After a few years spending my weekends at home with my wife, I recently visited my favourite spot -- the antique market at Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya, where I used to buy old records. My wife was attending a course somewhere in the vicinity, so I got the idea of spending my day there while waiting for her return from the training centre.
I felt tears of joy well up as if I was entering into a "paradise" of the past, where the merchandise sold shall bring us back to the old days. I managed to bring home three home-made CDs – The Thunderbirds, a 1960s English-language band from Singapore; a compilation of 1960s and 1970s Malaysian English-language bands and Paul & Paula, a popular singing duo from your country, USA.
While listening to Paul & Paula through my car CD player, suddenly a list of popular American duet singers who have been my favourite stars came across my mind, some of which are as in the following photos.
Somehow, I remember that the Malaysian entertainment circuit used to have quite a number of male-and-female singing duo from the 1950s to the early 1980s, which I am pleased to highlight in this article.
In 1940s and 1950s, there were no specific duet pairs in Malay music. A singer, being a male or female, will be paired with any other singer. Some of the singers were also actors and actresses acting together in same films singing a list of songs, then they re-recorded the same songs on records. This was the practice, due to the multi-talented nature of the artists themselves.
For instance, the legendary P. Ramlee himself had been recording duet songs with Rubiah, Momo Latiff, Noormadiah and Nona Asiah, before teaming up permanently with Saloma following their marriage in 1961. Other popular duet singers during the decade include R. Azmi & Rokiah Wandah and Aziz Jaafar & Noormadiah.
Kamsani & Noormadiah – HasratRohani (The Wish from My Soul) [from the film Jubah Hitam/The Black Robe, 1956]
Since 1950s, both P. Ramlee and Saloma used to work together professionally. However, after their marriage in 1961, they began to sing in duet more intensively, besides acting together in films produced by Shaw Brothers’ Malay Film Production (MFP) studio in Singapore. In 1962, Ramlee and Saloma took over the role of leading male and female vocalists in a singing group called Pancha Si-Tara after two of its original members, Aziz Jaafar and Noormadiah got married and left it a year later. In 1964, Ramlee and Saloma left Singapore for Kuala Lumpur and continued their singing and acting career in the latter-based Studio Merdeka. Among their final duet songs include Assalamualaikum (Peace Be Upon You) from the film Putus Sudah Kaseh Sayang (A Love Torn Apart) in 1971, and an excerpt from a Radio Malaysia recording called Uda Dan Dara (The Young Man and Its Lady) in 1972. Besides P. Ramlee, Saloma also used to record duet songs with other singers, like Ahmad C.B., Ahmad Daud and Aziz Jaafar.
P. Ramlee & Saloma – Gelora(The Gale) [from the film Seniman BujangLapok/Bujang Lapok As The Actors, 1961]
P. Ramlee & Saloma – YangMana Satu Idaman Kalbu (Which One Is My Heart’s Choice) [from the film Labu& Labi, 1962]
P. Ramlee & Saloma – AchiAchi Buka Pintu (Achi Achi, Open The Door) [from the film Nasib Si Labu Labi/The Fate Of Labu& Labi, 1963]
P. Ramlee & Saloma – SedangkanLidah Lagi Tergigit (Even The Teeth Bite The Tongue) [from the film TigaAbdul/The Three Abduls, 1964]
P. Ramlee & Saloma – Saat Yang Bahagia (The Moment of Happiness)[from the film Masam-Masam Manis/SourBut Sweet, 1965]
P. Ramlee & Saloma – TamanFirdausi (The Heaven’s Garden) [from the film Nasib Do Re Mi/The Fate of Do Re Mi, 1966]
P. Ramlee & Saloma – Assalamualaikum(Peace Be Upon You) [from the film PutusSudah Kaseh Sayang/A Love Torn Apart, 1971]
Aziz Jaafar, an English-educated artist, joined the Shaw’s MFP in the early 1950s under the recommendation from his uncle, composer Yusoff B. who had been working in the studio since its inception. His first film in under the MFP’s production was Doktor (Doctor) before proceeding to other releases like Samseng (Hooligan), Hantu Jerangkong (A Skeletal Ghost), Hantu Kubor (A Ghost From A Grave), Seruan Darah (A Bloody Call), Putera Bertopeng (A Masked Prince), Dandan Setia and Putera Sangkar Maut (A Prince From The Deadly Cage).
Meanwhile, Noormadiah began to act in films produced by Nusantara Film Company in 1952, following the demise of stage opera troops after the end of the World War II, after which she joined the MFP. Initially, Noormadiah teamed up with P. Ramlee in both singing and acting but eventually, she started working together with Aziz more frequently. In 1960, both Aziz and Noormadiah joined Pancha Si-Tara formed by P. Ramlee but left the group following their marriage a year later. Since then, they continued to record their duet songs within the set-up of the MFP until the studio itself closed down for good in 1967. Two of their daughters, Azlina and Liza, also took part in show-business in the early 1980s until the mid-1990s.
The Mid-1960s and the Pop Yeh Yeh period
During the pop yeh yeh craze, duet songs were not the option for most of the singers singing under this genre. Instead, many of them prefer to record their songs individually. Nevertheless, some of them did attempt to record songs in duet and the results were indeed remarkable. For instance, M. Osman himself did a few duet recordings with his wife Afida Es, besides other female artists including Kamsiah M. Ali (champion of 1963 Penang Radio Star contest) and Rima Melati (from Indonesia). Another well known duet pair was M. Fadzil and Orchid Abdullah, who recorded a duet song for the film A-Go-Go 67.
In 1969, another success duet pair, Ahmad Jais and Rafeah Buang, did a duet EP in which two of their songs were sung in duet. Prior to this, both of them had already carved a successful solo career for themselves. Meanwhile, Rafeah Buang had also made another successful mark when she sang duet songs with R. Ismail for the films Gurindam Jiwa (The Song of The Soul) by Cathay Keris and Anak Buloh Betong (The Magic Bamboo’s Son) by Shaw’s MFP in 1966. Another popular duet song by Rafeah was with Omar Suwita a year later for another MFP’s release called Lampong Karam (Lampong Sinks). Also in 1966, Ahmad Jais recorded a duet song with Kartina Dahari for the film Aksi Kuching (The Cat’s Act).
Ahmad Jais & Kartina Dahariwith Dendang Perindu – Budi SetahunSegunung Intan (A Good Deed Worths A Mountain Of Diamonds) [from the film Aksi Kucing/The Cat’s Act, 1966]
R. Ismail & Rafeah Buang – Gurindam Jiwa (The Song Of The Soul)[from the film of the sametitle, 1966)
R. Ismail & Rafeah Buang – Dari Hati Ke Hati (From A Heart To A Heart) [from the film Anak Buloh Betong/ The Magic Bamboo’s Son, 1966]
Rafeah Buang & Omar Suwita – Suka Sama Suka (Liking Each Other) [fromthe film Lampong Karam/Lampong Sinks,1967
Both A. Romzi and S. Roha (full name: Siti Roha Chik Tajuddin) began their respective singing career during the pop yeh yeh period.
In 1967, Romzi signed up with EMI Singapore and recorded several songs with The Hooks under a series of EP until 1968, before moving further as a solo artist under MMI in 1970, being accompanied by the recording company’s resident band, The Wanderers. Romzi and The Hooks also appeared as guest stars in the film A-Go-Go 67.
Meanwhile, Roha, who initially used her first stage-name Roha Chik, signed up with Globe Records to record an EP with The Keens, but this job hardly brought success. Eventually, Roha changed her stage-name to S. Roha when she was admitted into Olympic Records, through which she recorded her own songs with The Sangam Boys from 1967 until 1969. The year 1970 was a success for both Romzi and Roha when they appeared as a duet pair for their further recordings with MMI. They eventually got married but their marriage did not last.
After leading their own life following their divorce, Romzi left the entertainment scene for a while until 1986 when he made a comeback by recording under WEA with Malay “Papa Rock” Ramli Sarip under WEA and another album together with a blind singer, Sohaime Roa a year later. The last recording work ever done by him was a nasheed album titled Nada Solawah in 2001.
On the other hand, Roha continued to sing in a nightclub until its closure, before working in a factory to make ends meet. She also appeared as an extra in a film called Mat Tenggek (1979) directed by comedian Mat Sentol. The last public appearance by Roha was in 2006 in a musical theatre called Suzana@60 performed at the Istana Budaya, the Malaysia’s Palace of Culture in Kuala Lumpur.
Unlike other 1960s Malay singers, A. Ramlie (full name: Ramli Ahmad) had a long history of singing career from 1966 to 1998. His debut song called Kenangan Mengusik Jiwa (Disturbing Memories) was performed live with The Rythmn Boys on Radio Singapura’s weekly chart programme Lagu Popular Minggu Ini (LPMI) (Popular Songs This Week), where it entered the chart for five consecutive years! After the song was put on vinyl the same year, the whole EP became a sought after until it was reprinted by Olympic Records in the early 1970s due to popular demand. Between 1966 and 1970 and under Olympic alone, A. Ramlie had recorded with The Rythmn Boys, The Clans, Pancharagam A. Ramlie, The Click IV and The Commandos (an Indonesian band). Following the expiry of their contract with Olympic, Ramlie and The Commandos continued their recording with Panda Records from 1971 to 1972, before the musical back-up was taken over by The Nite Walkers from Johor Bahru.
Meanwhile, Maria Bachok made her very first split EP with Jamal Awang and The Times in 1969, also on Olympic Records. In 1970, she made a duet EP with R. Ismail, with the same band under the same label. She then moved to Panda Records, making another duet EP with Salim I, this time with The Commandos. Beginning 1971, Maria was made a duet pair with A. Ramlie in a TV entertainment programme called Istana Pesta, produced by the Radio & Television of Singapore (RTS). Since then, Maria and Ramlie recorded a series of duet EPs with both The Commandos and The Nite Walkers under Panda Records until 1972. They fell in love with each other, and tied the knot in the same year.
In 1974, when Kassim Masdor left EMI to set up his own recording production called Senada, both Ramlie and Maria were admitted into the said label, and continued to record duet songs, while Ramlie occasionally recorded his own records under the label. This trend continued until the late 1970s.
The revival of pop yeh yeh craze in 1985 – 1987 provided another opportunity for the husband-and-wife duo. They tried their luck in the Malaysian entertainment circuit, through which they were given the chance to sing live on Malaysian TV as well as concerts throughout the country. They even decided to settle down in Johor Bahru. However, due to unknown reasons, their marriage ended in 1988. By this time, the pop yeh yeh revival had faded down.
The Malay entertainment circuit was made to aware on Ramlie’s life sufferings caused by Parkinson’s disease in 1995. Apart from a mass concert of pop yeh yeh artists in 1996 under the banner Masih Ada Yang Sayang (There Are Those Who Still Care) and a re-recording of his popular songs in a compilation under the same title to collect some fund for his medical bills, the estranged couple Ramlie and Maria made their last recording work in 1996 under Suria Recording Company (SRC), using the title Itulah Sayang (That Is Love), after the name of a song that put them on the peak of popularity, which they recorded together for the first time in 1971.
Maria Bachok had since remarried, while Ramlie led a quiet life until his death in 2001. Nevertheless, she has been lately made another comeback where she currently performs her duet songs with A. Roszainie a.k.a “A Ramlie clone”, whose voice and appearance resembles exactly like him.
A. Ramlie & Maria Bachok – Kasihku Berbunga Sepanjang Musim (MyLove Blooms Thoughout The Season) 
By the late 1960s, Ismail Haron a.k.a. Singapore’s Tom Jones had already carved a successful career, thanks to the support by his recording labels Teo Kwang, Panda Records and EMI as well as his accompanying band, The Vigilantes (who later changed their name to The Guys following a change in their members line-up). In a separate development, Anita Sarawak (real name: Ithnaine Mohamed Taib) had just recording her first English EP with The Quests, also on EMI, in 1969. Her first Malay EP was recorded with D’Starlights with the EMI in 1970.
As solo artists, their respective songs recorded were well-accepted by listeners from both sides of the Causeway. Somehow, owing to their success, there was a proposal from the music industry that both Ismail and Anita should be made as a duet pair, adopting the styles of Sonny Bono and Cher from USA! An attempt was made to combine both of them through their first duet EP by EMI in 1972, titled Kesah Dol Dan Minah (The Tale of Dol and Minah) and it was proven successful. From that year onwards, Ismail and Anita became popular as a duet pair and began recording songs together until 1976, in addition to their solo albums.
Ismail then left for Brisbane, Australia after accepting an offer to sing at a nightclub there, while Anita left for Las Vegas, USA to pursue her singing career. Upon their return to Singapore in the early part of the millennium, they made a comeback concert in 2010.
Ismail Haron died in his sleep in 2012 at 65 soon after his live performance at the Royal Carnival of Perlis, while Anita disappearance from the public eye after her last solo album, Seksis (Sexist), recorded in 2010, remained a mystery until today.
NB: Please refer to Muzik Nusantara (MN) website (www.muziknusantara.com) for a full list of duet songs by Ismail Haron and Anita Sarawak.
Eddie Ahmad (real name: Idris Ahmad) recorded quite a handful of EPs with The Antartics on EMI between 1966 and 1968, and an EP with The Guys under the same label in 1969. From 1970 to 1973, he became a solo artist. Her younger sister Hamidah began to cut her own EPs in 1972. However, she became more popular after singing in duet with her brother on a 1973 release by EMI, where they sang Mawarku (My Rose) and Lagu Gembira (A Happy Song) together. Although this turned out to be Eddie’s final recording session before his migration to Denmark, Hamidah continued to record more EPs until 1976, before she migrated to Australia. Due to the popularity of their duet songs that sparked a new phenomenon throughout 1970s, a Malaysian singing group named 2 By 2 re-recorded these hits into their debut album in 1996, featuring the country’s pop queen Datuk Siti Nurhaliza, as a tribute to Eddie, who died in 1993 at the age of 45 in Denmark.
Born in Penang, Mohamad Khair Amir, or later on known as Hail Amir, began his career in show business when he joined the National Culture Complex as a dancer. On the other hand, the Sabah-born Fauziah Harun Al-Rashid a.k.a. Uji Rashid has been active in dancing since high school. Both Hail and Uji was offered a contract by Studio Merdeka to act as supporting actor and actress in the film called Permintaan Terakhir (The Last Wish) in 1974. The film was indeed a success, after which they were offered another acting offer in another release by the same studio called Jiwa Remaja (The Teenage Soul).
Those days, the shining stars in films who were found to be talented singers would be given the opportunity to record their voice on an album. Both Hail and Uji were among the few of this kind. In 1975, Uji Rashid’s first EP Ku Ingin Selalu Di Sampingmu (I Always Want To Be There By Your Side) was released by EMI and became the top hit of the said year, after which another EP by her was released in the following year, with the hit song Semakin Hari Semakin Sayang (Love Grows Day After Day). My father-in-law told us once that Uji Rashid was so popular that even a type of popular fish had been given a moniker Ikan Uji Rashid by Malaysian housewives as the fish has a pair of blinking eyes like Uji’s, besides her popular hairstyle called Paris Look which was an in-thing among young ladies then! In a separate development, Hail Amir was also signed up by EMI to record his debut EP called Wajah Kesayangan Hamba (The Face That I Adore), which became a hit in 1976 too.
The success enjoyed by Hail and Uji, coupled with their strong chemistry in both acting and singing, had prompted EMI to get them singing as a duet, whereby two duet LP were issued – Antara Matamu dan Mataku (Between Your Eyes And Mine) (1976) and Hujan (Rain) (1977). The duet couple made a comeback album in 1996, re-recording duet songs from classic Malay films of the 1950s and 1960s with new and improved musical arrangements.
When their popularity as singers began to fade, Uji went back into acting in films and TV dramas, while Hail started his own restaurant business. Uji’s son, Chico Harahap, follows her footstep as an actor. On the other hand, Hail never encourages his children to participate in show business.
Royston Sta Maria (Roy) and Francesca Peter (Fran) was a popular Malaysian duet couple in the early 1980s. A unique feature of them is that they represent the Eurasian community in the Malay-language entertainment circuit.
I remember very well their debut album released in 1982 that my late Dad bought for me in the form of a cassette when I was about eight years old. Their songs Tak Kenal Maka Tak Cinta (Love Is Only Possible by Knowing Each Other) and Siapa Dia Sebelum Daku (Who Was The One Before Me) are my personal favourites up to this day.
I wonder why they did not proceed with other duet albums thereafter. However, I remember that Fran eventually became successful as a solo artist whereby her hit song Sekadar Di Pinggiran (It’s Just On The Sideline) was awarded The Best Song in TV3’s Juara Lagu of 1986.
Fran also did a duet song with the Malaysian King of Pop, Dato’ Jamal Abdillah, which became a hit in the late 1980s.
Dato’ Jamal Abdillah was the champion of the Bintang RTM of 1979. Since then, he never looked back and continued to making hits after hits until today.
Ogy was a daughter of Ahmad Daud, a star during the golden era of Malay movies which I have mentioned in the early part of this article. Her first appearance on film was on 1972 release by Cathay Keris called Hati Batu (A Stone-hard Heart) as a child actress. She then took part as a child star once again in the film Permintaan Terakhir where her mother Saadiah also acted. Her acting career continued to bloom as she grew up. Besides this, she is also a talented singer.
In 1984, both Jamal and Ogy acted in a Sabah Film release called Azura. Their song Sandarkan Pada Kenangan (Leaning Against Memory) was a big hit in the mid-1980s.
Dato’ Jamal Abdillah & Ogy – Sandarkan Pada Kenangan (Leaning Against Memory) [from the filmAzura, 1984]