PERKAMUS



PERKAMUS (Persatuan Karyawan Muzik Melayu Singapura; The Society of Singers, Musicians and Professionals of the Malay Industry in Singapore) is a non-profit organisation established in January 1994 to support musicians and composers in Singapore’s Malay music industry.1 It fulfils its mission by organising talks, forums, classes, collaborations and producing publications related to Malay music in Singapore.2

Origins
The idea for a society of Malay musicians came about in the early 1990s. At the time, acclaimed Malay songwriter Yusnor Ef was concerned with the declining state of Malay music and the poor reputation of local Malay artistes in Singapore.3


“There is this so-called perception among some quarters of the Malay community that our artistes are not good enough and that our existing pool of talents is limited,” said Yusnor. The then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (now MediaCorp) also preferred to invite Malaysian artistes to perform in its weekly entertainment programmes. When local artistes were invited, it was mainly to play secondary roles.4

Yusnor shared his concerns with journalist Mohd Raman Daud, who suggested that a Malay music organisation be formed to rejuvenate the local Malay music scene. Together, they crafted the mission and vision of the organization, which became known as Persatuan Karyawan Muzik Melayu Singapura, or PERKAMUS.5 Yusnor hoped that the society would champion the cause of Singapore artistes and provide them with opportunities to perform locally and regionally.6

Formation and leadership
PERKAMUS was officially launched in January 1994 by then Parliamentary Secretary Sidek Sanif, who also served as adviser to the fledgling society. Its leaders at the time of its formation were Yusnor Ef (president), Ramli Sarip (vice-president), Hartinah Ahmad (secretary) and Ismail Mazuki (treasurer) and seven committee members made up of local composers and songwriters.7

Yusnor continues to serve as president and is the main driver of PERKAMUS. A veteran of the Malay film industry and writer of hundreds of Malay songs, Yusnor is also involved in other organisations, such as the Composers and Authors Association of Singapore (COMPASS) and the National Arts Council, to help promote Malay music and musicians. In 2011, Yusnor was awarded the Cultural Medallion for his contributions to music in Singapore.8

PERKAMUS committee member and musician Art Fazil said of Yusnor: “Despite his seniority and stature, he is very open to new ideas and suggestions and he is a good listener. He is not the sort to thumb down other people's ideas and insist that only his views are correct".9

Membership to PERKAMUS is open to Malay musicians and composers in Singapore, or non-Malay Singaporeans who sing or compose Malay music.10

Activities
From the start, PERKAMUS had a detailed action plan that include developing guidelines for payments and artiste welfare, organising classes and workshops to improve the standards of local musicians, and working with media companies and organisations to promote local artistes.11

Much of the costs of running the society’s activities were borne by COMPASS, who viewed sponsorship as a way of reaching out to Malay songwriters as well as to support the growth of the local Malay music industry.12 In the 1990s, Malay composers and lyricists were under-represented in COMPASS.13

The activities organised by PERKAMUS include workshops, seminars and forums on topics relevant to musicians such as songwriting, music arrangement and copyright law. The society also helped to improve the skills of musicians by conducting intermediate and advanced music lessons in guitar, keyboard and vocals, all at affordable fees. At the time, many Malays – although musically inclined – could not afford the high fees charged by commercial music schools.14

Over time, PERKAMUS continued to expand its range of activities. In addition to organising workshops and seminars aimed at existing professional musicians, there were activities and events that endeavoured to nurture and promote new talent such as talks on copyright protection,15 music craft workshops and cultural seminars.16
 
One of the trademark events organised by PERKAMUS was Gegaran (Battle of the Bands), which provided local Malay bands with the opportunity to compose songs and showcase their talent in the competition. Gegaran was first organised in 2000, but is no longer being held. Other events include songwriting contests and more traditional singing competitions in genres such as zapin (a musical form whose lyrics are in the form of pantun, or poetry). PERKAMUS is also involved as a co-organiser of large-scale concerts, such as the annual Rentak Singapura event, to showcase and support local talent in the Malay music industry.17

While much attention was given to the young, PERKAMUS also began actively documenting the history of Malay music and musicians in Singapore. It has produced several publications such as 7 Tokoh Muzik (7 Magnificent Composers; 2002)18 and Dendang Temasek (Melodies of Temasek; 2005),19 the latter of which is a compilation of traditional Malay music. A book documenting PERKAMUS’ first 14 years of history – Irama Juang PERKAMUS (1992–2006) – was published in 2007.20

Yusnor emphasises the importance of preserving memories and historical documentation. “I think it is important to remember and pay tribute to those before us and their accomplishments. Movies, music and culture are vital things for us to live by in this age. It would be a shame to have all those moments forgotten,” he said.21

To increase opportunities for learning and exposure of Singapore artistes, PERKAMUS has made connections with Malaysian organisations such as the Singers, Musicians and Composers Association of Malaysia (PAPITA). In 2009, for example, a study trip to Kuala Lumpur was organised for Singapore artistes, while well-known Malaysian composer, arranger and musician Pak Ngah was invited to Singapore to conduct workshops and master classes.22



Author

Stephanie Ho



References
1. Tuminah Sapawi. (1994, January 31). Body set up to champion Malay musicians. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Tuminah Sapawi. (1994, July 12). Perkamus provides music lessons at affordable prices. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Composers and Authors Society of Singapore Limited. (2009). PERKAMUS activities in year 2009. In Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 23–25. (Call no.: RSING q780.92 CASSAR-[AR])
3. Tuminah Sapawi. (1994, January 31). Body set up to champion Malay musicians. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Tuminah Sapawi. (1994, January 31). Body set up to champion Malay musicians. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Mohd Raman Daud. (2007). Malay music activists rise! In Irama juang PERKAMUS (19922006). Singapore: PERKAMUS, p. 23. (Call no.: Malay RSING 780.95957 IRA)
6. Tuminah Sapawi. (1994, January 31). Body set up to champion Malay musicians. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Martinah Ahmad. PERKAMUS Persatuan Karyawan Muzik Melayu Singapura catatan perjalanannya dari 1993–1999. In Irama juang PERKAMUS (1992–2006). Singapore: PERKAMUS, p. 27. (Call no.: Malay RSING 780.95957 IRA)
8. Tribute.sg. (2012). Yusnor Ef. Retrieved from https://www.tribute.sg/artist-profile-yusnor-ef
9. Eddino Abdul Hadi. (2011, November 21). Malay arts champ. The Straits Times. Retrieved from ProQuest.
10. Tuminah Sapawi. (1994, January 31). Body set up to champion Malay musicians. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Tuminah Sapawi. (1994, January 31). Body set up to champion Malay musicians. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Composers and Authors Society of Singapore Limited. (2000). Annual report. Singapore: Author, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING q780.92 CASSAR-[AR])
13. A year too late for Azman. (1992, September 8). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Tuminah Sapawi. (1994, July 12). Perkamus provides music lessons at affordable prices. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Getting the copyright right. (1995, May 18). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Nazri Hadi Saparin. (2013, February 4). Muzik Singapura; Pemuzik muda sering tidak dibayar? Berita Harian. Retrieved from Factiva.
17. Composers and Authors Society of Singapore Limited. (2009). PERKAMUS activities in year 2009. In Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 23–25. (Call no.: RSING q780.92 CASSAR-[AR]); Persembahan 8 kumpulan ke final dianggap bermutu. (2000, September 8). Berita Harian, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Eddino Abdul Hadi. (2014, February 13). Putting singing before studies. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
18. Yusnof Ef. (Ed.). (2002). 7 tokoh muzik [7 magnificent composers]. Singapore: Perkamus. (Call no.: Malay RSING 780.92 TUJ)
19. Yusnof Ef. (Ed.). (2005). Dendang Temasek: Lagu Melayu asli pembina budaya. Singapore: Perkamus. (Call no.: Malay RSING q782.421629928 DEN)
20. Yusnor Ef & Mohd Raman Daud. (2007). Irama juang PERKAMUS (1992–2006). Singapore: PERKAMUS, p. 30. (Call no.: Malay RSING 780.95957 IRA)
21. A work of heart. (2006, February 1). Today. Retrieved from Factiva.
22. Composers and Authors Society of Singapore Limited. (2009). PERKAMUS activities in year 2009. In Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 23–25. (Call no.: RSING q780.92 CASSAR-[AR])



The information in this article is valid as at 6 March 2015 and correct as far as we can 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
Performing arts
Arts organisations
Organisations>>Associations>>Arts Groups
Arts>>Performing Arts>>Music
Music
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