When Malaysia moves to the same beat

At a time when politicians are trying to divide us, it is personalities like popular singer Sheila Majid who have the ability to create a sense of belonging, trust and empathy, notes the writer.


March 22, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR – WHILE some of our pathetic politicians have been busy blowing a lot of hot air by shamelessly exploiting race and religion, a different kind of sound was heard at the Putra World Trade Centre last week.

Singer Datuk Sheila Majid’s beautiful music played at a sold-out concert there.

She is probably the only singer here who can sell out a concert and command a multiracial audience.

It was so touching hearing Sheila’s fans singing along to every one of her hit songs, and how they knew every line of the lyrics.

Almost half of her back-up musicians were non-Malays such as Mac Chew and Jenny Chin, her collaborators who have accompanied her since she started singing.

They were still there last week at the show.

In her own words, they were there with her in the high and low points of her singing career.

The large presence of non-Malays at her Big Band Live concert is proof of how popular she is, and that music is universal.

Here’s the most important point – she sang her songs, which are all in Bahasa Malaysia. But the crowd, mostly urbanites, had no issue that she used mostly English to speak to them.

The Queen of Jazz, as she is often called, dedicated a part of her concert to pay tribute to Jimmy Boyle.

Many present generation Malaysians have not heard of this composer and Sheila rightly put up a video dedication. It would not be wrong to describe the jazz pianist as a forgotten musician, but he composed over 300 songs including Putera Puteri.

United in music: Fans turned up in droves at Sheila Majid Big Band Live In concert, happy to be reunited with the Jazz Queen in Kuala Lumpur last week.

He wrote the Penang state anthem, Untuk Negeri Ku, and Kemegahan Negaraku, which was picked for the inaugural raising of the national flag on Aug 31, 1957.

Negaraku was not ready yet and Boyle’s composition was used for the historic occasion.

His name doesn’t appear in our history textbooks, unfortunately. I only knew about him as a young boy simply because he was a teacher at St Xavier’s Institution, long before I started schooling.

It was a lovely touch by Sheila, who also named the many Eurasian singers and musicians who played their part for Malaysia.

Then there were the personalities from Penang, who are no longer with us but should not be forgotten, like Ahmad Nawab, Ahmad Daud and of course, P. Ramlee.

At a time when politicians are trying to divide us, it is personalities like Sheila who have the ability to create a sense of belonging, trust and empathy. It is such a powerful tool.

As we sang and danced together at Dewan Merdeka, it was about what happens when Malaysia moves together to the same tune.

Who cares about the holier-than-thou religious politicians who lecture us against dancing and gender mixing but hypocritically turn stone deaf when it comes to fighting corruption and racism?

Shame on them.

Essentially, people everywhere are the same in heart and spirit, no matter what language we speak and sing.

Musicians and singers aside, our sports personalities have also shown how Malaysia can stand united as we cheer them in their battles to bring glory to the nation.

For example, badminton legend Datuk Lee Chong Wei once recalled that in the 2006 Malaysian Open, he saw a little Malay girl with her hands up in prayer for him, an Indian girl crying and a Chinese boy who was cheering so loud that the umpire told him to pipe down!

And we never got tired of seeing Chong Wei hugging his coach Datuk Misbun Sidek after his matches, regardless of whether he won or lost. They remain the most touching scenes ever.

And congratulations to Malaysian rock queen, Ella, who sold out 10,000 tickets for her 35th anniversary concert in 24 hours.

Certainly, you have Malaysia Standing in the Eyes of the World through your songs.

To all these music and sports legends, such as Datuk David Arumugam, Datuk DJ Dave, Jay Jay, Datuk Soh Chin Aun, Datuk Santokh Singh, Datuk Nicol David, and many others, thank you for uniting Malaysians. Thanks for the memories.

To the dreadful politicians who pit Malaysians against each other, shame on you!

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