Rock Kapak

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Yo braaaaader! Squeeze into some tight jeans because this month, The Knowledge takes us back to the 80s with Rock Kapak…

Behold My Awesome Kapak!
Nobody really knows who coined the term Rock Kapak although it is a huge part of Malaysian pop culture. Rock Kapak is remembered as much as Pop Yeah Yeah and often connected to the dreaded Rock Jiwang. JUICE imagines that the kapak part is probably a reference to the dark medieval imagery the pre-metal bands that influenced the genre.

After all, things were a lot simpler back in the 80s. We didn’t have Astro, the internet or Zouk Club, but we had music. Hard Rock and Heavy Metal ruled the airwaves like Norse Gods on Harleys.

Sweet Charity and Kingdom In Rock (aka Kingdom) were the earliest bands to adapt western rock music and image to our local culture and vernacular in the late 70s. Kingdom In Rock received less publicity and had a heavy Black Sabbath sound. The more commercial Sweet Charity, led by the Grandfather of Malaysian Rock, Ramli Sarip, was influenced by Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple.

During 1981-84, a new crop of local bands emerged with untidy hair. The Lefthanded, The Burnmarks, D’Febians, Titanic and Split Times rocked out the funfairs and expo shows. These early Kapak bands also performed at the Battle of the Bands in 1983 and 84 at the Jubli Intan Hall in Johor Bahru. This was a high point in pre-Rock Kapak history with Split Times making a “live” record during the competition. Soon the government pressured these bands to change their names to be more ‘Malaysian’. Titanic and Split Times became Search and Bumiputra Rockers respectively.

In 1985, Cinta Buatan Malaysia arrived at the scene and brought along Heavy Metal fever. With the help of popular TV programme Muzik Muzik, Rock Kapak was born. In addition to the bands that were mentioned before, newcomers included May
Sofea, Desire, SYJ, Rusty Blade, Junction, Bloodshed, Handy Black, XPDC, Cromok, Blues Gang, Headwind, Ekamatra, Ella & The Boys and many more that continued to emerge well into the 90s.

Although some might consider Rock Kapak to be a silly imitation of Glam Rock, it’s clear that these were musicians with caliber – singers were able to hit the high notes without squeezing anything, and guitarists could play a million notes per second without a getting single blister. Lyrics were skewered towards love, but some songs were about religion and dispensed general advice on life.


1. Messy, long hair.
2. Tight jeans or PVC/leather pants (sometimes made from bus seats)
3. Hi-top shoes (especially ALIPH, Nike Air Force and Reebok)
4. Torn t-shirts (especially with picture of Japanese flag or some famous band)
5. Tiger print apparel


Ramli Sarip, Amy, Awie, Mus, Man Kidal


Bazooka Penaka and Hukum Karma – Wings
Fenomena – Search
Selamat Pagi Malaysia – Bumiputra Rockers
Evolusi – Lefthanded

‘Misteri Mimpi Syakila’ and ‘Taman Rashidah Utama’ – Wings
‘Sendiri’ – MAY
‘Kamelia’ – Sweet Charity
‘Dari Sinar Mata’ – Bumiputra Rockers
‘Srikandi Cintaku’ – Bloodshed
‘Sekuntum Bunga Sakura Di Gurun Sahara’ – Mega
‘Ku Dihalaman Rindu’ – Lefthanded


Rock Kapak continues its legacy through bands and solo acts like Kristal, FTG, Jinbara and Fiqh.

Axl Rose + Harley Davidson + Gym = Awie
Robert Plant + Scorpions + Sambal Petai = Amy
Jeff Buckley + Leopard print + Pop Shuvit = Ramli Sarip

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