglars, Mike Ibrahim and The Nite Walkers. Only the last two groups were Malaysian.

After spending almost the whole day, I realised that instead of just ‘google-ing’ Malaysian popular music, perhaps I should go straight to the source – the governing bodies of popular Malaysian music – starting with the Recording Industry Association of Malaysia website,

Okay, there’s news about piracy, raids, ringtones, info on hologram stickers but nothing much on Malaysian music.

Maybe their link page could lead me to the proper channel.

Guess what? Written on the page was: ‘We are regularly out on the web. When we find a great site we list it here for you to enjoy. From the list below, choose one of our weblink topics, then select a URL to visit.’

The thing is, there were no URLs to click on.

Perhaps there’s nothing much about Malaysian music after all.

Before it’s too late, I think I should change the subject of my thesis.