Local musicians know how hard it can be to break into the industry. Earlier this year, our friends at The Wknd launched The Wknd Recording Fund in collaboration with Hotlink. It was a search for a fresh Malaysian musician or band – with a grand prize of RM10,000 and a professional recording session up for grabs.
On Friday 9 October, join The Wknd for the big reveal. The three finalists of The Wknd Recording Fund prize are Kyogg, Orang Malaya and Golden Mammoth. The three finalists will be performing live at Playspace, Damansara Perdana, with seasoned neo soul singer Najwa and post rock outfit mutesite headlining the evening.
Unfortunately, this year’s Standard Chartered run was cancelled over the weekend because of the haze. But that won’t stop Malaysians from signing up for more runs in the future – in the past year, we’ve seen runs like the Colour Run, Electric Run and Music Run taking off in KL. This got us thinking, what kind of fun run is coming next?
Ahead of Hari Sukan Negara on 10 October, we at Poskod.MY have come up with some ideas for fun runs that we think would be popular here in Malaysia.
The Blindfold Run
Participants will be blindfolded during the entire run. At the end of the run, you may be lost. If you’re in a desert, you’ve run too far.
The #Bojio Run
Sign up for this run with a group of friends, making sure that you exclude one person who will definitely notice later on Instagram.
The Tinder Run
Stand at the starting line with someone you met on Tinder. Then run in the opposite direction from them.
The Selfie Run
Participants must take a continuous selfie throughout this run. Warning: there is a high chance of injury from selfie sticks during this run.
On the Way Run
Stand at the starting line, waiting for your friend who said they were “on the way”. You can only start the run once your friend has arrived, an hour later.
Jho Low Run
Dress up as everyone’s favourite billionaire financial advisor and party lover. Then run as if you’re under investigation.
Illustrations by Lyn Ong
Do you have an idea for a fun run? Share it with us in the Comments!
Drivers in London, Singapore and Seoul must pay a price for using their private cars in the city centre. Soon, KL drivers may be joining them, as KL’s mayor Datuk Mhd Amin Nordin Abdul Aziz announced that the city council is looking to introduce a congestion charge.
At the 7th World Class Sustainable Cities Conference over the weekend, KL’s mayor and Deputy Federal Territories Minister Datuk Dr Logan Balan Mohan spoke about possible congestion charges in KL’s business district as a measure to limit the number of private cars in the city.
“The government will also impose plans to make it difficult for private vehicles to enter the city. This includes higher development costs for developers or building owners to build car parks which will contribute to high parking charges,” said Dr Logan, as reported by The Sun.
These ideas are being mooted to follow the completion of the MRT, which means that congestion charges – and higher parking costs – could arrive as early as 2017.
If the congestion charge is realised in KL, this will indicate a significant shift in perspective for a country where 93% of households own a car. For KL, it may also open the possibility for more car-free days in the city, which have already increased from once per month to twice a month.
What do you think? Will a congestion charge help to curb our chronic use of cars, or will people simply pay more money to go into the city?
I stifled a yawn as I alighted from my car and walked towards the small crowd in front of the Ipoh railway station entrance. My History teacher would surely fall off his chair if he knew why I was here.
Call it serendipity. At a recent assignment for a travel magazine, I met one Mr Rajasegaran, a tourist guide who just happened to be conducting a newly launched heritage walk around Ipoh Old Town. Since he supplied an interesting insight (pomelo wood can be turned into spinning tops) which I eventually used for thetravel story, I could hardly say no when he invited me to join him one fine Saturday.
“Good morning!” Mr Raja beamed at the motley group.
Aside from me, there were men in bermudas, sun-hatted middle-aged ladies, a schoolteacher with three sleepy-looking students and a chatty couple from Singapore who seemed more excited than us locals.
Mr Raja launched into a lively overview of the railway station. Ipoh’s most famous landmark was, naturally, the day’s first pit stop. To my surprise, instead of zeroing in on the usual Taj Mahal comparisons, he asked a curious question: “Have any of you noticed a mechanical elevator inside Majestic Hotel?”
He was referring to the lodgings attached to the railway station.
“It carries an interesting message.”
“Yes!” the teacher piped up. “It looks quirky, though I’ve never paid attention to the message. What does it say? Is it still working?”
“Yes, it is. I can’t recall the exact words, but it goes something like: ‘I am as old as a grandmother, don’t touch me suddenly or I will fall apart’,” Mr Raja replied.
The crowd chuckled at this humorous tidbit. On that cheerful note, we strolled towards the memorial park.
“One of the first cars in the country was driven in Ipoh by a chap named Eu Tong Sen (founder of the famous Eu Yan Sang Medical Hall).”
“During its heyday in the tin-mining era, it was like a gold rush,” our guide stated. “Ipoh had so much money. One of the first cars in the country was driven in Ipoh by a chap named Eu Tong Sen (founder of the famous Eu Yan Sang Medical Hall).”
A dozen pairs of eyebrows flew up in surprise.
He smiled like a sous chef about to unveil his signature dish.
“That is why Ipoh number plates start with ‘A’, you see. The next state to have cars was Selangor. And as you know, their licence plate starts with ‘B’. Pahang was next …”
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a middle-aged lady staring at a plaque which bore the names of the British soldiers who died during the two World Wars.
“History should never be erased,” she spoke up. “It tells you how we move along in life and how we became what we are today.”
Mr Raja nodded feelingly.
“The other day, another lady who joined the tour told me she had driven along this road for twenty years and never knew its significance,” he said. “Incidentally, this road, formerly Station Road, is the oldest road in Ipoh.”
We crossed the street over to the Town Hall. I was seized by nostalgia. As a little girl, I followed my parents here to attend their friends’ wedding dinners and concerts. It is still a popular events venue, Mr Raja said.
“Rabindranath Tagore once conducted a course for English teachers here. Are you familiar with him?”
His question met with utter silence.
I volunteered, “The Indian poet?”
“That’s right. This hall has had its share of illustrious visitors. During the 70s, I had the chance to attend an Indian wedding and watch a performance by a famous Malaysian singer. His commanding voice brought the house down.” He paused for effect. “Do you want to guess who it was?”
We shook our heads.
I shot Mr Raja an admiring glance as we continued on. Leading a historical walk involved a lot more than reading off a script. The guide had to engage, entertain and inform his audience. He also had to read his audience well and improvise on the fly, never knowing for sure what would resonate and what wouldn’t. Like when Tagore’s name didn’t strike a chord. Fortunately, he had the P. Ramlee anecdote at his fingertips.
A ripple of shock seized me when a familiar narrow alley came into sight. I glanced at my watch. Two and a half hours already?
“You see that peephole up there?” Mr Raja’s voice grabbed my attention. “It’s for the house tenants to see who their visitors are.”
I squinted up at a tiny opening on the second floor of one of the houses. “Ah, my grandfather’s house had one of these, too. So it wasn’t a mistake by the builder,” I recalled with a laugh.
As I drank in the sight of these tumbledown buildings, the birdcages of mistresses past, and the antiquated sliding doors of Concubine Lane, as the alley was once known, I was suffused by a new sense of appreciation.
My eyes fell on the three schoolchildren in our group. They were the only ones who didn’t seem fully engaged; their faces had registered blank looks even at P. Ramlee’s name. I couldn’t blame them. Perhaps this was why I did not make the most of my History lessons in school. I was too young to grasp the subject’s nuances and appreciate its relevance to my life.
After thanking Mr Raja for a job well done, I headed back to the railway station. The walk was not quite over for me. Filled with purpose, I raced past traffic lights, honking cars and sun-soaked streets. Upon reaching the station, I headed straight for Majestic Hotel. To my dismay, only a grilled door greeted me. I peered down the elevator shaft. Nothing.
Then, another thought struck me. Silly me. A lift goes up and down between floors. I galumphed up the carpeted stairs leading to the second floor, the wooden steps creaking beneath my heavy steps.
“Do you still have the elevator with the funny message?” I blurted out to the uniformed chap at the lobby.
If he thought my question was silly, he gave no outward sign as he graciously led me to the object of my pursuit and opened its paintworn wooden door. Bingo!
“Hi Dearest Girls & Boys,
I am as antique as your grand
I move slow and re-act slow
If you push/pull my door when
you use me
Then I will shock there & stop
I laughed at it like the mischievous schoolgirl I was, or perhaps, still am, at heart.
Then it dawned on me that I was standing on an open balcony, where a bird’s eye view of Ipoh’s oldest section lay before me. A most fitting finale to a most enjoyable two hours.
History: dry, stuffy and boring? Not anymore, thanks to Time, that most patient of teachers.
Opened in 1935, at the same time as the railway station, the Majestic Station Hotel in Ipoh housed its last batch of guests on 11 March 2011 and ceased all operations. At present, its fate is unclear. To find out more about the heritage tour, contact Mr Raja at (60) 012 5733183.
As another round of heavy haze covered parts of Malaysia over the weekend, many citizens started to wonder if the API readings accurately reflected the situation. On social media, an image showing much lower readings in Malaysia than Singapore seemed to suggest there was a disconnect between how each country measures haze. Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen went on to criticise Malaysia’s methods. So can we trust API readings?
What is the difference between API and PSI?
Singapore uses the PSI (Pollutant Standards Index), a standard developed for measuring pollutants by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). Malaysia uses API (Air Pollutant Index). Both have similar categories: a reading of 0-50 is considered ‘good’, 51- 100 ‘moderate’, 101-200 ‘unhealthy’, 201-300 ‘very unhealthy’. A reading above 300 is ‘hazardous’.
How does Malaysia measure the haze?
API readings take five things into account: ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2), as well as the concentration of 10 microns (PM10) particulates in the air. The pollutant with the highest concentration is then taken as the API reading and this is usually PM10.
How is this different from Singapore?
Singapore has an additional measure of smaller particulates, 2.5 microns (PM2.5), as well as the measures taken into account by Malaysia. The government believes that PM2.5 is the “main pollutant of concern” during haze periods. The addition of a PM2.5 measure means that Singapore has seen higher readings of haze.
Will Malaysia change its system?
Apparently, there are plans to change the measurement system in 2016 in line with new Malaysian Air Quality Guidelines. However, Wong Chen pointed out that the Department of Environment already has data on PM2.5 and urged the government to start publishing this data to keep the public fully informed.
So can we rely on API readings?
Keep an eye on API readings but know that smaller particles are not taken into account. It’s also worth noting that even the latest and most comprehensive API or PSI data will always be an approximation, since it takes about an hour to retrieve the data and the reading is based on an average. Weather fluctuations may cause the haze in any area to change quickly. The government will continue to make decisions for school closures and cloud seeding based on the API.
If The Lego Movie taught us anything, it’s that we never really outgrow building stuff with little plastic bricks. Catering to kids and adults alike, KL Brick Festival and Toy Collectors’ Fair will be holding a one day bazaar on 11 October.
In celebration of all things related to bricks, games and hobbies, prepare to get your geek on with a range of stalls and games. As well as Lego displays and challenges, look out for the Malaysian Diecasters Community, Hot Wheels Collectors, Transformers Fans Malaysia, Gunpla Showcase and much more.
It’s mid 1950’s Malaya, and there is a sense of growing hope. Independence is approaching. The country is preparing for a big celebration, where British flags will be replaced with Malayan ones, where speeches by our new leaders will be immortalised in history. But one question remains – what anthem will be played on the day?
No independence celebration would be complete without a national anthem, and we didn’t have one. At the time, Malaya had only individual state anthems. But Tunku Abdul Rahman, who was then Chief Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, insisted that a national anthem be written and ready for Merdeka Day 1957.
Saidah Rastam, composer and music historian, has done extensive research on the search for our national anthem. In her book Rosalie, and Other Love Songs, she considers the issue that faced Tunku at the time: “Do you ask everyone to write their own version of the ideal anthem, and pick the best? Do you ask the most celebrated composers of the day to craft one for you? Do you choose a song embedded in everyone’s consciousness and ‘anthemise’ it?”
According to Saidah, we did all three. As the story goes, Tunku decided to make a worldwide competition of it, inviting basically anyone from professionals to amateurs all over the world to enter. A committee was formed, led by Tunku himself, to sort through the candidates and submissions. The winning prize was set at an eye-watering 50,000 Malayan dollars, at a time when a headteacher would typically earn just over 1000 dollars per month.
The competition process continued over several months and rounds of submissions. By the end, over 500 entries came in. The entries came from known composers and amateurs from Malaya, Indonesia, America, India, France, Denmark, Sweden, Turkey, Hungary, and Egypt. The renowned British composer Benjamin Britten was invited to compose a melody too.
But none of these entries impressed the panel enough to qualify as Malaya’s national anthem. It seems that not even the celebrated P. Ramlee could hit the right note. As Saidah explains, “Dato Johari Salleh [composer] in his memoirs says P. Ramlee wrote something for the competition. As to where his entry, and all the other hundreds of entries are now? Or if they even exist still? Heaven knows. I have not been able to locate them.”
Over 500 entries came in. But none of these entries impressed the panel enough to qualify as Malaya’s national anthem.
Finally, Tunku decided to choose an anthem which already existed: the Perak state anthem. But this anthem in itself has a rather unexpected story behind it. The tune was already well liked in popular music as the Indonesian song “Terang Bulan”. So how did a popular love song become Perak’s state anthem in the first place?
In an excerpt from Rosalie, Saidah writes: “While bathing in a river in Pasir Salak, the British resident J. W. W. Birch was killed. In reprisal, Dato’ Maharaja Lela and other accomplices were hanged. Sultan Abdullah, the 26th Sultan of Perak, was exiled to the Seychelles.”
In 1883 Raja Chulan, Sultan Abdullah’s second son, visited his father in Mahé in the Seychelles. A French band performed weekly in a band stand near their family home, and
it was here where he heard, and fell in love with the tune – which was then known as “Rosalie”.
According to historian Tan Sri Dato’ Mubin Sheppard, it was Raja Mansur, Sultan Abdullah’s eldest son, who sealed the song’s fate. In 1888, while in England, he had to submit an anthem to be played during a ceremonial welcome for the Sultan’s official party. Embarrassed that Perak did not have an anthem at the time, he remembered the tune that his brother liked. He hummed it for the band to play. That’s how “Rosalie” became Perak’s anthem.
This melody adapted over time and arrived in Malaya through popular music, given the name “Terang Bulan”. “It was a song played at places you wouldn’t bring your daughter”, says Saidah with a laugh. It was a love song played at cabarets and bars, so popular that when the folk singer William Clauson came to Malaya in July 1957, he covered the song as part of his repertoire.
When Tunku and his committee of judges decided to choose Perak’s anthem, the Straits Times published an article: “Terang Bulan Recommended for Anthem”. However, the newspaper did not go so far as to say the anthem was “Terang Bulan”, only that the anthem “resembles Terang Bulan”.
In any case, Malaya was one step closer to finding a national anthem. AW Crofts, who was the Director of the Federation of Malaya’s police band, was tasked with arranging the tune to give it a more stately feel. Then the music was recorded with the police band – twice, because the first recording was found to have too much background noise in the form of birds and other ambient sounds.
Finally, the big moment came. It was 30 August 1957, Merdeka eve. At midnight, the Union Jack was lowered to the music of Britain’s anthem “God Save The Queen”, and the Federation’s flag took its place above Merdeka Square while “Negaraku” flooded the air through horn speakers hung from trees. Malaya had finally found its anthem – a song that would continue to ring through the decades, even as the country changed its own name and formation.
But what about the words to Negaraku? Saidah has also noted that nobody knows who wrote the lyrics. “Our lyricist – well, we are still in the dark. There are various accounts,” Saidah told BFM in a radio interview. There are various theories – could the words have been written by a committee, by Tunku himself or by Sumatran composer Saiful Bahri?
The first recordings of the anthem with lyrics came from the Merdeka Choir. The choir was overseen by Ahmad Merican, who was working with Radio Malaya at the time. Teacher Tony Fonseka was appointed as the conductor, and was tasked with finding and training a group of multi-racial choir singers. In the end, many of the young singers came from several school and church choirs around Kuala Lumpur. The choir was also joined by Tony’s own son Robert Fonseka, only a young teenager at the time.
“The symbolism of the Merdeka Choir was very strong,” explains Saidah. “When Tunku decided to create a repertoire of new national songs for this new nation, the choir which was formed to sing it came from all faiths, all creeds, all colours.”
So now, our new nation had its anthem. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Because the song was already popular as “Terang Bulan”, certain individuals and groups wanted a ban on previous and future versions of the tune.
Decades later, in an ongoing dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia over rights to (and origins of) shared cultural heritage, the anthem has become controversial again. The Jakarta Globe reported in 2009 that an executive from a state recording company based in Solo had claimed Malaysia was violating intellectual property rights as “Terang Bulan” was originally recorded in Indonesia by Indonesian musicians.
Despite these controversies, it seems apt that Malaysia’s national anthem should have an origin story that crosses countries and cultures. The well-loved melody was chosen partly for its wide appeal, leading to an anthem that would be memorable and uplifting for many.
As Saidah writes in her book, “This music represents much more than a musical fanfare to launch the Federation of Malaya. […] The imagined togetherness with unknown others who share our homeland, our myths, values and memories across a continuum. These are what this music represents.”
Listen to a BFM Radio podcast about the story behind Negaraku:
I grew up in the suburban neighborhood of Subang Jaya. My family moved here in 1992, right after my little sister was born and we were blessed to be brought up in such a multicultural and diverse urban township.
The apartment complex my family stayed, was among the first apartments built in USJ. The complex had a tight knit community, and we were all just one big family. I would remember going for open houses during Deepavali and Chinese New Year, and hosted open houses during Raya. We’d invite all the kids that play in the park and get them to bring their family too. In primary school, I had loads of friends; regardless of race and religion. It just never crossed a young boy’s mind, to segregate and hate based on their skin colour. We had a lot of good times, and Subang Jaya seemed like the perfect township everyone’s been dreaming about.
All that changed when I went to high school. High school was really a training and recruiting grounds for many gangs in KL. Gang names with numbers like 18, 21, 24 and 36 became an everyday topic you discuss among friends, it was something you feared and admired at the same time. Fights would happen outside of my school constantly, and most of these fights were racially charged as most of these gangs were split by races. I tried to stay under the radar, and not get beat up, but after getting into a few scuffles with members of a Chinese gang, I suddenly found myself succumbing to peer pressure and joined a Malay gang for my own protection.
Subang Jaya didn’t seemed all that ideal anymore.
We were brainwashed into hating other races. The ‘big brothers’ would come and make us into fighting machines. We’d get riled up if we got news of other Malays who got beat up in other schools, and we’d gather troops and storm the other schools. We were somewhat semi organised but back in the day it was almost impossible to check the legitimacy of the stories as we had no handphones, so we relied completely on hearsay and rumours. It was embedded into our minds that Chinese people are out to take us out, and after constant brainwashing, we believed it.
Weirdly enough, I was quite close with my Chinese and Indian friends in class but the moment we stepped out of school, we all knew we couldn’t hang with each other. The situation in our high school was so bad, that the FRU and police had to be involved. The government decided to build 4 more schools in the USJ area to split the gangs up (and also to accommodate the large influx of people living in Subang Jaya). After the gangs were split up, a police task force were assigned to each school to suppress the gangsterism. Amazingly, it worked, as things got more laid back and there were less fights; but the racial tension was always in the air.
The lack of friends of other races bothered me, but I always put it at the back of my mind as I was hanging out with mostly a Malay group of friends.
After five years of fighting my way out of high school, I came out of the Malaysian education system, somewhat a fool.
The lack of friends of other races bothered me, but I always put it at the back of my mind as I was hanging out with mostly a Malay group of friends.
Fast forward to a few years after high school. I was just starting entry level work in film production and was staying in an apartment with my friends (in a ludicrous attempt to be independent from my family). One of our housemates, who was trusted with our rent money, ran away and left us with three months backdated rent, electricity and water. I remembered the electric company came over and had to cut our electricity, since we didn’t have any money to pay the outstanding bills.
We begged the guy to give us a few weeks but he told us he was only doing his job and we were left with no electricity and no water, and the landlord was about to kick us out any time. The first few nights, we had to sleep in the dark, in the hallway with the front door open because it was too hot at night and we had to take showers at the public shower by the apartment’s swimming pool.
Then one night, we heard a knock on our door. I opened it and it was a Chinese lady, who lived three doors down from our apartment (we were living next to a Malay family, but they didn’t give a shit about what was happening next door). Her husband was pulling an electric extension cord from their house and wanted to let us use their electricity. I was gobsmacked and my jaw was on the floor. She said that she overheard our conversation with the electric guy and they thought it would be best for us to sleep with fans and charge our phones. I asked her if we could pay her but she declined, saying it was her duty as a neighbour. I immediately was brought to tears and hugged the lady and her husband.
And at that precise moment, thanks to one random act of kindness by a stranger, all boundaries of race were erased for me and I have lived that way ever since. You are not measured by your race or religion, but the kindness and happiness you’ve helped spread. The formative years I experienced growing up in Subang Jaya before high school have made me the man I am today, and no amount of racial brainwashing could ever take that away from me.
That is what Malaysia Day means to me.
This is the personal opinion of the writer. The original article was published here.