Daily social cohesion of Malaysian popular music in the 1970s and 1980s


This presentation considers a conceptual fusion of interculturalism and cultural intimacy to analyze a history of Malaysian popular music as an expression of social cohesion experienced daily among the ethnically diverse population of the nation state. .

It draws on instances of cross-cultural intimacy found in the production, performances and studio recordings of Malaysian artists and groups with particular attention to Streetlights, Carefree and Alleycats.

Streetlights was referred to as a “Punjabi rock” group that released hit songs in Malay. Carefree was a multi-ethnic group specializing in disco and funk popular on the Kuala Lumpur club scene. The Alleycats are a group of non-Malaysian musicians who have attracted a large Malaysian audience (sian).

The cases presented here reveal how Malaysian popular music, particularly from the nation’s maturation stage during the 1970s and 1980s, provides an important means of intercultural cohesion among its citizens who cut across diverse ethnicities, religions and social classes.

The article analyzes aspects of music production (style, genre, aesthetic) and musical-textual content (lyrics) from studio recordings as well as associated performance contexts (live performances and concerts).

The intercultural and emotional dynamics of these artists and groups highlight how Malaysian popular music offers intimate and creative expressions that enable processes of social cohesion experienced on a daily basis.


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Dr Adil Johan is a researcher at the Institute for Ethnic Studies at the National University of Malaysia (UKM). Her research analyzes aspects of popular music in mass media that cut across issues of interculturalism, cosmopolitanism, intimacy, affect and gender, focusing on the Malaysian world and Southeast Asia. East. He has written a book on Malaysian independence-era film music (NUS Press, 2018) and is co-editor of the volume Made in Nusantara: Studies in popular music (Routledge, 2021). He plays and records as a saxophonist for Azmyl Yunor Orkes Padu and Nadir

Speaker: Dr Nur Dayana Binti Mohamed Ariffin, Senior Lecturer, Department of History, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaysia

Moderator: Daryl Goh is a journalist, DJ and music enthusiast with over 25 years of experience covering widely Malaysian music, arts and culture

Organized by Pusat Sejarah Rakyat

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