I never met the man. Never knew him personally. I was born 8 years and 2 months after he breathed his last breath. Yet I miss him. Yet I long to see him. Yet I love him. For the sole reason that he is an artiste in all sense of the word. A legend. A gifted genius who crafted not for the money or for fame. He did it for the love of the arts. Allahyarham Tan Sri P.Ramlee. May he rest in peace.
I grew up listening to his music. According to my father, there was a time as a little girl where I could sing a huge amount of P.Ramlee's tunes from memory. I grew up watching his movies. And even as a child, I knew that this man was extraordinary. Like the lyrics from a Vonda Shepard song, “No we've never met, but I know him by heart.”
He died in 1973. He died a broken man. His spirit was trampled upon by those who were envious. His heart shattered into pieces by his own country. He was afraid that people had already forgotten him, and that soon he will be completely erased from memory, his songs won't be played anymore, his movies will no longer be screened. This was a man with a big heart. A man who set the stage for Malaysian cinema and music. Little did he know that his wish to live for a thousand years will indeed come true.
P.Ramlee was a meticulous man, a stickler for details, a director who paid attention even to the extras in his movies. How was it that his own country turned him down? Why didn't RTM accord him the attention befitting a man of his stature? They pushed him down, and when he was already down, they kicked him. Hard. Looks like the jokes are on those who despised him back then, those who bore nothing but contempt for him, those who turned their backs on him, those who underhandedly discredited him. Where are they now? Gone and forgotten yet remembered as the devils who made P.Ramlee suffer. But this man lives on. This legendary superstar is lifted to a position no other Malaysian artiste will ever enjoy.
It has been 37 years since he left us. And this year ASTRO decided to do another tribute for the great legend. Alhamdulillah, I applaud the effort. However good intentions usually get tarnished by its sloppy execution. And that was the case with 2010's tribute. The screening of his films on Astro Ria, Prima, Warna and Citra was good, of course. Only P.Ramlee's films can be seen over and over again without inciting boredom. The concert however, was a colossal disaster. It was called Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti. One of his songs that remains evergreen to this day, and until the end of time. God knows who directed the concert. I would love to meet him/her and give that person a piece of my mind (and one of my shoes as well). Datuk Ahmad Nawab said it loud and clear, “Lagu-lagu P.Ramlee jangan dimodenkan.” But no, these buffoons thought it proper to mangle the arrangements of P.Ramlee's classics and invite indie groups to belt them out. Even the other singers who weren't indie spoiled the tunes they carried out. From Misha Omar to Ning Baizura to Sharifah Aini to Atilia. But the worst had to be the Indie's renditions. I almost had a heart attack when I heard Bunkface deface Malam Ku Bermimpi. It was horrible. A nightmare. An agony. All I can say is, anyone who says that they enjoyed Bunkface's rendition is not a P.Ramlee fan at all. They can claim to being a P.Ramlee fan but the fact remains, they're not. Because no true fan of P.Ramlee would have agreed to that distasteful arrangement. They turned that beautiful ballad into a rock/heavy metal bullshit, I almost expected to see a dead goat being slaughtered somewhere on stage. Some may say that I am taking this a bit too far, but I am a true P.Ramlee fan. And I adamantly insist that P.Ramlee's songs should be left as is. And another thing that bugged me, why wasn't Musly involved? And what about the veterans? Why the hell was Rozita Che Wan, Rosnah Md Aris and Nora Danish selected to re-enact a scene from Madu Tiga? And since when the character of Hasnah from Madu Tiga spoke with a northern accent? Rozita Che Wan decided to inject her own brand of humor into it? Doesn't she know that she looked ridiculous doing it? Someone tell her to keep her alleged improvisational skills where it belongs, the same place where her talent belongs, in a junkyard.
And now comes the horror of INDIEpretasi. These independent singers have decided to come out with their “tribute” to the great legend by re-recording a number of his classics. Indie artistes like Yuna, Azlan and his friggin' Typewriter, and a host of other singers have re-arranged P.Ramlee's songs and are shamelessly calling it a “tribute”. All I see is a bunch of nit-wits who have no creativity of their own, instead they mangle up great classics and are ballsy enough to call it a “tribute”. I had the misfortune of listening to Yuna's rendition of Itulah Sayang on YouTube. Let's just say it was too horrifying for words.
The tribute picked up with the documentary that was screened over the History Channel. Kudos to Shuhaimi Baba for a job well done. The rare footages made the documentary a gem to treasure. I was teary-eyed throughout the entire documentary. Of course I do believe that some of the things were somewhat unnecessary especially since there is no way of determining the truth of some of the stories, namely the alleged lover story. I don't think it was mentioned in any of P.Ramlee's previous biographies and to see it surface over History Channel was somewhat disconcerting. But then again, what do I know about his love life? I found it weird that some prominent veterans who were detrimental to the regaling of P.Ramlee's life story were not interviewed, especially since they are still alive; namely Rosnani Jamil, Jamil Sulong and perhaps S.Shamsuddin (if his health permits).
I had a couple of issues regarding the documentary though. Why was it only screened on the History Channel? Rais Yatim couldn't afford to ensure that it got screened on terrestrial channels as well? For the whole nation to see? Since when did P.Ramlee become exclusively for History Channel subscribers? Another way for ASTRO to make more money in order to compensate its pending lawsuit regarding the whole B.Yond debacle? That documentary should have been screened for the whole of Malaysia to see. My other issue is with the rare footages. I believe they now belong to Arkib Negara and RTM. I could be wrong though. But if they do belong to those two agencies, then what the hell have they been doing with it so far? Why was it never released for the whole nation to see? P.Ramlee is to be remembered by all, not by certain exclusive parts of the society. The same thing was apparent for the tribute concert. It was a tribute “syok sendiri”. Some upper crust elitist probably who thought that they know more than the rest of us hence giving them the right to mutilate the works of the great legend.
All in all, P.Ramlee will indeed live for a thousand years and more despite attempts to desecrate his masterpieces in the name of “tribute”.
STOP THE DESECRATION.