Posted by: luckymulyadisejarah | June 20, 2008

Musik Malaysia Muzik

Malay Pop Music:

between market and national identity


R Muhammad Mulyadi



Brief History of Malay Pop Music  

Pioneered by royal musicians in the 1930s, the truest form of Malaysian popular music is made up of a fusion of various elements from various musical cultures in the country. P  Ramlee in the 1940s, created a uniquely Malaysian style, based on Malay folk music but infused with elements from various local music cultures. His over 250 songs reflected the influence of Malay music forms syncretism, especially the inang, zapin, masri, asli, boria, and joget forms, as well as Western dance rhythms (rumba, slow fox, waltz, cha-cha, mambo and twist), and Hindustani and Arabic melodies and rhythms. The emergence of recording companies in Malaysia accompanied Malaysian pop music industry development.

At the end of 1950s, rock music development in Western countries greatly influenced popular music development in Malaysia. Western song’s lyrics were translated into Malay, while its rhythm and musical instruments were still used. The era is known as the yeh yeh pop era.

Beside Western music genre, the ethnic groups also affected pop music scene in Malaysia. Chinese people, especially those who were in high schools, tended to favor Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong song records. Additionally, Indian pop culture was mostly imported from India, especially Tamil and Hindi’s films and song records. Meanwhile the Malays, especially the educated ones, favored songs from Indonesia, Middle East, and Malaysia itself.   

During the 1960s, there had been changes in Malaysian popular music scene, some of which were related to Singapore separation from the country. In this matter, the changes reflected the increasing Western influence in Malay people’s social life, especially the urbans. At the end of the decade, blue jeans and mini skirts began to be popular among teenagers, not only in Kuala Lumpur, but also in several other small cities. Malay entertainment magazines and public magazines were freer to discuss about such matters and to print such pictures as tight pants, sometimes skirts with cuts and other controversial outfits. Teenage culture began to emerge with the escalation of twist dance popularity, while joget also became more fashionable.

In the 1970s, many Malays, Chinese, and Tamils copied The Beatles. The era is called the yeh yeh pop referring to one of the Beatles’ songs, She Loves You yeh-yeh yeh. This genre quickly marginalized combos and big band dominating dance music in the earlier years.

At the end of 1970s, popular music developing in Malaysia was influenced by music like ABBA, Boney M., Michael Jackson, Madonna, etc. Those kinds of music were popularized by big recording companies such as CBS (USA), EMI (UK), Sony (Japan), PolyGram-Philips (Germany and the Netherlands) and WEA (USA). Furthermore, the appearance of these recording companies had supported the development of Malay pop music, that which was similar to Western music. Some Malaysian bands and singers popular at that time were those promoted by the big recording companies.

Big recording companies did not turn Malaysian pop music completely into Western characteristic. Popular music at that time still had local musical characteristics. The rhythm, texts in traditional poetry form, funny and deep lyrics, still reflected the old characteristic. This happens because small local recording companies kept recording songs not recorded by Western recording companies.

Soft rock group, the Alleycats, which had the most consistent record sales, dominated the 1980s. Their music blended elements of Western folk and pop music with local asli rhythms. Increasingly, non-Malays recorded, wrote, produced and performed in Malay language. Songwriters began consciously blending elements from various music cultures in an effort to encourage a true integration of local music cultures. Significant songwriters from this period were M. Nasir, Manan Ngah, Zubir Ali and S. Amin Shahib.

Zainal Abidin dan Sheila Madjid also released their songs through local recording company named Roslan Aziz Productions (RAP). Rock music also developed in Malaysia. Rock groups such as Search, Lefthanded, Bumiputera Rockers, Bloodshed, and Wings became popular in 1990s.





1.      Religion as National Identity

The foundation of Malay culture is religion. It appears in Rukunegara principle. The National Culture Congress in Malaya University in 1971 resulted in National Culture Policy, which one of its points stated that Islam is an important element of the national culture, yet other religions are still acknowledged as the elements of the national culture.

Since 1970s, Islam, as the major religion in Malaysia, played a bigger progressive role in the formation of Malaysian’s Malay identity. Islamic culture competed or had ambiguous relation with Malaysian nationalism and multi-ethnic relation. Da’wah movement as part of Islamic revival in 1970s gained support from most Malay youths feeling alienated (being alienated) by westernization, materialism, and socialism. This caused a gap between devoted Malays and the secular group.

Universities became clash battlefield between the militants and the moderate Muslim students. Islamic revival did not only worry non-Malay groups but also the tolerant Malays. Religious organizations such as da’wah group and religious groups based on religion took Islam to confront with other groups in the form of public discussions, such as discussions about the role of Islamic values for the Malays, Islam in plural society, Islamic activity demand, and dress code for women.

At the end of 1980’s, Islamic oppositional organization (PAS) declared a statement forbidding pop music, especially those originated from the West. They claimed that the music was amoral and proscribed. They then declared that women performing on stage had disobeyed Islamic principles. Several areas strongly controlled and influenced by PAS, had forbidden the circulation of magazines and newspapers that published writings about pop music. Stage performances showing pop singers, especially Malay women pop singers, were sometimes stopped or were protested as moral degradation. This case also occurred in universities in which the militants were influential.         

In 2001, Negeri Sembilan area, not controlled by PAS but had a strong Islamic culture, had also forbidden rock stage performances and claimed them as proscribed. The reason of the prohibition was connected with the bad influence of rock music to the youth. This prohibition was specially executed to black metal music.

Therefore, several Malaysian rock groups “had to” clarify that their group was not black metal to be still exist in music industry. Such thing was done, for instance, by Amuk and Samurai rock groups. Amuk declared their group was still devoted to the religion. They did not expect people to claim them black metal just because they wore masks and had long hair. Meanwhile, Samurai denied the accusation from people that metal group brought negative effect to teenagers. They said that the accusation was baseless because none of Malay metal groups asked their listener to do forbidden things. Furthermore, Samurai group claimed that unjustified accusation to metal music would only disadvantage Malaysian music industry.

OAG group was getting more attention from their fans. When OAG was interviewed about their responsibility to their fans, they replied ‘we want to be a good example for teenagers; I am free from drugs’.

Appropriate polite manner is stated not only in the first point of Rukun Negara, but also specifically in its fifth point, “Politeness and Morality”. The point states that each citizen should have politeness and decency and should act politely and decently. A person should have noble character, high morality, and should respect others.

            Preserving Malaysian people’s religious values and life norms is stated also in Vision 2020, launched February 1991. It coincided with period of intense development, industrialization and urbanization beginning in the late scope. Vision 2020 is Malaysia’s expectation to achieve the status of an “industrialized” country by 2020. Launched by Prime Minister Mahatir in a speech entitled “Malaysia: Striding Forward”, this modernist vision is prescribed as follows:

                           Malaysia should not be developed only in economic sense. It must be a nation that is fully developed along all dimensions: economically, politically, socially, spiritually, psychologically and culturally. We must be fully developed in terms of national unity and social cohesion, in terms of social justice, political stability, system of government, quality of life, social and spiritual values, national pride and confidence.


Two significant new directions in Vision 2020 must be noted, the vision is intended to provide for an all-encompassing view of modernization. It is not confined to the economic sector only but also extended to cover political, cultural, and spiritual dimensions. If Malaysia is to continue to enjoy prosperity, political stability, economic growth and social harmony, then it must be able to overcome the nine basic challenges, one of them is to create a society with high moral and ethical values and one that is deeply religious.

Malaysian government, like a stern parent, reviewed every movie, television show, book and performance, deleted violence and sex, and guarded against perceived violations of Islamic values, like bare female shoulders or long hair on men. It also protected Malaysian producers — requiring, for example, that television commercials be made locally.

The national government in Malaysia also censored certain performances, though to a far lesser extent. In 2002, a video by the Australian singer, Kylie Minogue, was banned, apparently because the censor committee decided the video focused too much on the star’s bottom. Foreign groups were required to submit recordings before applying for performance licenses and television programs were regularly censored for their language.

The influence of the singers and the music industry became stronger in deciding their fans’ future direction. Some singers tried to create different image from other singers. Usually the image was shown in the form of wardrobes, stage performances, song form, music, etc. The singer’s fans then would follow the singer’s image and identity. The fans would not follow their idol’s image and identity completely, yet there were certain characteristics that they prominently followed. One individual labeled his/her friend’s dress style as following certain singer or artist (Abdullah, 1997: 135-136).

Realizing such impression and influence, the royal authority through the Ministry of Information had stipulated dress code ethics suitable for singers and artists in order not to disgrace the values and cultures of East people (Abdullah, 1997:136-137).

Malaysian people also critically observed matters, unsuitable with religious value and morality norm inside the entertainment world in Malaysia. For instance, at the awarding moment of “Anugrah ERA” 2003, there was a protest from the audience concerning the tight costumes worn by background dancers. The same thing happened to Moluccas who performed wearing costumes showing their bellies. “Anugrah ERA” 2003 committee in responding to the matter said that the committee had already warned Moluccas about which costume was appropriate or inappropriate, such as hiding tattoos and covering bellies. The committee had already distributed guidelines made by the Ministry of Communication and Multimedia. Since Moluccas had ignored the guidelines, the committee probably would not invite them again.

            Another instance was a reader’s letter in a newspaper saying that:

It is a pity for me to see second-rate magazines and newspapers which deliberately display pictures of film stars and teenage singers wearing sexy clothes.

I am certain that the artists quite understand that wearing sexy clothes will create negative image in the society. (Metro Bintang, 1 November 2003).


2. The Flourishing of the Malaysian Language’s Using

Long before the independence from British, Bahasa Melayu was the official language of the country. Due to political instability among multi-ethnic Malaysians in 1969, the name was later changed to Bahasa Malaysia in 1970 as one of the ways to strengthen the unity and to represent all Malaysians as one nation, one people. It had since been used as the official language for government administration. Institutional (transferred) Document (No. 2), 1971 stated that the position of Malay language as national and official language is not to be questioned.

Although Malaysia is the primary language, other ethnic languages (Chinese and Indian) still exist. The using of national language as the official language for all levels has been developed at a convincing state. In universities, Malay language has already become the tongue language at 80 % of the education level since several years ago. However, at the 1990s, the government and the people showed frankness to the using of other languages, especially English language. The vice prime minister, at the end of 1998, stated that the using of Malay language was to be continuously spread, yet English as the international language was also advised to be learnt in order to face globalization.

During the 1970s, the government began to order Chinese, Indian and English intermediate schools to teach Malay language. At the early 1980s, more Chinese and Indians students mastered or at least conversed using Malay language. Meanwhile their parents could not speak Malay.

 The impact was, the Malay-Indians and Malay-Chinese became more familiar with Malaysian pop songs because they understood the language. The possible reason why Malaysian pop music selling rate increased was the number of the audience from non-Malay in Malaysia had increased. This tendency became more commonly perceived in small towns and villages, and the area where Malay culture was significant. The non-Malays also began to hold significant influence in Malaysian music industry as song composers, music arranger, and artists.  Some non-Malays gained popularity as Malay pop singers at the early 1970s, such as Andre Goh, Jenifer Yen, Elaine Kang, D.J. Dave and Helen Velu, also the leading group, Jayhawkers. At the end of 1970s, more non-Malay artists recorded their songs and performed in Malaysia.

Record albums in English made by Malaysian had consequently decreased. Apparently, Malaysian people thought that local albums in English were below international standard, and they preferred imported English songs. Meanwhile, the recording companies were afraid that Malaysian accent would hamper the selling of the albums.

At 1980s, the number of non-Malay artists in Malaysian pop music proved to be significant. The Alleycats, for instance, a rock group consisting Indians and Chinese, had created many hit singles in Malay language. Their music, the blending of Western folk and pop music essence with local beats, had gone beyond the limit of ethnics and regions. Other non-Malay groups which also gained success were Sweet September, Kenny, Remy and Martin, the Flybaits, Gingerbread, the Explorers, and Streetlights. Streetlights became known with their Punjabi Rock, the blending of rock music, Indian characteristic vocal, and Malay lyrics.

  The most popular group at the early 1990s was Search, consisting Malays and Chinese. Non-Malay singers such as Fran Peter, Roy Santa Maria, Chris Vadham, Edmon Prior, Linda Elizabeth, Flora Santos, and India Cendrawasih duo became the leading artists in Malay Pop during 1980s.

To maintain the preservation of Malaysian language, the government, through Language Board, closely observed every word and sentence in a music album. If they found any impolite word, or any twisting of Malay language, or any using of non-standard word according to the Language Board, they would suggest the artist to change it. If not, then the music album would be banned.

Such thing happened to OAG group. When journalists asked the group about their song, Nowhy2, which twisted Malay language, the group stated the using as modern Malaysian language. What is wrong with us if we want to make Malaysian language ‘cool’? The result was Suruhanjaya Komunikasi and Multimedia Malaysia forbade them to present in ERA music award. They claimed that the group’s song, Nowwhy2, had ruined Malaysian language.


3. Malaysia as Music Market

Hollywood, Bollywood, and West Asia domination controlled record album market in Malaysia. Many western musicians gained significant record sales, enjoying their popularity in Malaysia and becoming ‘heroes’ of local popular culture. Among them were Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson having active fans in Kuala Lumpur until 1980s. Madonna Look-alike contest in 1990s replaced Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson Look-alike contests. Kuala Lumpur showed itself as Western music center.

Malaysia also became the market for Indonesian artists. The history of Indonesian artists’ existence in Malaysia had begun since 1970s. Artists like Broery Marantika, Hetty Koes Endang, Ernie Djohan, Emelia Contessa, Bob Tutopoli, Harvey Malaiholo, Ebiet G Ade, etc. had attracted the attention of Malaysian entertainment world.

In 1974, Indonesian artists’ albums had been widely sold, just like Malay albums. The selling of Western and Mandarin songs then followed their sales. At the early and the end of 1970s, dangdut music market had also developed with its superstars such as   Rhoma Irama, Muchsin Alatas, and Elvy Sukaesih. In Malaysia, at that time, dangdut was very popular in the countryside areas. At the end of 1970s, some Malaysian singers adopted dangdut style. Malaysian local dangdut became popular until 1980s, with successful singers such as Zaleha Hamid, Malek Ridzuan, Nas Atea, and Herman Tino.

In 1990s, there were more Indonesian artists becoming popular in Malaysia, such as Dewi Yull, Nicky Astria, Nike Ardilla, Anggun etc. Furthermore, in 2000, Indonesian artists such as Gigi, Sheilla on 7 and Dewa had been welcomed by Malaysian people. In fact, Sheila on 7’s record selling in Malaysia had surpassed Siti Nurhaliza’s, a very popular Malaysian artist.

Indonesian artist’s success in Malaysian music market had caused Malaysian pop music artists to try changing their image and following Indonesian music concept.   For instance, many Malaysian artists wanted to sing Melly Goeslaw’s creation. Melly is a popular Indonesian songwriter in Malaysia. Exist group then acknowledged that they really liked Dewa’s music (Indonesia) and tried to create new songs with lyrics a la Dewa.

Other foreign records gaining their market in Malaysia were Japanese records. The selling of Japanese artists has increased for 400% during 1983 and 1986. This reflected a part of Malaysian government policy to “look east”. The policy resulted in the increase of Malaysian people’s interest to learn Japanese. Japanese singers and musicians gaining popularity in Malaysia were Mayumi Itsuwa, Momoe Yamaguchi, and Kitaro, as well as bands such as Loudness and Shojitai. 

Malaysia was a potential market for foreign pop music. The opening of international cassettes and CDs chain, Tower Record in Kuala Lumpur in 2003 could be used as the standard of foreign music market in this country. Tower Record is a shop building for any kind of music. Any foreign music can be easily obtained in Malaysia. Then, the competition in Malaysian pop music industry did not involve local competitors only but also foreign competitors.

Meanwhile, according to Jennifer Thompson, the condition of Malaysian pop music industry lately experiences a decline. In fact, the condition is terrifying. Many albums cannot be sold, international recording companies are forced to be more careful and to reduce Malaysian pop album production, and recording studios have complaint because there are not many albums to record.

The closing or reduce of Malaysian pop album production by some international recording companies operating in Malaysia has greatly influenced local music industry. There is a recent phenomenon in Malaysian music industry that local recording companies have become more successful than international recording companies have.

The fact is mainly felt in the production of Malay albums. In fact, many new singers are promoted by local recording companies. This happens because the international recording companies are too careful and they ‘give a very small chance to local artists’. The courage of local recording companies to take a risk has achieved a quite significant result when several Malaysian singers and bands attain places in their Malaysian fans’ heart. According to NAR Records Director, Mokhtaza Ahmad, this also happens because local recording companies do not have other choice besides trying to produce local artists’ albums.

            Malaysian pop albums product involves more local (bumiputera) music entrepreneurs than non-local entrepreneurs or international companies. Malay pop music recording company involves 80% of local group (Malay). The rest is filled with non-local groups (Chinese and Indian).


4. Towards International Market

“Malaysia having made a way into international market for various industrial sectors deserves to expand her ability in exporting her music industry product. To breakthrough the international market, Malaysian artists should not only improve their skills in marketing technique, their vocal, and their skills in playing musical instrument, but also should arrange good trade relationship with international music industry chain. The more important thing is they have to perform a unique thing and a musical reform. It is time for us to bring Malaysian music to international market.


That is what, Datuk Shake, having a career as a singer in France for a long time, believed. He believed that Malaysian pop music has a bright chance to compete with international music works. So far, only few Malaysian singers succeed in selling their albums at international level, not through export from Malaysia. Among the singers are Aishah who recorded English songs when she studied in New Zealand, and Datuk Shake, popular in France with his French songs.  

Beside Malaysian people and some their artists, several organizations, such as MABRI and PAIMM (Malaysian Music Industry Academy Union), have also stated the wish to make Malaysian music go international. PAIMM established in 1994 has an aim to improve music industry in all fields which includes giving guidelines to improve individual involved in music.

The Malaysian government’s attitude towards this goal is actually supportive. It becomes possible by the atmosphere of the government and the wish of Malaysian people to build Malaysia as the greatest and the best nation in all fields with the slogan ‘Malaysia Boleh’. It can be seen, for instance, in their efforts to make record for all fields, such as the third tallest building in the world, the longest commuter railways in the world, until the longest satay in the world. The achievement of Malaysian artists in foreign countries surely becomes a proud for Malaysian people. Therefore, the government states its willingness to help Malaysian artists, not only in music, to go international. That attitude is stated through Malaysian development policy in The Third Outline Perspective Plan 2001-2010 of Economic Planning Unit. The Malaysian government states that:


The government will also promote the development of the creative and performing arts and nurture talents in these areas. This is in line with efforts to preserve and promote the rich Malaysian cultural heritage as well as cultivate a society that is appreciative of the arts. The development of the arts will not only provide the avenue for talented individuals to excel in their fields but also contribute to the vibrancy of the Malaysian lifestyle. Outstanding Malaysian artist and performer will also be given the opportunity to fully develop their talents and achieve international recognition (Economic Planning Unit. The Third Outline Perspective Plan 2001-2010; pages 26. Percetakan Nasional Malaysia Berhad).



If we discuss the attempt of Malaysian singers trying to breakthrough the international market, then we will see debates among Malaysian people or among its musicians in the matters of whether to go internationally means to record English albums. The problem of how Malay album is difficult to breakthrough international market has frequently used as the reason why a singer should sing English songs to breakthrough world market.  

Many Malaysian singers have produced English songs since 1970s, yet their level of popularity did not reach international level. Their popularity was only local. In fact, their Malay albums were sold more then their English’s.  

In 1970s, singers such as Sharifah Aini, D.J. Dave, Khatijah Ibrahim, Anita Serawak, etc. had produced English album. Then, Allahyarham Sudirman Haji Arshad, Shima, KRU, Ning Baizura, Deanna Yusof and Poetic Ammo followed them to record their albums in English.

Yet, only local fans liked their English albums. Not a single album managed its way to the international market yet. Sharifah Aini had produced 11 English albums including three compilations since 1970s. Yet, those albums were only distributed in Malaysia.  

Nevertheless, Malaysian singers were not frustated at that time to keep on writing songs in English. They perceived the condition as challenging. For instance, Innuendo group released Innuendo album in June 2002. From 15 songs in the album, there were only two Malay songs. The rest was in English. However, the popular songs played on the radio were that two songs. Like other bands making English album, Innuendo also made it for export purpose. They believed that Malay songs could not be exported.

Most Malaysian underground bands sang in English. Therefore, they encountered difficulty to get listeners who were mostly the fans of certain music. In Malaysia, the status of Malaysian language and English language is actually standing side-by-side, considering half of 22 millions Malaysian people consist of various non-Malay groups. So actually, Malaysian bands highly expect to attract music fans whose mother tongue is not Malay, but they do not always succeed. It possibly happens because many people think; “ instead of buying English albums from Malaysian singers, it is better to buy international artists’ album, it is more satisfactory.” That is Malaysian people’s negative opinion of their local artists’ attempt to improve their talents through English albums.

 Sharifah Aini could not believe that the requirement for international market was to produce English songs. According to Sharifah Aini, Malaysian singers should not be the imitation of foreign singer to ascertain their place in international market. The success of Hindustani songs in Malaysia is determined by displaying its identity. Malaysian artists must display their identity. Good quality Malay songs could attract the world’s attention because they do not exist in the West. It is difficult to compete using English songs because Western singers also have good quality. Sheila Madjid proved that her songs could be accepted by foreign fans although they did not understand Malay language. Sheila’s album was sold in Japan.

Nevertheless, Sharifah Aini and Sheila Madjid’s faith was different with Yusof Amir’s, who made songs in English because he thought the using of English would assist the way to international market. According to Yusof Amir, even though he used English language, he still used Malaysian music concept.His album, Altered Native, was distributed to Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, and South Korea besides to domestic market.

Other bands also did not stop to try making English albums because they believed it had its market. For instance, KRU group stated that Malay English songs are difficult to sell. To change that, KRU group requested Western songwriter from America to create a song for them. With the song made by native speaker, KRU believed that their album titled The Way We Jam would be successful in the market. KRU group had a desire to sell this album to a more global level. Therefore, the songs in this album were focused on wider market as well as Malaysian market. 

There are cases where Malaysian singers using English and Western beat gained success abroad, they are Too Phat Duo. Yet, Too Phat Duo known with Anak Ayam song, still eternalize Malaysian identity. Malaysian identity is not completely shown but slipped in the lyrics and rhythm in some of their songs. For Too Phat, Malaysian identity is their key for success due to the unique influence of local music to the hip hop they perform.  Too Phat managed to sell their album in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, Korea, and the Philippines. Too Phat had performed five times in Indonesia, and each show was a sell-out success.

 Meanwhile, an Islamic musical revolution is sweeping Malaysia and is threatening to spread to the rest of Asia. A clean-cut singing group of young men called “Raihan” leads the revolution. The five members of Raihan are singing their way into the hearts of their fans through traditional Islamic religious hymns called “nasyids.” Raihan gives these traditional tunes a modern touch. 

The group’s debut album, “Puji-Pujian,” released in 1997 already has broken records in Malaysia, with 650,000 copies sold. The previous record holder sold 350,000 copies. The group’s second album has been sold 150,000 copies and is still going strong. MTV Asia also regularly plays their videos and the group’s recording company, Warner Music Malaysia, bets it will soon become a byword in Asia as it is now in Malaysia. Chandra Muzaffar, director of the Institute for Islamic Understanding and the president of the International Movement for a Just World, said Raihan’s success in this country is due, for no small measure, to a desire of many middle-class Malaysians wanting to identify what they see as another expression of Islam. “It is a manifestation of a search for an Islamic identity,” argued Muzaffar. “One could argue that it is an attempt to move away from what you see as Western identity — similar to Muslim women giving up Western clothes for Islamic dress.”

But social and cultural critics Amir Muhammad thought Raihan’s fresh taste on traditional music should be credited for the group’s rapid rise to fame. “People were in the mood for something soothing and new,” he observed. “Rural Malays, too, were relieved to find music that is slickly produced and local without (being) too tacky.” Raihan sings mostly in Bahasa Malaysia. At least, language did not stop it from gaining a fan from abroad.

Raihan said, “Western pop music culture has a lot of negative things, such as sex and drugs. We are introducing the positives to it such as love of God, ideas of sharing, compassion, respecting elders and the family.”

In Malaysia, Raihan’s success is followed by the emergence of many nasyid groups, several of which also gain success. Among them is Hijjaz, a nasyid group which frequently perform in foreign countries, such as Indonesia, London, Jordan, Thailand, and Pakistan. 

            The truest and the most realistic international market expected by Malaysian artists until this moment is countries where Malay people reside, for instance, Indonesia, Singapore, and Brunei. Among those countries, Indonesia is the most frequent main target for Malaysian singers to breakthrough foreign market. This happens because Indonesia is a country having the most Malays in the world and having many similar cultures with Malaysia, especially the language.

For a long time, Indonesia becomes a tempting market target for Malaysian singers.  In 1980s, Search band succeeded in reaping huge benefits with their hit single, Isabela.  Afterwards, more and more Malaysian singers release their records in Indonesia, such as Sheila Madjid and Siti Nurhaliza. Other Malaysian singers try to get public attention and to compete with Indonesian local singers. Meanwhile, Singapore and Brunei, with their lesser Malay people, are still considered as potential market.   


R. Muhammad Mulyadi, Junior Fellow Asian Public Intellectual bacth 2003.



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