Friday, May 22, 2009

The Best Malay Album Thus Far

I think this proposition would not result in any heated debate. One may quibble that all but one song were by P.Ramlee and not "original", but what is an album but a collection of songs, hopefully presented in a thematic way. Without doubt, Sheila Majid's Legenda album is so way way up there in terms of quality, musicality, the high level of musicianship, the superb production, the meticulous thought behind the concept and integrity of the album in order to be a fitting tribute to P. Ramlee - these were just some qualities attached to that album. The contribution and creative strategy by Jenny Chin, Fauzi Marzuki and Roslan Aziz cannot be understated. Sheila was all the way behind the conceptualisation of the album.

The album started off with a dream like sequence, as if it was beginning to tell a story, a dream of days where life was simpler and much better. Where good is good and people generally behaved better, where people do not have guess your motivations or motives, cause everyone regarded one another with sincerity and integrity. Where the girls were named Azizah or Fatimah, not Farah or Misha...

Liking Sheila was so easy. When she burst on the music scene, she was like a pocket dynamite... how can someone so smallish have such a powerful voice. Her first album Dimensi Baru was raw but had strong appeal. When EMOSI came out, that pissed a lot of people because suddenly Sheila Majid was the one Malay artiste whom every single young Malaysian can love and adore - there are still pockets of the Malay crowd that instantly does not like it when other "groups" embrace Malay culture.... you know who you are!!! Sheila solidified her status as the numero uno with the brilliant WARNA album. You go to her concerts, you will find truly all Malaysians going crazy. Safe to say, during those heydays, it was also a significant period where non-Malays were more open to embrace Malay pop. Maybe it was the quality of musicianship, maybe it was the the fact that we all studied all subjects in Malay except English, maybe it was just the right time, maybe it was just because we are Malaysians through and through ... It was a time when all Malaysians freely listened to Carefree, Black Dog Bone, Alleycats and of course the queen Sheila Majid.

Many of us thought after each progressively better album, what can Sheila come out with next. It was a long wait, but OMG, what an album in Legenda!!! You want to do a tribute to P. Ramlee, you better do something unique cause everybody has sung P. Ramlee.

The selection of the songs were broad based, there were the light hearted tunes, the classics but all were given a refreshing new take, either via the new beat or the instrumentation. Staying true to the melodies and not excessively improvising. The inclusions of the heart wrenching songs, similar to what I would call the torch-songs, such as Jeritan Batin and Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti helps paint a full picture of P. Ramlee's talents and versatility.

The stable of musicians assembled were magnificent. Most significantly, listen to the wonderful contributions by Paul Ponnudurai on Aduh Sayang, Manusia, Bunyi Guitar and Larut Malam. Mac Chew's arrangement abilities and his sakuhachi on Legenda were superb.

The wonderful surprise was that of all the songs, there was basically only one original song, and considering that all were P. Ramlee's top songs (Getaran Jiwa, Engkau Laksana Bulan)... I think P. Ramlee would not disagree with me if I say that the one original song, Legenda, was better than any of P. Ramlee's songs on that album. The composers Fauzi Marzuki (melody) and Habsah Hassan (lyrics) were never more brilliant - the melody and the apt lyrics, OMG, talking about the confluence of all things possible. I certainly have never come across such thoughtful, heartfelt, passionate and revealing lyrics .... ever!

Sejuta bintang di angkasa
Sinarnya mempesona
Sebutir bintang di taman seni
Cahayanya berseri
Biar masa bertahun beredar
Satu wajah satu zaman takkan pudar

Tetap jelas di ruang mata
Setiap gerak gaya
Bergetaran merdu sinar
Di persada budaya
Hingga kini menjadi sebutan
Tetap terpahat namamu di ingatan

Kaulah satu satunya
Di antara berjuta
Insan teristimewa
Patah tak tumbuh lagi
Hilang belum berganti
Kerana kau tersendiri
Kau kebanggaan kita
Kau budayawan bangsa
Engkau lagenda

Kaulah satu satunya
Di antara berjuta
Insan teristimewa

Ironically, in doing the Legenda album, safe to say that by now, with her body of work, including Ratu, Ku Mohon and Cinta Kita... Sheila Majid is also a legend in her own right.

p/s my one quibble, I really think it should be "Lagenda" and not "Legenda"... and the following medley showcased why I love Sheila Majid:


jitraman said...

spot on, bro

solomon said...

Sheila Majid still one of the best female Malay singers. At times, I think she is better than Siti Norhaliza.

Group wise, I like Alley Cat, Search (Isabella??) and Iklim. That's my era.

eeda ahmad said...

ditto, bro.

Lee said...

Thanks for reminding me about the song again. It's really very beautiful

Lee said...

Thanks for reminding me about the song again. It's really very beautiful

Peacebuy said...

She got style, and intelligent..

Her voice is unique and non duplicable...she is one of Malay's evergreen starlet.

RAD said...

Dear Dali

Everyone seems to have forgotten the song that set her on the road to stardom.........PENGEMIS MUDA.....It was 1985....i was in form three and the song exploded and for two or three years i hummed it....

Lagenda is a class act, and I doubt any Malay(sian) recording had even come close to this superlative composition

She is truly exceptional

maggielurva 愛美姬 said...


this is one of my all-time-fave malay albums. and the fact that many chinese bought this album shows that music can unite malaysians more than anything else.


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