By Shazwan Zulkiffli
For some odd reason, stories of the late and great P.Ramlee’s torn legacy have resurfaced lately as viral articles floating around social media. From being walked over by Shaw Brothers to rumors of him working at a Mahjung parlor, the last few years of his time on Earth wasn’t really the stuff of fairytales that should befit a legend like P.Ramlee. Most netizens who shared these stories were often angry with how the actor and singer was treated back in the day, and should’ve been treated like the icon that he was and will always be.
Instead of constantly sharing stories of the bitter ordeals, why not honor his contributions by remembering his greatest works: the Bujang Lapok songs. When songs like ‘Maafkan Kami’ and ‘Pok Pok Bujang Lapok’ came out, it was obvious that Ramlee was ahead of his time. The lyrics of Pok Pok Bujang Lapok that state, ‘ada mancis, tak ada rokok’ showed a certain progressive mindset, and how people back then were much more open to things we consider controversial now, like smoking a cigarette..
Before the easily-butthurt borderline-generation X group led the creative charge in the industry, there was a time where songs that had words like ‘bercumbu’ or ‘rokok’ were considered normal. It almost feels like the content P Ramlee’s golden generation of pure Malaysian entertainment is ahead of where we are right now in terms open-mindedness and relevance. This creative leniency helped Ramlee, his boys and the industry they revolved around to progress their craft, being similar to how Indonesia’s freedom of expression ideals have led to a booming music scene. Songwriters can easily improve on their technical songwriting skills and the art of storytelling as rigid rules and regulations didn’t apply to art.
If you haven’t listened to this yet, enjoy this classic by our very own, Tan Sri P Ramlee.