KUALA LUMPUR – It has been 23 years since singer-extraordinaire Sudirman Haji Arshad passed away, but he left behind many memorable hits which are still popular till today.
What is Hari Raya without his song Balik Kampung and Merdeka without Tanggal 31 and Warisan. In a fitting tribute to this Temerloh-born performer, the first line in the Warisan lyrics, Di Sini Lahirnya Sebuah Cinta, became the nation’s 57th independence day theme last year.
Sudirman is also known for his strong spirit of patriotism, which was reflected in his attire during his Merdeka performance. He draped himself in the national flag -even before it was called Jalur Gemilang – from head to toe.
Every year on Aug 31, what comes to mind are the images of the first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman raising his hand and shouting Merdeka and Sudirman’s Tanggal Tiga Puluh Satu, Bulan Lapan, Lima Puluh Tujuh, Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! The Tunku and Sudirman for some reason are etched in our memory.
Malaysia lost Sudirman, known by many as Malaysia’s No. 1 Entertainer, who touched the lives of many with his music and showmanship. The singer-lawyer was born on May 25, 1954 and died on Feb 22, 1992.
EPITOME OF UNITY
Sudirman, who was a composer, songwriter, actor, journalist, cartoonist, lawyer and businessman, reached out to the masses. It is not surprising that he was an epitome of unity by taking the extra mile to sing in all the major languages.
His former manager, Dani’el Dharanee Dharan Kannan, said Sudirman, who started his singing career after winning the Bintang RTM singing contest, was truly a Malaysian singer and deserved to be known as the ‘Icon of National Unity’.
The moment Sudirman stepped onto stage to perform Seruling Bambu and Hey! Big Spender at the Bintang RTM 1976 finals, a star was born. Sudirman had a presence, confidence and style.
“It is impossible to find a substitute for Sudirman,” said Dani’el, who was Sudirman’s manager for five years, between 1987 and 1992.
He said it was because of the love for the country that prompted Sudirman to produce the album Abadi in 1982.
STRING OF ILLUSTRIOUS ACCOLADES
Sudirman had a string of illustrious accolades under his belt. He held the title of Asia’s No.1 Perfomer on March 19, 1989 as he won the Asian Popular Music Awards competition at the famed Royal Albert Hall in London.
It was a joyous moment for Malaysia and brought Sudirman international acclaim. Truly Malaysian, he chose to sing One Thousand Million Smiles, in itself an invitation to the world to experience Malaysian hospitality and courtesy.
Sudirman was known as the Singing Lawyer, the People’s Singer, the Patriot Singer and the Elvis Presley of Malaysia.
Perhaps his most memorable performance for his Malaysian fans took place at Chow Kit Road in the middle of Kuala Lumpur on April 14,1986.
It was an open air, street concert in conjunction with National Day, and drew a 100,000-strong crowd on a Monday night. It jammed the stretch of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Raja Muda to Jalan Raja Alang.
According to the Star newspaper, “Kuala Lumpur came to a standstill and it had nothing to do with the recession, but with one man, Malaysia’s top entertainer, an electrifying performance and most memorable night”.
He was appointed a ‘Singing Ambassador’ by the Ministry of Tourism, singing the catchy theme song written by Carol Connors, ‘To know Malaysia is to love Malaysia’.
Sudirman’s songs topped the charts with every new album that he released. Merisik Khabar climbed up to the No. 1 spot for two months while his second song Milik Siapakah Gadis Ini from the same album came in second and remained at the top for a few weeks after Merisik Khabar.
He also acted in a film called Kami, which was released in 1982. This film also spawned a track, Pelangi Petang, which was heralded as an iconic song by Malaysia’s music industry. – Bernama