Malaysian music, like so much of Malaysian culture and society, is the result of an ever-evolving interplay between Indonesian, Thai, Filipino, Chinese and global (especially
Islamic) styles.
Wikipedia’s Malaysian music page details several kinds of internationally-influenced musics that have developed into their own traditional Malaysian forms:

— traditional xylophone “kertok” ensembles from the Western Malay Kelatanese communities along the South China Sea
— Arabian-influenced zapin music (with accompanying zapin dance) [the dance starts at about 0:30]
— violin/drum/accordion and gong folk music called “ronggeng” from Malacca
dondang savang, a “slow and intense” genre built from Indian, Arabian, Chinese and Portuguese influences

Malaysia’s rich tradition of nurturing folk music doesn’t prevent it from embracing Western pop. In the 1960s the Beatles and other Western bands became popular in Malaysia, inspiring local musicians to create their own rock. (In the ’80s, music journalists looking
back on the style gave it the name “Pop Yeh Yeh.”) Since the mid ’80s Malaysia has been one of Asia’s foremost centers of R&B, and rap, and, since the mid ’90s, Malay Pop. Typical of a country that readily blends the old and the new, Islamic pop styles like nasyid allow musicians to forge modern musical ground while maintaining their own ancient religious and cultural beliefs. (Though, not everyone in Malaysia is enthusiastic about music from the West.)

More information:’s overview of Malaysian music | More about Pop Yeh-yeh | Malaysian kids LOVE Pop Yeh-yeh | Gotta enjoy a Nasyid boy band | The most famous Malaysian anarcho-punk band: Carburetor Dung!

In class we’re going to listen to:
— “Salaam” by Raihan (featuring Miloud Zenasni)
Raihan, or “Fragrance of Heaven,” is one of the most popular musical groups in Malaysia’s history and by far the nation’s best-known Islamic a capella singing group. Since Raihan
debuted in 1996 with “Puji-Pujian” (currently the best-selling album in Malaysian history), the group has toured the world and recorded with such global notables as Yusuf Islam (a.k.a. Cat Stevens), yet they still remain devoted to Islamic principles that helped make them popular at home. Raihan’s motto? “Play hard. Work smart.”

More information:
The BBC on Raihan | Wikipedia on Raihan | Puji-Pujian on YouTube | More about Anasheed: only percussion is allowed

— “Kenanganku” by the Jefferydin and the Siglap Five
The Siglap Five was one of Malaysia’s most influential “Pop Yeh Yeh” bands from the 1960s. They were one of the first Malaysian bands to record R&B in Malay, making global rhythms and international popular music accessible to fans in the Malaysia for the first time. You can listen to samples of the Siglap Five and more Pop Yeh Yeh bands, on the Amazon page for the the compilation, “Kugiran: Pop Yeh! Yeh!”

Comments are closed.