By Siti Zulaikha Zukefli
KUALA LUMPUR, 26 March 2022: Hari Seniman Negara or National Art Day that falls on 29 May every year has been brought to 22 March in commemorating the birthday of late Tan Sri Datuk Amar Teuku Zakaria bin Teuku Nyak Puteh, better known by his stage name, P. Ramlee.
Minister of Communication and Multimedia, Tan Sri Annuar Musa said that the purpose of National Art Day is to increase public awareness and appreciation for the role of art and culture in forming a united Malaysian identity that goes beyond race.
Therefore, in that spirit, Malaysians need to be made aware of the contribution of P. Ramlee who inspired many experts and notable figures in the local entertainment industry.
The late P. Ramlee was a poet, director, actor, songwriter, lyricist, musician, and even a comedian, which led him to be known as a renaissance man in Malaysia’s entertainment industry. Commemorating P. Ramlee and having the opportunity to talk about his contribution is important, alongside to talk on how to appreciate and honour the artistes who are still alive with us.
In an interview with BFM (89.9), Dr. Shazlin Amir Hamzah, from the Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), said that it is our responsibility as Keluarga Malaysia to be aware of the value of the great artistes and commemorate their services in contributing to the country.
Shazlin added that other than succeeding in producing more figures and experts in the creative industry, P. Ramlee also introduced Malaysia to the world. For instance, several of his songs have been reproduced by the Japanese music industry, and “Getaran Jiwa” was sung by the National Choir.
Hence, National Art Day is important in order to increase public awareness and appreciation of the role of art and culture, regardless of ethnic background, especially towards the unification of Keluarga Malaysia.
Shazlin mentioned that sometimes we are not aware that art and culture are very close to us, and it surrounds us every day. For example, we are listening to the radio and music and watching television every day.
Therefore, Shazlin said, commemorating the icon of the country, P. Ramlee not just for his film, but for who he was and what he had done for the country in the form of uniting and making us feel we are Malaysians when we watch the film.
Besides that, the media content of P. Ramlee’s art is still relevant today and people never get bored with his film and song. We can see some people are remembering the popular lines from certain films and songs from his work.
Other than that, Shazlin said we are literally being educated by this one man, who started with a very humble beginning. The contents of his works contain messages and reflections of society. For example, he taught us to respect one another regardless of position, ethnic background, class, and society.
For example, in Seniman Bujang Lapok, a character named Din, who was a Sikh and bodyguard said that “Nama saja orang Melayu, tapi otak takda”.
In 1973, in one of the interviews, P. Ramlee said it is our responsibility to preserve our art and culture, and we must be aware that we need to keep and protect it from influences that will reduce its value. Thus, Shazlin suggested that it needs to be implemented in our educational system to enlighten the children who are the future generation to the real meaning of appreciating the local art and culture through having more art in children’s school activities and books.
Shazlin reminded listeners that everyone is growing old, including artistes, and when they are no longer shining, how do we want to remember them at the end. She mentioned that in P. Ramlee’s biography, it was really a dark time at the end of P. Ramlee’s life.
In addition, Shazlin said other than P. Ramlee, there are many shining Malaysian artistes too. For example, Dato’ Dr. Ahmad Nawab, a music art activist in 2006, Abdul Rahman Abu Bakar, an aristocratic theatre art activist in 2004 and Syed Ahmad Syed Jamal, a visual art activist in 1995.
Thus, she suggests that the welfare of the artistes needs to be given more focus so that they can be better taken care of because basically they are human too and they have contributed a lot to the country.
She added that appreciation does not mean we are only celebrating for them, however, the country must be able to care for them, and possibly to every artiste, not the shining artistes only. Then, that will be the real meaning of honouring and appreciating artistes, said Shazlin. ***
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