Rahimah Rahim (b. 9 December 1955–) is a veteran performer in the local music scene, and one of the most popular entertainers of the 1970s and 1980s.1 Rahimah has recorded more than a dozen albums. Following a hiatus from 1989 to 2002, Rahimah returned to show business with a compilation album in 2003. Since then, she has made occasional appearances, singing at events and acting on television.2
Rahimah was born the eldest of four children to Rahim Hamid and Mariam Baharom.3 Rahim was known as the “Nat King Cole of Singapore” after he won the 1953 Xaxier Cugat singing competition.4 He went on to perform at several of Singapore’s popular singing clubs such as the Cockpit,5 Club 3926 and Ming Court Hotel’s Jade Lounge.7
Rahimah’s mother was the popular actress Mariam Baharom, who had stints with film companies Cathay Keris Studio and Shaw Organisation, while her father worked as a film editor with the latter. From her father, Rahimah learnt to entertain and create a rapport with an audience, although it was through Mariam that Rahimah started acting.8
Accompanying her mother on filming stints, Rahimah started learning scripts at the age of six and acted in a number of small roles.9 Her first major role was a little rich girl in the 1961 film Korban Kasih (“Love Sacrifice”).10 A couple of years later, she scored a role in the hit Malay sitcom Pak Awang Temberang as well as singing spots on variety shows, propelling her into the status of a child star.11 In this period, the young Rahimah also appeared in two other Cathay-Keris films, Masuk Angin Keluar Asap (1963) and Kasih Ibu (1965).12
While working as a child actress, Rahimah sometimes did her homework at the studio while waiting for her turn to act. Learning the lines was not easy but Rahimah said she learnt by parroting the adults: “[The adults] talk, I repeat what they said.”13
Rahimah recalled that the first English song she sang was the Christmas jingle “Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer”. “I was nine or ten years old. It was Christmas… I have to learn how to sing that song. It was very difficult. To sing [in English] was different, because the diction was different, those words were big for me. I remember the late Eddy Gomez taught me how to sing,” she said.14 Rahimah also took singing lessons from her uncle Ahmad Daud, a veteran singer in the Malay music industry, and was guided by her father.15
At the age of 14 or 15, Rahimah accompanied her father to the clubs where he sang. At the time, children under 18 years old were not allowed to enter the clubs, but her father smuggled her in so that she could sing with him two or three times a week. Whenever there were spot checks, Rahimah hid under the grand piano or was sent outside.16
It was these trips to the clubs that started Rahimah on her musical journey. “I started singing all the jazz numbers, like ‘Route 66’… ‘Our Day Will Come’, Nat King Cole songs, Ella Fitzgerald, those music,” she said.17 After leaving school in 1971, she sang with her father at nightclubs along Orchard Road, dueting with him mainly on jazz songs.18
The year 1974 marked a turning point in Rahimah’s singing career. After a successful audition, the 19-year-old was chosen to participate in the Asian singing competition, Kimi Koso Talentime, held in Tokyo, Japan.19 Competing against more than 100 singers from across East Asia, Rahimah won the first prize and was offered a three-year recording contract with Warner Music.20 She wanted to stay on in Tokyo, but her mother insisted that she return to Singapore.21
Upon her return, Rahimah started singing at Mandarin Court and Neptune Theatre Restaurant.22 She broke new ground by being the first Malay singer to perform at the Neptune. It was also there that she learnt to sing in different languages, performing Japanese and Mandarin songs.23
Rahimah had started recording albums even before she won the 1974 competition in Tokyo and began singing at local clubs. Her first extended play, featuring the song “Mana Ibu Mu”, was released in 1972.24
From the 1970s to 1980s, Rahimah’s singing career soared and she became a household name in show business, having released hits such as “Doa” (Prayer) and “Bebas” (Free). In the 1980s, she travelled widely, particularly to Taiwan and Hong Kong, performing shows with popular Hong Kong singers such as the late Leslie Cheung and Alan Tam.25
Personal life and hiatus from show business
In 1989, when Rahimah was at the height of her career, she decided to quit show business. At the time, her high-profile marriage to national footballer Mohammad Noh Hussein, whom she married in 1977, had ended in divorce. Rahimah then went on an umrah (a short pilgrimage to Mecca) and later the haj (a fixed-date pilgrimage to Mecca).26 Having started working on an album before embarking on the haj, Rahimah decided to complete Hati Yang Rapuh (“The Broken Heart”) in 1990 before retiring. She said, “I’m now 34. I want a family life, to bring up my daughter who is growing up, [which will be] an uphill task if I do not retire from the music scene.”27
In 1994, she married Remy Taib, who worked in the securities industry, and stayed out of show business to become a full-time housewife. She subsequently worked as a customer relations officer at a maid agency.28 Rahimah was, at one point, also involved in various businesses, including shares in a hair salon, a Kuala Lumpur-based film company and Pearl Recording Company.29
Besides her daughter with Mohammad Noh, Nur Hida Pearl, Rahimah has another daughter, Amalyn Aisha, with Remy Taib.30
Return of the diva
In 2003, the general manager of Life Records, Osman Arifin, offered Rahimah a deal to cut an album of her greatest hits. The record, titled Suatu Memori, enjoyed brisk sales and marked Rahimah’s return to show business. At that point, however, she regarded entertainment as a hobby while her family was still a strong priority.31
With the release of the album, many old contacts began calling Rahimah again. She began performing mostly in Malaysia, and acted in several dramas for Malaysian television network Radio Television Malaysia.32 She also started appearing in Singapore television productions. In 2005, she was the main judge of MediaCorp’s Malay reality-television talent show Anugerah.33 In 2006, she made a guest performance on Singapore Idol, and in 2010 appeared in her first English-language musical, Fried Rice Paradise by Dick Lee.34
In December 2014, it was announced that Rahimah will be starring in local film director Royston Tan’s new movie, 3688.
Selected albums/extended plays35
1971: Mana Ibu Mu (with The Commandos; Panda Records).
1972: Permuda Tampan (with The Stylers; Panda Records).
1972: Senangkan Hati (with The Commandos; Panda Records).
1972: Soreh-soreh (with The Commandos; Panda Records).
1973: Jaga Jaga Kalau Berkata (Panda Records).
1973: Kebersehan Satu Keimanan (with The Nite Walkers; Panda Records).
1974: Bintang Sukanku (Senada).
1974: Posnita (Senada).
1975: Renungan (Senada).
1982: Gadis Dan Bunga (Josal Records).
1984: Bebas (Josal Records).
1990: Hati Yang Rapuh (NSR Record).
2003: Suatu Memori (Life Records).
2006: Awal Dan Kini (Life Records).
1. Mardiana Abu Bakar, “This Is Rahimah,” Straits Times, 1 July 1989, 1. (From NewspaperSG); Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview by Patricia Lee, 3 April 2007, MP3 audio, 54:38, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 003141)
2. Azman Ahmad, “Rahimah Rahim Returns,” Malay Mail, 7 July 2003. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website); Pauline Teo, “The Simple Life,” Straits Times, 4 December 2006, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Teo, “Simple Life”; Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview.
4. “How He Became Singapore’s ‘Nat King Cole’,” Straits Times, 17 April 1955, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
5. “Singapore’s ‘Nat King Cole’.”
6. “Nightspot of ’70s Now a Jazz Club,” Straits Times, 18 September 1987, 38. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Pat D’Rose, “Jade Lounge Goes Disco and Nostalgia,” Straits Times, 12 February 1988, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
8. Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview; Lim, Phay-Ling, “So Much to Sing About,” Straits Times, 1 February 1987, 1. (From NewspaperSG); Teo, “Simple Life.”
9. Lim, “So Much to Sing About”; Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview.
10. Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview.
11. Zul Othman, “Rahimah Returns,” Today, 16 November 2005, 52. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Dennis Chua, “First Lady of Song Still Has the Magic,” New Straits Times, 4 June 2006. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
13. Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview.
14. Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview.
15. Lim, “So Much to Sing About.”
16. Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview.
17. Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview.
18. Lim, “So Much to Sing About.”
19. Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview; Othman, Rahimah Returns.”
20. Abu Bakar, “This Is Rahimah”; Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview; Lim, “So Much to Sing About.”
21. Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview.
22. Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview by Patricia Lee, 10 April 2007, MP3 audio, 54:54, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 003141)
23. Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview.
24. Murni Ech Es, “Menjelang Hari Raya Shairkat P-Hitam berlumba2 Usahakan lagu2 Baharu,” Berita Harian, 22 October 1972, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
25. Othman, Rahimah Returns.”
26. Abu Bakar, “This Is Rahimah.”
27. “Swansong,” Straits Times, 7 May 1990, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
28. Lin Wenjian, “The Singing Star,” Straits Times, 23 May 2010, 10. (From NewspaperSG); Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview by Patricia Lee, 20 April 2007, MP3 audio, 50:51, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 003141)
29. Abu Bakar, “This Is Rahimah”; Othman, Rahimah Returns.”
30. Lin, “Singing Star.”
31. Cheong Suk-Wai, “Rahimah Is Back with a VCD,” Straits Times, 12 February 2003, 2. (From NewspaperSG); Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview.
32. Rahimah Rahim, oral history interview; Tan Dawn Wei, “Nobody Pays To See You Cry,” Straits Times, 26 April 2006, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
33. Othman, Rahimah Returns.”
34. Akshita Nanda, “Embarking on a New Stage,” Straits Times, 16 August 2010, 2. (From NewspaperSG); Teo, “Simple Life.”
35. “Rahimah Rahim,” Rateyourmusic, last accessed 2015; “Rahimah Rahim,” 45cat.com., last accessed 2015; Teo, “Simple Life”; Ahmad, “Rahimah Rahim Returns”; Rahimah Persembah Hadiah Perpisahan, Berita Harian, 29 April 1990, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
The information in this article is valid as at 13 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.