Orkestra Melayu Singapura (OMS)



Orkestra Melayu Singapura (OMS), Singapore’s first Malay orchestra, was set up by the People’s Association (PA) in September 1991.1 Formed to preserve and promote Malay music in Singapore, OMS is the only orchestra in Singapore to combine modern and traditional instruments in Malay music performance.2 The orchestra’s repertoire includes original compositions and traditional Malay pieces. It has held concerts such as Malam Rentak Dan Irama, Malam Gurindam Syawal, Dagang Nusantara and Gurindam Melayu Asli.3

History
The first decade

As part of its attempt to preserve and promote Malay music in Singapore, PA began looking for musicians to join OMS in August 1991. Applicants had to be able to play a brass or woodwind instrument, and they were required to attend weekly training at the PA once selected.4

Following the first audition, OMS was formed in September 1991 with 23 members.5 The orchestra’s first conductor was Mohd Mokhtar Abdullah, a composer and musician. Its repertoire comprised original compositions and traditional Malay pieces.6

The OMS held its debut performance at the World Trade Centre auditorium on 11 April 1992.7 The debut was followed by concerts at cultural and festive events, as well as performances held in collaboration with other local and regional orchestras.8

In April 1994, OMS held the concert Malam Gurindam Syawal (Night of Syawal Lyric Poetry) in conjunction with Hari Raya Puasa celebrations. There were 21 items in the concert programme, played by its 30-piece orchestra. The orchestra, however, was criticised for not using any traditional Malay instruments in its programme. At this, Mokhtar lamented the difficulty in enticing experienced Malay traditional musicians to join the orchestra. Most of its members were amateur musicians who attended practice sessions on a voluntary basis.9 The members consisted of, among others, school students, undergraduates and taxi drivers, ranging from their teens to late 40s.10 They were given an allowance for attending training sessions, while the orchestra received only a nominal sum as payment for its performances.11 In addition, invitations to perform were infrequent. On average, it received about four invitations to perform a year.12

In 1996, OMS adopted a new strategy to endear the young to asli (traditional music). In its annual concert Gurindam Melayu Asli (Traditional Malay Folk Songs) held in April that year, the orchestra fused the sounds of traditional and contemporary Western instruments. The arrangements boasted of traditional instruments such as the gong and different kinds of drums such as ketuk, boning and kenong, and Western instruments such as violin, clarinet, saxophone, piano and guitar. In addition, two original compositions, “Jebat” and “Persimpangan”, were performed for the first time at the concert.13

The OMS participated in the Festival of Asian Performing Arts in June 1997. It performed “Crossroads”, a fusion piece made up of Chinese, Indian and Malay elements. The performance was a combined effort with musicians from the Singapore Indian Orchestra and Choir, as well as PA’s Youth Chinese Orchestra. The conductor was L. Vaidyanathan, one of India’s leading composers and conductors.14 In 2002, Vaidyanathan was also the conductor for OMS’s fusion-piece concert, Sangamam, which combined Indian, Chinese, Malay and Western musical elements.15

In February 1999, OMS took part in the Cathay Pacific Chinese New Year Parade in Hong Kong, together with PA’s Malay Dance Group. The combined group held a dance and musical performance called Kampung Celebrations, which told the story of a traditional circumcision ceremony for Malay boys.16

10th anniversary and beyond
The OMS marked its 10th anniversary in April 2001 with a concert named Dance Gema Warisan (Echoes of Heritage), which was held at the Singapore Conference Hall. Led by conductor Mohd Jais Minsawi, the concert programme comprised mainly new compositions, as well as a few traditional pieces. The concert featured guest artists from Sumatra playing instruments such as talempong, sarunai, bangsi and saluang.17 The year 2001 also saw the formation of a specialised section called the Kombo Orkestra Melayu Singapura. This new offshoot of the OMS focuses on the fusion of modern and traditional Malay music.18

In June 2002, OMS participated in the People’s Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council19 (MESRA)’s musical, Gentarasa (Chimes of Expressions). The musical was a showcase blending various elements of the Malay performing arts. Performing arts groups, such as those for dance and silat, moved to traditional music played and sung live during the show. Gentarasa is now an annual event since the first concert held in 2002.20

The OMS was also part of a Singapore-Malaysia-Indonesia ensemble called Perahu – Breaking the Waves. The ensemble performed in October 2002, during[Cheryl1]  the month-long festival that marked the opening of Singapore’s Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.21

Performances
Apr 1992: Malam Rentak Dan Irama22

Apr 1994: Malam Gurindam Syawal23
1995:
Dagang Nusantara24

Apr 1996: Gurindam Melayu Asli25
Jun 1997: “Crossroads”26
Feb 1999: Kampung Celebrations27
Apr 2001: Dance Gema Warisan28
Jun 2002: Gentarasa29
Oct 2002: Perahu Breaking the Waves30



Author
Nureza Ahmad



References
1. Latar belakang orkestra. (1992, January 21). Berita Harian, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Orkestra Melayu nasional dibentuk. (1991, July 31). Berita Harian, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Filzah Hadi. (1994, April 18). Show of support for Malay orchestra. The Straits Times, p. 11; Persembahan sulung orkestra. (1992, March 30). Berita Harian, p. 14; Junaidah Dahlan. (1996, April 30). Novel way to introduce young to traditional music. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Talent for Malay orchestra. (1991, August 2). The Straits Times. p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Latar belakang orkestra. (1992, January 21). Berita Harian, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Latar belakang orkestra. (1992, January 21). Berita Harian, p. 3; Orkestra Melayu nasional dibentuk. (1991, July 31). Berita Harian, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Persembahan sulung orkestra. (1992, March 30). Berita Harian, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Latar belakang orkestra. (1992, January 21). Berita Harian, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Filzah Hadi. (1994, April 18). Show of support for Malay orchestra. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Hanim Mohd Saleh. (1996, May 2). Orkestra Melayu buat pendekatan baru. Berita Harian, p. 6; Junaidah Dahlan. (1996, April 30). Novel way to introduce young to traditional music. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Talent for Malay orchestra. (1991, August 2). The Straits Times. p. 31; Filzah Hadi. (1994, April 18). Show of support for Malay orchestra. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Filzah Hadi. (1994, April 18). Show of support for Malay orchestra. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Junaidah Dahlan. (1996, April 30). Novel way to introduce young to traditional music. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Indian maestro for classical pieces. (1997, June 21). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Tan, S. E. (2002, June 17). Experiment gone very wrong. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Horse play heads for HK. (1999, February 15). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Teo, J. (2001, September 4). Big band, Malay style. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Page L2 miscellaneous column 1: Music. (2001, June 7). The Straits Times, p. L2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. People’s Association. (2017, August 26). Malay Activity Executive Committees Council. Retrieved 2018, January 22 from People’s Association website: https://www.pa.gov.sg/Our_Network/Grassroots_Organisations/Malay_Activity_Executive_Committees_Council
20. Malay cultural feast at Arts Fest. (2002, May 21). The Straits Times, p. 7; Chairul Fahmy Hussaini. (2002, April 26). Usaha baiki persembahan budaya Melayu. Berita Harian, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Bianpoen, C. (2002, October 11). Esplanade Theatres on the Bay opens festival. The Jakarta Post. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Burridge, S. (2002, November 1). A festival of hybrid entertainment. The Business Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Junaidah Dahlan. (1996, April 30). Novel way to introduce young to traditional music. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Filzah Hadi. (1994, April 18). Show of support for Malay orchestra. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Hanim Mohd Saleh. (1996, May 2). Orkestra Melayu buat pendekatan baru. Berita Harian, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Junaidah Dahlan. (1996, April 30). Novel way to introduce young to traditional music. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Indian maestro for classical pieces. (1997, June 21). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Horse play heads for HK. (1999, February 15). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Teo, J. (2001, September 4). Big band, Malay style. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Chairul Fahmy Hussaini. (2002, April 26). Usaha baiki persembahan budaya Melayu. Berita Harian, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Bianpoen, C. (2002, October 11). Esplanade Theatres on the Bay opens festival. The Jakarta Post. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/



The information in this article is valid as at 2004 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
Heritage and Culture
Orchestra--Singapore
Arts>>Performing Arts>>Music
Performing arts--Singapore
Ethnic Communities
Music
Arts>>Music
People and communities>>Social groups and communities