Pop Yeh Yeh

In the 1960s, Pop Yeh Yeh ruled the Malay music scene across the borders of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. With the British invasion came the everlasting influence of bands like The Beatles and The Shadows. Local musicians started mimicking the Brit fashion style and music but also combine elements of US Surf Rock ala bands like The Ventures. According to Wikipedia, the term Pop Yeh Yeh was taken from a line from the Beatles song ‘She Loves You’ (“she loves you / yeah-yeah-yeah”). However, this may not be scripture as the term Pop Yeh Yeh was never used in the 60s but much later when the genre was revived in the 80s by M. Shariff & The Zurah.

Kugiran or Kumpulan?
Arguably the very first Pop Yeh Yeh song was ‘Suzanna’ by M. Osman in 1964. The standard 4-piece Rock N Roll bands (2 guitars, bass and drums) were referred to at this time as kumpulan gitar rancak (rhythmic guitar bands). This gave birth to the acronym kugiran (kumpulan gitar rancak).

The first mention of the word kugiran was on Radio Singapore in the weekly Lagu Pujaan Minggu Ini chart show hosted by the 1st Malay DJ MIA (Mohd Ismail Abdullah). It was said that the idea for the acronym kugiran came from subtitling-officer Daud Abdul Rahman. However, other sources claim that it was P Ramli who coined the term to differentiate the line-up from the combo-styled Malay bands of the past.

Though most of the bands were formed in Singapore, Malaysia had its fair share of Pop Yeh Yeh acts. Due to the booming trade industry, Johore and Singapore became hubs for these bands, playing to foreigners and locals alike. Most of the recordings were done in Singapore at the old EMI Studio at MacDonald’s House in Orchard Road and at small privately-owned studios.

Spin That Record
Sales of Pop Yeh Yeh vinyl records did well both in the region and aboard. A Romzi & The Hooks scored a big hit with the song ‘Dendang Remaja’ while Impian Bateks featuring Rudyn Al-Haj had popular numbers like ‘Naik Kereta Ku’ and a cappella tunes ‘Oh Posmen’ and ‘Gadis Sekolah’.

The Swallows, whose vocalist was Kassim Slamat, came out with an EP which received airplay on a radio station in Germany. Their single ‘La Aube’ went on to enter the German pop chart. Almost all the above mentioned artistes were from Singapore. The most popular ones from Malaysia include L Ramli, Roziah Latiff & The Jayhawkers, J Sham, Orkes Nirvana, The Sangam Boys and Les Flingers. Band members usually composed their own music and lyrics while the band leaders were also the producers of the albums.

Pop Yeh Yeh’s popularity started to dwindle in 1971 giving way to the emerging presence of Hard Rock, Metal and later, Disco. The base of the Malay music industry shifted as well from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur around this time and non-Malay composers and musicians began entering the market.

Pop Yeh Yeh Recording Artists
M Osman, A Ramlie, Jeffrydin, Roziah Latiff & The Jayhawkers, Adnan Othman, Halim “Jandaku” Yatim, Afidah Es, J Kamisah, Siti Zaiton, J Sham, A Rahman Onn, Hasnah Haron, J Kamisah, Fatimah M Amin, Asmah Atan, Orkid Abdullah, A. Remie, Zamzam, Salim I, Kassim Selamat, M Rahmat, A Karim Jais, M Ishak, Hussien Ismail, Jaafor O, A Halim, Azizah Mohamed, S Jibeng, L Ramlee, The Rhythm Boys, The Siglap Five and A Romzi & The Hooks.

Pop Yeh Yeh Poster Boys and Girls
• Dato’ A. Rahman Hassan
• Kassim Slamat & The Swallows
• A. Romzi & The Hooks

Pop Yeh Yeh Math
Rock n Roll + Surf Rock + Pop Yeh Yeh = Radio Malaysia
The Beatles + The Shadows + Singapore Sling = The Swallows