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Remembering P.Ramlee aka Teuku Zakaria (1929 - 1973)
P. Ramlee, whose real name is TEUKU ZAKARIA BIN TEUKU NYAK PUTEH, was born in Penang on the 22nd of March 1929, on the morning of AIDILFITRI for that year.
His father was an immigrant, a sailor from Lhoksemauwe in ACHEH, Indonesia while his mother, CHE MAH BINTI HUSSEIN, originated from KUBANG BUAYA, SEBERANG PRAI, PENANG.
He received his early schooling at the MALAY SCHOOL in Kampung Jawa and later at the FRANCIS LIGHT SCHOOL until standard five. He subsequently continued his education at the PENANG FREE SCHOOL..
During the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, he was unable to continue with his schooling. In order to make a living, he worked as an OFFICE BOY at a tine mine. At the same time, he also enrolled at the JAPANESE ARMY SCHOOL and had brief opportunity to acquaint himself with the JAPANESE LANGUAGE AND MUSIC. His hardworking and friendly disposition made him popular with the Japanese soldiers.
When World War II ended, P. Ramlee continued his schooling at the Penang Free School, up to STANDARD SEVEN. He was active in sports and had a liking for football and sepak raga in 1939, he represented his school in the football team.
LOVE FOR THE ARTS
P. Ramlee was born with an ARTISTIC FLAIR. That was an undeniable fact and it was obvious even in his early youth.
Starting his familiarization in the musical arts at the age of around 13, the UKELELE and VIOLIN were among the early instruments he took up.
He displayed his musical talents with CONTEMPORARY songs and melodious ‘KERONCONG’ tunes together with his friends. It was through this that he received his first commission from Radio Malaya to entertain at social gatherings and events around Penang. P. Ramlee’s affinity for singing and music overshadowed his academic studies at school; this is widely attested to by the teachers who taught him.
While singing at official functions, P. Ramlee would often be accompanied by a band, such as the Pancaragam Teruna Sekampung (All Kampung Youth Orchestra) and the Bintang Sore. His melodies voice soon became the talk of the town and soon many wanted to know more about his new star, a thin and pimple faced teenager.
When did P. Ramlee stat using the letter ‘P’ to his name? It happened apparently when he took part in a singing contest in 1947. The letter stand for ‘PUTEH’, his father’s name and RAMLEE his father younger brother name.
The first song he composed was none other than AZIZAH. It was written in 1945 and dedicated to a girl of his fancy by that name. He gave the song its first public airing at an Agricultural Fair in BUKIT MERTAJAM in JUNE 1948.
Without much difficulty, news of this great new mvoice reached the ears of BS RAJHANS a well known film dirctor in Singapore. An offer came from Rajhans which was to change the course of P. Ramlee’s destiny. He was invited to Singapore to work at the Jalan Ampas Studios for a Malay film production.
Seizing the opportunity, P. Ramlee saw himself moving to the LION CITY, bringing along with him a thousand and one ideas and hope of artistic achievement.
THE FILM WORLD
In Singapore, his voice was initially used in background songs for Malay films. He was also a CLAPPER BOY and CAMERA ASSISTANT. Noticingt his interest and affinity for acting, his superiors auditioned him and eventually gave him small parts in films. The first film in which P. Ramlee had a role in was CHINTA, released in 1948.
Apart from Rajhans, other directors who had a part in the progress of P. Ramlee in films included KM Basker, L.Krishnan, BN Rao, Phani Majumdar and S. Ramanathen. Consequently, after acting in some 20 FILMS (including Nilam, Nur Asmara, Racun Dunia, Takdir Illahi, Juwita, Panggilan Pulau and Hang Tuah), P. Ramlee eventually ventured into FILM DIRECTION, with his first effort PENARIK BECA which was released in 1955.
The heart-rending movie was well received by the public and the industry, bringing his name into the limelight. From then on he acted in and directed many other films including box-office hits such as ANAKKU SAZALI, SEMERAH PADI, HUJAN PANAS, BUJANG LAPOK, SUMPAH ORANG MINYAK, SARJAN HASSAN, NUJUM PAK BELALANG, PENDEKAR BUJANG LAPOK, ANTARA DUA DARJAT, SENIMAN BUJANG LAPOK, IBU MERTUAKU, LABU-LABI and MADU TIGA
While in Singapore, he had opportunity to direct 16 films, after which he returned to Malaysia in 1964. Here, he produced another 18 films, beginning with SI TORA HARIMAU JADIAN and ending with LAKSAMANA DO RE MI in 1972, his last.
Among the many actresses who have accompanied P. Ramlee on the silver screen are Kasmah Booty, Neng Yatimah, Siput Sarawak, Normadiah, Saadiah, Sarimah, Zaiton, Hashimah Yon, Rose Yatimah, Mariani and Sharifah Hanim.
P. Ramlee directed films bear themes that tend to be engaging and non-stereotyped. The intelligence of children can be seen in NUJUM PAK BELALANG played by Bat Latiff. The theme of possible love between the commoner and aristocracy is also well presented in ANTARA DUA DARJAT .
P. Ramlee touched on the issue of Islamic punishment in SEMERAH PADI whereas IBU MERTUAKU focused on the character of Nonya Mansur, an old heartless lady cleverly played by Mak Dara.
P. Ramlee has also taken a satirical view at suspense mystery through his SUMPAH ORANG MINYAKSI TORA HARIMAU JADIAN. Meanwhile his comedies are plentiful and still have audiences laughing today. These include BUJANG LAPOK, PENDEKAR BUJANG LAPOK, LABU-LABI, MADU TIGA, MASAM MASAM MANIS, DO RE MI, TIGA ABDUL and ANAK BAPAK.
In order to attract no0n-Malay audiences, P. Ramlee picked Vera Wee – an actress of Chinese descent to star in SESUDAH SUBUH. In GERIMIS, he introduced a Tamil - Chandra Shanmugam – as leading actress.
OF SONG & MUSIC
Apart from his acting and directing, P. Ramlee was also noted as a composer, lyricist and arranger. This is really what sets him apart as a multi-talented artist without equal. In composing his songs he often received help from his many contemporaries, including his songs he often received help from his many contemporaries, inclusing lyricists such as S. Sudarmaji, Jamil Sulong, HM Rohaizad and Ainol Jamal..
For musical arrangements his artistic influences included Osman Ahmad and Yusof B. In all, P. Ramlee wrote some 1000 songs during his lifetime.
As mentioned earlier, his early musical interest centred around the violin and the ukulele. The piano only came into his path a little later. Apart from Azizah his original compositions were Mi Jawa, Joget Malaysia and Di Padang Kota.
The open-minded P. Ramlee was fond of injecting his music with a variety of beats. Certain traditional Malay dance beats such as the inang, asli zapin, masri and joget were popular choices. Alternating with these traditional beats he chose the waltz, rumba, cha cha, the twist. Middle Eastern, Chinese and Hindustani rhythms, he deemed appropriate for his films.
The stories in his songs do not depict sweet love in their entirety. There are sad songs such as DI MANA KAN KU CARI GANTI, ENGKAU LAKSANA BULAN, TOLONG KAMI BANTU KAMI and JANGAN TINGGAL DAKU. His ‘beauty’ melodies include the popular AI AI TWIST, BUNYI GITAR, APA GUNA BERJANJI, MADU TIGA and SELAMAT PENGANTIN BARU.
Melodious comedy can be appreciated in ACI ACI BUKA PINTU, NASI GORENG, MENCECEH BUJANG LAPOK, APEK & MARJINA, BILA MAMA PAKAI CELANA, YANG MANA SATU IDAMAN KALBU and DENGAR INI CERITA. Songs such as GELORA, TIADA KATA SECANTIK BAHASA, DALAM AIR TERBAYANG WAJAHMU, SERI BULAN and SAAT YANG BAHAGIA are romantic songs rejoicing the happiness of couple in love.
One of his many advantages was his ability to deliver his own songs personally, either in solo or in duet with other singers such as Saloma and Normadiah. This had the effect of leaving a greater impact on the audiences.
If AZIZAH was his first song, then his swansong must surely be AIR MATA DI KUALA LUMPUR, written not long before he took his final breath.
LOVE & MARRIAGE
P. Ramlee was married three times. His first wife was Junaidah, daughter of actor Daeng Haris. Married in the early 50’s after the film BAKTI, their relationship fell apart even though they had a child, Nasir.
In February 1955, he married the second time to Norizan. This marriage too was shortlived and ended in divorce.
P. Ramlee later took to a singer named Salmah Ismail whose stage name was Saloma. They got married in November 1961. In Tembeling Road, Singapore. This third marriage was considered an ideal match because they were so right for each other, even in their duets.
The marriage lasted till his death. On the 29 of May 1973, a solemn calm settled upon the Malay arts community, as the nation’s ‘ARTIST SUPREME’ was laid to rest.
It is true that language sometimes cannot express the greatness that P. Ramlee has sowed for the nation. Even in death the legend of P. Ramlee shall long be remembered.
AWARDS & TITLES
P. Ramlee’s stature in the arts is evident in the variety of awards he received at national and international levels. His earliest success came when he was named BEST SONGWRITER at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival in Hong Kong in 1956 for the film HANG TUAH which was directed by Phani Majumdar.
In acting, his first accolade came in the form of BEST ASIAN ACTOR for the film ANAKKU SAZALI in 1957. A year later, his film direction of SUMPAH ORANG MINYAK bagged the trophy for BEST PHOTOGRAPHY, also at the Asia level.
P. Ramlee reached the peak of his fame when he was named THE MOST VERSTILE TALENT at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival in Tokyo in 1963. He received this honour for the film IBU MERTUAKU.
The unstoppable man further made history when three of his directions – PENDEKAR BUJANG LAPOK, NUJUM PAK BELALANG and MADU TIGA – were proclaimed BEST ASIAN COMEDY in 1959, 1960 and 1964 respectively.
In honour of his invaluable service to the arts, P. Ramlee was awarded the AHLI MANGKU NEGARA (AMN) by the third Yang di Pertuan Agung of Malaysia, HM Tuanku Syed Putra Alhaj ibni Almarhum Syed Hassan Jamalullail, in 1962.
In 1990, he was posthumously awarded the honoured title of PANGLIMA SETIA MAHKOTA (PSM)‘ARTIST SUPREME’ a national role model for the country’s artistic community. which carries the title ‘TAN SRI’, from the ninth Yang di Petuan Agong of Malaysia HM Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Yusuf Izzuddin Shah Ghafarullahu-Lah. With this second royal recognition, he is now undoubtedly the nation’s
The Nationel Archieves did not forget his immense contributions. In 1984, his final home along Jalan Dedap in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur was renovated and extended to become the P. RAMLEE MEMORIAL LIBRARY. Also refurbished was the humble home where he was born in Penang, which today is a subject of study by his fans and students of art alike. The Malaysian government has also named several roads after him in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kuching.
Apart from that, his name adorns the hallways of several important buildings such as the P. RAMLEE AUDITORIUM at Angkasapuri (the nation’s broadcasting centre), the P. RAMLEE MINI-THEATRE at the National Film Corporation (Finas) as well as the RAMLEE MALL in the Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest building in the world.
Specially for the music lovers, a business group, Renong Berhad together with EMI Malaysia jointly produced a special instrumental album called THE BOLSHOI BALLET ORCHESTRA PRESENTS TAN SRI P. RAMLEE in 1998. This was the very first time an orchestra of such high international recognition recorded pieces of P. Ramlee’s ‘ evergreen’ melodies into an album with high quality.
On 15 August 1998, the P. RAMLEE FAN CLUB was launched to bring together the many followers and lovers of his work, as well as to ensure that the treasures left us by the great man be preserved. Source : http://p-ramlee.com.my