P. Ramlee



P. Ramlee (b. 22 March 1929,1 Penang, Straits Settlements–d. 29 May 1973, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia2) was a key figure in the Malay entertainment industry, wearing multiple hats as an actor, director, composer and singer. Ramlee acted in 66 films, directed 35, composed 250 songs and sang almost 30.3 Closely linked to the golden era of Malay movies in the 1950s and early ’60s,4 P. Ramlee was an icon in the Malay entertainment scene in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia during the height of his fame.5

Early life
P. Ramlee, or Teuku Zakaria was born on 22 March 1929 to Teuku Nyak Puteh and Che Mah Hussein at 40A Caunter Hall (renamed Jalan P. Ramlee in 1983) in Penang, then part of the Straits Settlements.6 His father, Teuku Nyak Puteh, travelled from Lhokseumawe in Aceh, Indonesia, to settle in Penang, while his mother, Che Mah Hussein, was from Kubang Buaya in Butterworth, Penang.7


Ramlee received his education from the Sekolah Melayu Kampung Jawa (Kampung Jawa Malay School), Francis Light English School and Penang Free School. He was registered as “Ramlee” in school.8 Reportedly a reluctant student, Ramlee was nevertheless talented in music and football.9 His studies at the Penang Free School was interrupted by the Japanese Occupation (1942–45), during which time he enrolled in the Japanese navy school.10 During the war, Ramlee also learnt the basics of music and to sing Japanese songs. When the war ended, he took music lessons that enabled him to read musical notations.11

Career
.

Ramlee started performing at an early age. During the Occupation, he played in his village band called Teruna Sekampung12 and later with bands Mutiara and Rindu Malam before his emigrating to Singapore. In 1947, Ramlee topped a singing contest organised by the Penang Radio for North Malaya and added the initial “P.” (for “Puteh”) to his name.13 Ramlee’s big break came when B. S. Rajhans, a director working with Shaw Brothers, discovered him in 1948 while Ramlee was singing at a keroncong (an Indonesian musical style) show in Penang.14 In 1949, Rajhans invited Ramlee to join the Shaw Brothers studio, Malay Film Productions, as a playback singer.15 Ramlee obliged and came to Singapore that same year with his violin in tow.16 He took his screen test at the studio located on Jalan Ampas, singing his first composition, “Azizah”.The song later became his signature hit and was used in his directorial debut, Penarek Becha (The Trishaw Puller, 1955). Shortly after, he played a villain in Chinta (Love, 1948) and lent his voice to film soundtracks.17

Ramlee went on to act and sing in films such as Nasib (Fate, 1949) and Nilam (Sapphire, 1949)18 before he clinched the part of the leading man in Bakti (Devotion, 1950)19 and Takdir Ilahi (Will of God, 1950).20 While Ramlee’s popularity as an actor grew, his musical career also took off. His melodic voice earned him a recording stint with Hemsley & Co.21 “Azizah” raked in a handsome profit for Hemsley, which paid Ramlee an honorarium of $3,000 for his songs. Ramlee also sang with the HMV (His Master’s Voice) Orchestra under the guidance of musical director, Singapore-born Yusoff B. The orchestra played for Radio Malaya, which used to broadcast from the Cathay Building.22

Ramlee’s film career hit a brief snag after the release of Takdir Ilahi. According to his close friends at the time, he left MFP after the studio did not meet his demand for a pay increment, while plans to join another film company, Nusantara Productions, fell through. Then came the chaos of the Maria Hertogh riots in December 1950, prompting Ramlee to leave temporarily for Johor Bahru in peninsular Malaya. Subsequently, through his close friend and MFP’s first Malay director, A. Mahadi, Ramlee rejoined MFP to star in Penghidupan (Life), released in late May 1951.23

After his return, Ramlee starred in a string of MFP films – such as Sejoli (Fun, 1951),24 Juwita (1951),25 Antara Senyum dan Tangis (Between Smile and Tears, 1952),26 Hujan Panas (Rain of Heat, 1953)27 and Panggilan Pulau (Call of the Island, 1954)28 – until he got his first big break as a director. In 1955, Ramlee directed his first film, Penarek Becha, in which he also played the hero.29 The film was a success, getting the nod from entertainment magazine Majalah Filem dan Sukan: In 1956, the film received accolades for best Malay picture, best director, best song (for “Inang Baru”) and best actor. His subsequent directorial efforts won multiple awards at the Asian Film Festival.30

Ramlee’s versatility was most apparent in comedies, and he is also best remembered for his works in this genre.31 The Bujang Lapok (Raggedy Bachelors) series, which co-stars S. Shamsuddin and Aziz Sattar, were Ramlee’s most beloved comedies because of their socially conscious themes.32 His final film was the comedy, Laksamana Do Re Mi (Warriors Do Re Mi, 1972), made in Kuala Lumpur, after his move to the Malaysian capital in 1964 to join Merdeka Film Productions.33 Ramlee also acted in two television series, Intan (Diamond, 1971) and Rantau Selamat (1972), written by Abdullah Hussain.34 In addition, he directed theatrical productions including Kachip Mas (1961),35 Sultan Mahmood Mangkat Di Julang (1959)36 and Damaq (1962),37 which played at local amusement parks Happy World and New World, and at the Victoria Theatre.38

Besides directing and acting, Ramlee also composed around 250 songs. Noted for his musical versatility, Ramlee explored a repertoire of genres, ranging from jazz to joget (a popular Malay folk dance). The last song he composed and sang was “Air Mata di Kuala Lumpur” in 1973.39

Death and legacy
Ramlee died of a heart attack in Kuala Lumpur on 29 May 1973 at the age of 44 and was buried at the Jalan Ampang Muslim cemetery in the Malaysian capital.40 With many of his filmic works considered classics of Malay cinema,41 they continue to be screened.42

Ramlee received many honours for his contributions to the Malaysian entertainment industry. He was awarded the Ahli Mangku Negara medal by the Malaysian government in 1962.43 The P. Ramlee Memorial was set up in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur, in 1986.44 A second P. Ramlee memorial, Rumah P. Ramlee, was opened to the public in 1992 featuring exhibits of Ramlee’s memorabilia and the restored kampong (village) house on Jalan P. Ramlee, Penang, where Ramlee was born.45 On 6 June 1990, the then Malaysian Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Azlan Shah posthumously conferred P. Ramlee with the Darjah Panglima Setia Makhota that carries with it the honorific title of Tan Sri.46

Family
Wife: Junaidah Daeng Harris (1950–54);47 Noorizan Mohd Noor (1955–61); Salmah Ismail, popularly known as the singer Saloma (1961–73).48

Children: Ramlee had several stepchildren, but only one is his own, Nasir, with Ramlee’s first wife.49 Ramlee’s son, Nasir P. Ramlee, who passed away in 2008, had rerecorded new renditions of his father's songs, as well as starred and directed sequels to his father’s films.50

Selected awards51
1956: Best Musical Score for Hang Tuah (Legend of Hang Tuah), Third South-East Asian Film Festival, Hong Kong

1957: Best Male Actor for Anak-ku Sazali (My Son, Sazali), Fourth Asian Film Festival, Tokyo
1959: Best Comedy Film for Pendekar Bujang Lapok (The Three Bachelor Warriors), Sixth Asian Film Festival, Kuala Lumpur
1960: Best Comedy Film for Nujum Pak Belalang (Fortune Teller), Seventh Asian Film Festival, Tokyo
1963: Most Versatile Talent for Ibu Mertua Ku (My Mother-in-Law), Tenth Asian Film Festival, Tokyo
1964: Best Comedy Film for Madu Tiga (Three Rivals), Eleventh Asian Film Festival, Taipei



Authors
Perpetua Neo & Nor Afidah Abd Rahman




References
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2. Malay movie idol Ramlee dies after heart attack. (1973, May 30). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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4. Ciecko, A. T. (2006). Contemporary Asian cinema: Popular culture in a global frame. Oxford; New York: Berg, pp. 72–73. (Call no.: RSING 791.43095 CON)
5. Weintraub, A. N. (2010). Dangdut stories: A social and musical history of Indonesia’s most popular music. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 44. (Call no.: RSEA 781.6309598 WEI)
6. Arkib Negara Malaysia. (2004). P. Ramlee – Perjalanan anak seni. In Senandung warisan, p. ii. Kuala Lumpur: Arkib Negara Malaysia (Call no.: Malay RSING 782.42163 PRA); P. Ramlee lives on. (1990, July 30). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Norehan Hamzah. (2015, June 26), Bangunan bersejarah yang dipilih adalah Rumah Kelahiran Tan Sri P. Ramlee, p. 2. Retrieved 2016, August 12 from: http://documents.tips/documents/kerja-khusus-sejarah.html
7. Nasir P. Ramlee temu nenek di Aceh. (1985, April 21). Berita Harian, p. 8; Humble home. (1992, March 31). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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9. Abu Talib Ahmad. (2014). Museums, history and culture in Malaysia. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 195. (Call no.: RSEA 069.509595 ABU); Shafie Noor. (1973, June 7). Kehilangan P. Ramlee atau Teku Zakaria dari dunia filem susah dicari ganti. Berita Harian, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chan, S. C, C. (2012). P. Ramlee’s music: An expression of local identity in Malaya during the mid-twentieth century. Malaysian Music Journal, 1(1), 19. Retrieved 2016, August 12 from ResearchGate website: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/260227845
10. Humble home. (1992, March 31). The Straits Times, p. 8; Dari penyanyi kapada pengarah filem. (1965, October 9). Berita Harian, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Arkib Negara Malaysia. (2004). P. Ramlee – Perjalanan anak seni. In Senandung warisan. Kuala Lumpur: Arkib Negara Malaysia, p. ii. (Call no.: Malay RSING 782.42163 PRA)
11. Abu Talib Ahmad. (2014). Museums, history and culture in Malaysia. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 195. (Call no.: RSEA 069.509595 ABU); Ramlee di-punchak kejayaan-nya maseh lagi mendaki. (1957, December 27). Berita Harian, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Abu Talib Ahmad. (2014). Museums, history and culture in Malaysia. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 194. (Call no.: RSEA 069.509595 ABU); Azizah ‘cinta rahsia’ seniman P. Ramlee? (1983, May 15). Berita Harian, p. 7; Azizah Hassan Baghdad ialah ‘Azizah’ yang sebenar, kata guru P. Ramlee. (1983, July 10). Berita Harian, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Hassan Abd Muthalib. (2005, November). P. Ramlee: A life of love, humour and tears. Cinemaya. Retrieved 2016, August 12 from Academia website: https://www.academia.edu/8202477/p._ramlee_a_life_of_love_humour_and_tears
13. Shafie Noor. (1973, June 7). Kehilangan P. Ramlee atau Teku Zakaria dari dunia filem susah dicari ganti. Berita Harian, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Abu Talib Ahmad. (2014). Museums, history and culture in Malaysia. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 195. (Call no.: RSEA 069.509595 ABU); PArkib Negara Malaysia. (2004). P. Ramlee – Perjalanan anak seni. In Senandung warisan. Kuala Lumpur: Arkib Negara Malaysia, p. ii. (Call no.: Malay RSING 782.42163 PRA)
14. Ramlee di-punchak kejayaan-nya maseh lagi mendaki. (1957, December 27). Berita Harian, p. 7; Barrie, S. (1958, May 9). Biduan kronchong jadi seniman ulong. Berita Harian, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Ramlee di-punchak kejayaan-nya maseh lagi mendaki. (1957, December 27). Berita Harian, p. 7; Yusnor Ef. (2001, December 22). Peranan penyanyi latar dalam layar perak Melayu. Berita Harian, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Studio Shaw mengadakan jamuan perpisahan untok P. Ramlee. (1964, April 25). Berita Harian, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. P. Ramlee hanya berbekal beg kecil dan biola. (1995, December 10). Berita Harian, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia.(n.d.). Seniman agong: Tan Sri P. Ramlee – yang pertama darinya. Retrieved 2016, August 12 from Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia website: http://www.pnm.gov.my/yangpertama/Seni_Seniman.htm
18. Yusnor Ef. (2001, December 22). Peranan penyanyi latar dalam layar perak Melayu. Berita Harian, p. 13; Miriam is ambitious. (1950, May 26). The Straits Times, p. 9; Bakti is best Malay film yet. (1950, March 31). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Ferroa, R. (1948, October 12). From clerk to star. The Singapore Free Press, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Page 11 advertisements column 2. (1950, September 14). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. The Singapore scene. (1951, May 13). The Straits Times, p. 6; Great demands for Malay star records. (1951, May 25). The Straits Times, p. 4; Felix. (1951, May 2). Boom in sale of Malay records. The Singapore Free Press, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Budiman A. R. (1983, May 29). Kenangan penuh erti utk dunia filem Melayu. Berita Harian, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Rokiah’s chance. (1951, April 22). The Straits Times, p. 13; Budiman A. R. (1983, May 29). Kenangan penuh erti utk dunia filem Melayu. Berita Harian, p. 7; Page 6 advertisements column 1. (1951, May 23). The Singapore Free Press, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Pengarah filem Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan, Datuk Jamil Sulong meninggal dunia. (2014, September 26). Astro Awani. Retrieved 2016, August 12 from: http://www.astroawani.com/berita-hiburan/pengarah-filem-ranjau-sepanjang-jalan-datuk-jamil-sulong-meninggal-dunia-44731
24. Page 10 advertisements column 1. (1951, June 23). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Page 11 advertisements column 1. (1951, August 20). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Page 10 advertisements column 1. (1952, February 26). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Page 4 advertisements column 2. (1953, August 25). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Page 4 advertisements column 1. (1954, June 30). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Hal ihwal film. (1957, July 5). Berita Harian, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. 4 ‘Oscars’ for Malaya in festival. (1956, June 17). The Straits Times, p. 1; Winning film nearly wasn’t entered. (1957, May 29). The Straits Times, p. 7; Hang Tuah for Berlin. (1957, June 18). The Straits Times, p. 7; Five awards at film festival. (1958, April 29). The Singapore Free Press, p. 12; Two film festival awards won by Malaya. (1963, April 20). The Straits Times, p. 1; ‘The Precipice’ (Japan) receives many prizes. (1959, May 9). The Straits Times, p. 6; Action from Ramlee. (1959, January 23). The Straits Times, p. 11; Shaw films win two Asian awards. (1964, June 25). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Hassan Abd Muthalib. (2005, November). P. Ramlee: A life of love, humour and tears. Cinemaya. Retrieved 2016, August 12 from Academia website: https://www.academia.edu/8202477/ p._ramlee_a_life_of_love_humour_and_tears
32. Hassasn Abd Muthalib. (2005, November). Pendekar Bujang Lapok (The Raggedy Warrior Bachelors): Traditional values in a hostile world. Cinemaya. Retrieved 2016, August 12 from: https://www.academia.edu/1219227/raggedy_bachelor_warriors
33. Studio Shaw mengadakan jamuan perpisahan untok P. Ramlee. (1964, April 25). Berita Harian, p. 7; P. Ramlee akan pindah ka-Merdeka Studio pada awal April ini. (1964, February 22). Berita Harian, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Shamsul. (1971, November 28). ‘Dagang Perantau’ drama yg berjaya. Berita Harian, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Karya Ramlee akan di-pentaskan. (1962, August 29). Berita Harian, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. P. Ramlee. (1959). Sultan Mahmood mangkat di-julang. Retrieved from BookSG.
37. Ishak Din. (1964, November 7). P. Ramlee memulakan filem-nya yg ke-2 di-Merdeka Studio. Berita Harian, p. 7; Pementasan ‘Damak’ di-Johor. (1962, June 9). Berita Harian, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Yusnor Ef. (1983, May 31).Seniman aneka bakat. Berita Harian, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Chan, S. C, C. (2012). P. Ramlee’s music: An expression of local identity in Malaya during the mid-twentieth century. Malaysian Music Journal, 1(1), 19. Retrieved 2016, August 12 from ResearchGate website: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/260227845; Ramlee’s last song brings tears… (1973, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. P. Ramlee dies in Kuala Lumpur. (1973, May 29). New Nation, p. 1; Shafie Noor. (1973, May 30). Dunia filem terkejut. Berita Harian, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Eddino Abdul Hadi. (2014, October 29). 5 top Malay films made in Singapore. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
42. Media Development Authority. (2015, August 3). Films from the past to be screened at ‘Spotlight on Singapore Cinema’ [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, August 12 from Media Development Authority website: http://www.mda.gov.sg/AboutMDA/NewsReleasesSpeechesAndAnnouncements/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?news=672
43. Mera'ikan seniman yang di-anugerahi pingat AMN. (1962, August 18). Berita Harian, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44. Anuar Othman. (1986, June 5). Former home becomes P. Ramlee Memorial. The Straits Times, p. 7; Yusnor Ef. (1986, March 30). Bekas rumah seniman P. Ramlee dijadikan Pustaka Peringatan. Berita Harian, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45. Humble home. (1992, March 31). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
46. King’s award for the late P. Ramlee. (1990, June 6). The Straits Times, p. 18; P. Ramlee lives on. (1990, July 30). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
47. Ramlee di-punchak kejayaan-nya maseh lagi mendaki. (1957, December 27). Berita Harian, p. 7; ‘Permaisuri’ pertama dalam mahligai binaan P. Ramlee... (1983, July 17). Berita Harian, p. 7; P Ramlee, toilet repairman. (1999, April 15). The New Paper, p. 30; Drama TV M’sia di-kecham. (1972, April 9). Berita Harian, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
48. Norizan uchap tahniah kpd Saloma-Ramlee. (1961, November 22). Berita Harian, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
49. P. Ramlee’s only son dies. (2008, December 19). The Straits Times, p. 90; Yusnor Ef. (1999). Rumahtangga tidak kekal, niaga pun gagal. Berita Harian, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
50. P. Ramlee’s song gets son all emotional. (1999, July 26). The Straits Times, p. 11; Walking in his father’s shadow. (1989, July 10). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
51. 4 ‘Oscars’ for Malaya in festival. (1956, June 17). The Straits Times, p. 1; Asian Film Festival. (1956, June 22). The Straits Times, p. 9; Winning film nearly wasn’t entered. (1957, May 29). The Straits Times, p. 7; Hang Tuah for Berlin. (1957, June 18). The Straits Times, p. 7; Five awards at film festival. (1958, April 29). The Singapore Free Press, p. 12; Two film festival awards won by Malaya. (1963, April 20). The Straits Times, p. 1; ‘The Precipice’ (Japan) receives many prizes. (1959, May 9). The Straits Times, p. 6; Action from Ramlee. (1959, January 23). The Straits Times, p. 11; Shaw films win two Asian awards. (1964, June 25). The Straits Times, p. 6; Page 4 advertisements column 2. (1960, April 27). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Adlin Aman Ramlie. (2007). P. Ramlee: The story of P. Ramlee based on musical by Enfiniti Productions. Selangor, Malaysia: MPH Group; Enfiniti Productions.

(Call no.: RSING 791.43028092 ADL)

Foo, J. (1989, October 29). Iskandar and the Chinese connection. The Straits Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Harding, J. (2002). P Ramlee: The bright star. Malaysia: Pelanduk Publications.
(Call no. RSING 791.43028092 HAR)

Mardiana Abu Bakar. (1989, July 6). A stroll with the stars down memory lane. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Niche of nostalgia. (1990, February 19). The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

P. Ramlee immortalised. (1990, February 19). The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

Ramlee’s mystery Azizah revealed. (1995, April 18). The New Paper, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Ramlee, N. P. (2007). Bapaku P. Ramlee. Petaling Jaya, Malaysia: MPH Group Publishing.
(Call no.: Malay RSING 791.43092 NAS)

Tan, K. J. (2008). Behind the scenes at P. Ramlee – The Musical. Petaling Jaya: Enfiniti Productions.
(Call no.: RART 792.6409595 TAN)

Where has the sarabat-stall spontaneity gone? (1990, February 4). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved on from NewspaperSG.

Yusnor Ef. (2000). P. Ramlee yang saya kenal. Selangor: Pelanduk Pub.
(Call no.: Malay RSING 791.40924 YUS)

Yusnor Ef. (2002). 7 tokoh muzik: 7 magnificent composers. Singapore: Perkamus.
(Call no.: Malay RSING 780.92 TUJ)



The information in this article is valid as at 12 August 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Entertainers--Singapore--Biography
Arts>>Film>>Acting
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Leisure and entertainment
Personalities
P. Ramlee, 1928-1973
Personalities>>Biographies
Language and literature>>Languages>>Austronesian and Oceanian languages>>Malay
Entertainers--Malaysia--Malaya--Biography