Performance Reviews

Semalam Di Malaya: A tribute to the local icons of yesteryears

There is no mystery to the allure of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. The group have long been praised for its diverse musical vitality and have always managed to deliver performances that touch the soul of its audience. 

On eve of Malaysia Day, as a tribute to nation’s most celebrated musical legacies, the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra treated its audience to the rich sounds and rhythms of the music of our yesteryears. 

We were given enthralling renditions of icons nostalgic to many such as Ahmad Jaafar’s Jelingan Manja and Zubir Said’s Sayang Di Sayang — all of which had been rearranged and refined into pieces of classical beauty.

The night’s conductor, Ahmad Muriz Che Rose, mentioned prior to the concert that he was stunned hearing the rearranged version of most of the pieces, bewildered by how different the orchestral versions sounded from the original work. However, as both he and the audience had come to find, the new compositions added a whole new level of depth to the sounds and served as a one-of-a-kind tribute to the works of our local icons. 

The night began by bringing us back to 1950s Malaya, with Liza Hanim’s rendition of Semalam Di Malaya. Originally composed by Saiful Bahri, Liza brought an elegant charm to the adored classic, all while retaining its relaxed and gentle melody.

More of Saiful Bahri’s works were honoured with a medley of the rousing Berjaya and Perajurit Tanah Air, which filled the halls of Dewan Filharmonik Petronas with its with a triumphant air of glee and jubilance. 

There were also stunning pieces by Aishah who gave ornate orchestral treatments to Zubir Said‘s Setangkai Kembang Melati, Jimmy Boyle‘s Jauh Jauh and Ahmad Jaafar‘s Ibu. 

As the night progressed, it was clear that the symphonic arrangements aimed to not only enhance the elegance of our local pieces, but to bring the creators of these pieces, the composers, to the forefront of the performances.

1950s Malaya, the decade when Radio Malaya was at its peak, was a time that many regional and local talents flourished in the nation. Indonesian Ahmad Jaafar’s impact was transitory in Malaya while Singaporean Alfonso Soliano‘s musical dynasty was dynamic and has since passed down through his generations in Malaysia. The decade of our independence saw pieces written by luminaries, such as Ahmad Merican, Jimmy Boyle, Saiful Bahri, Zubir Said and P. Ramlee, foster a heartening and patriotic spirit and approach music from a way that hadn’t been done before.

The Rachel Guerzo Trio (Source: The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra)
The Rachel Guerzo Trio (Source: The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra)

We saw an emotional tribute that night, by the Rachel Guerzo Trio  the grandchildren of Alfonso Soliano  who honoured their grandfather’s legacy with sentimental renditions of Airmata Berderai, Gadis Idaman and Tunas Kasih. During her performance, Rachel lamented over memories of her late grandfather, remarking how, as a little girl who watched him, she had always dreamed of performing on stage alongside an orchestra.

Audiences were also treated to performances by Musly Ramlee, who brought to the stage illustrious P. Ramlee classics such as Hujan Di TengahariNak Dara Rindu, Di Mana Kau Ku Cari Gantri and Kwek Mambo.

The concert ended with Liza Hanim, Aishah, Rachel Guerzo and Musly Ramlee, all four of the night’s lead vocalists, performing a symphonic arrangement of Joget Malaysia, which ended the night with a festive and joyous atmosphere and brought the crowd to a standing ovation.

Liza Hanim, Aishah, Rachel Guerzo and Musly Ramlee (Source: The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra)
Liza Hanim, Aishah, Rachel Guerzo and Musly Ramlee performing Joget Malaysia (Source: The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra)

Semalam Di Malaya will be remembered by audiences for its refined and grandeur treatment of the rich and cultural sounds our nation knows so well. It served well to celebrate our 61st year of independence and is among the many efforts by The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra to elevate the works of the country’s most treasured legacies and icons.




Featured Image Source: The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra

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