Let's create more P Ramlees | Selangor Times
Issue 118


Let's create more P Ramlees
Writer: Lee Lian Kong


Getaran jiwa
Melanda hatiku
Tersusun nada
Irama dan lagu
Walau hanya sederhana
Tetapi tak mengapa
Moga dapat membangkitkan
Sedarlah kamu wahai insan
– Getaran Jiwa, P Ramlee

This song will continue to resonate timelessly. P Ramlee was not a one-hit wonder. His songs spanned decades, from the infectious Bunyi Gitar to the aching Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti. His is a genius sorely missed in today’s creatively barren music industry.

Subsequently, this dearth is derived and feeds from us, the masses, who, some will say, are easily satisfied. I’d rather call it “not well equipped”. Both descriptions are fair. We get overexcited at mediocre copycat songs like Malaysian Boy, and are not attuned to exposing ourselves to a whole plethora of music beyond the Top 20s.

My parents sent my sister and me for classical piano lessons from a young age. I had a little more patience for the strict discipline and persevered to Grade 8, the last grade. My sister stopped halfway, partly because my parents couldn’t afford the ever increasing fees, but also because she thought they were lame. Which I agreed with.

The focus was on passing exams, thus classes were tailored to master three classical pieces, scales (ugh), and some technical singing and sightreading, year after year. Music classes in school weren’t any better. We learnt some basic note reading and played the recorder until Standard Six. In secondary school, music was no longer compulsory but an elective, known insultingly as a subject for the “less smart” students.

Why do schools teach music in a way that turns off so many young people rather than ignite their imagination? There is so much potential in music lessons, spillover effects to help learn academic subjects like language arts and math, using music to engage children who are disruptive or at risk of failing. Allowing expression. Providing joyful, engrossing, community-building qualities. Instilling perseverance.

“Any professional musician will tell you that to get where they are (jazz, classical, or pop), they had to work hard, very hard. A classroom music setting in band, orchestra, or choir, reveals the work required to succeed,” says Tom Chapman, a professional musician himself.

Studies show the Mozart effect, linking music-making with enhanced cognitive development in children. And it can be so much fun. Imagine being taught to play the guitar at six. A few basic chords is enough set you up for life. Being taught to play songs you like, instead of scales, is like being told to eat ice cream instead of broccoli.

These pop songs do not signal the death of classical music, or “serious” music. The orientation should never be the focus, but how bizarre, awesome and brilliant it should be.

In this case, it is what interests the kids most. If that happens to be Justin Bieber, so be it. At the end of the day, what matters is that we captivate their interests, supply them with the basic music-making skills, and guide them as they explore music. We want them to be inquisitive and daring music appreciators, if not musicians.

This is not the beginning of an end to classical music or to “serious” music education. The goal is not to produce professional instrumentalists for only one genre of music, but for them to grow and thus for music to grow as well. Money and manpower are limiting factors, but they can be overcome. Enough with the outdated syllabus and methods already. It’s 2011, for goodness sake.

Programmes such as Little Kids Rock provide music classes where students play in bands, and are allowed to improvise and even compose. They have been remarkably successful in low-income areas, where they’ve revamped the music education systems in the US.

Sure, there are funding and resources issues, but if you can build another billion-dollar castle, surely you
can buy a few guitars and some keyboards. Companies record billion-dollar revenues every year, too – it’s time for some corporate social responsibility.

What about teachers? Do we have the human resources to pull this off? This is where I am hoping fervently
that the promising Teach For Malaysia trainees will jazz up Malaysia’s music education system.

A good teacher can inspire. My piano teacher in Grade 6 taught me to notice and appreciate the subtle nuances in Chopin and even scales! She briefed me in the history and colour behind a piece, instead of being a drill master like many others.

By her cultivating in me this ability to appreciate, it gave me the edge to play music with a little more soul, and to enjoy it, not just to earn a paper. Music education needs not be a privilege for a few.

It needs to be democratised for all. After all, it is a win-win situation. It would be such a waste to not tap into the enormous musical potential of our young ones. Let’s start young. Let’s bring quality back to our music scene.

Tak mungkin hilang
Irama dan lagu
Bagaikan kembang
Sentiasa bermadu
Andai dipisah
Lagu dan irama
Lemah tiada berjiwa


 Selangor Times



Also by Lee Lian Kong:

A Critique on KL : It’s Alive

A 20-something year old girl, dressed in the current trendy look (loose patterned blouse, denim shorts, aviators, brown highlighted hair) walks with her DSLR camera in her hands. She flings it to the sky and the video sweeps into the (as per usual) spectacular aerial view of KL’s cityscape, highway and suburbs.

A man with no shoes

He didn’t have shoes on. A pair of rubber soles with the top part of what used to be a shoe, hanging by a thread or two, hardly count as shoes. On them were his feet, his black feet covered white, only possible through the harshness of the cold, chapping away at skin. I could not take my eyes off them. For three months, I’ve only seen smooth feet, covered in proper shoes or the eye-rolling hipster Toms. Feet and shoes that belonged to the haves.

Music lost on KL

That Kuala Lumpur exists and her beauty lost to so many is beyond me.

Erykah Badu and the free speech paradox

Free speech has its limits. That’s the paradox of the First Amendment.


It had been a 14 hour long flight, after an earlier 6 hours flight. I was flying to Evansville, Indiana, to undertake a one semester study grant by the US Department of State. So there I was, jetlagged and tired but finally, on United States of America soil. It was my first time on a plane and crossing oceans. There was excitement but my tired body was struggling to keep up with it. It didn’t help that at the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport where I was transiting, there was a long line at US Customs. I was not in the best mood.

A Lawyers’ March … Fuh!

Labels – most commonly used by confused hormonal teenagers desperately grappling for an identity; may be manipulated by the media and bitchy, good-looking girls and boys to determine social hierarchy in high school. The thing about labels is that we usually grow out of them when we graduate from high school and discover that there are more pressing things at hand like mortgages and stagnant wages.

Why I don’t enjoy nasi lemak any more

The Auditor General Report 2010. Nasi Lemak 2.0. What do they have in common? Yes, that’s right – our nation is bankrupt.

Our merciless society

Amy Winehouse was a soul singer from a town called Camden in England. Her powerful voice was first discovered by Simon Fuller, found critical acclaim in her first album Frank and phenomenal worldwide success in her breakthrough album Back to Black.

First-class Malaysian sporting heroes

They’re everywhere! Flying, reading minds, attracting metals, smashing buildings into pulp. It’s hero-invasion season now. X-Men: First Class had barely ended before The Green Lantern swooped in, and soon, we will have Captain America.

Girls and subcultures

Don’t accept the old order. Get rid of it.So says Johnny Rotten, vocalist of the Sex Pistols. That’s what subcultures are all about: rejection of mainstream society, whether in the form of music, fashion, visual arts, dance, literature, films, etc. A subculture’s intention is to differentiate itself.

Young and Sarawakian/Malaysian

Good things come in pairs. In my case, they came in threes. They came in the form of three close friends from St Joseph, Kuching, who flew across the pond to pursue their A Levels.

A refuge for the young ones

"We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!” - Sean Parker, The Social Network


A fun riot, indeed

"We can do what we like, no one can stop us." Early last month, London and a couple of other cities were held hostage by rioters. The English's castles were looted by 14-year- olds in hoodies.

Though this sounds comical, the underlying issues of the youths involved are gritty and not to be taken lightly.











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