Behind every popular song or music is a talented and successful composer, an author of music in its various forms. In this issue, Top 10 of Malaysia shares its list of the top ten music composers in the nation who have successfully made a name for themselves in the music industry with their inspiring works. Some of these music composers have written and composed evergreen songs for legendary singers while others have composed popular music for theatre plays and even orchestras.
Datuk Ooi Eow Jin
Legendary composer and songwriter, Datuk Ooi Eow Jin is also well-known as the iconic Radio Televisyen Malaysia’s orchestra’s “piano man” and was the resident pianist at The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur. This talented music composer wrote a song called “Teriring Doa” for the late Datuk Sudirman Arshad and toured with the late Tan Sri P Ramlee. Besides Datuk Ooi has also written songs and performed with several renowned artistes such as Tan Sri P Ramlee, Datuk Sudirman Arshad, Datin Rafeah Buang, Datuk M Nasir, Francis Yip, the Alleycats and Salamiah Hassan.
Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Nawab Khan
Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Nawab Khan has set the record of composing over 2,000 songs, releasing 500 albums and grooming at least 75 singers such as Datuk Sharifah Aini, Datuk Jamal Abdillah, Datuk DJ Dave, Uji Rashid, Datuk Khadijah Ibrahim, Datuk Sudirman Arshad and Salamiah Hassan. Besides being a composer, Datuk Ahmad Nawab is also a saxophonist. His greatest achievement is the composition of the “Malaysia Truly Asia” song which was recorded in 17 languages and was used by the Tourism Ministry to promote Malaysia overseas. The well-experienced and talented composer has also worked with famous celebrities such as Tan Sri P Ramlee, Saloma, Datuk Sudirman Arshad, Salamiah Hassan, Datuk Andre Goh and M Sani.
Hashim Said, popularly known as S Atan, is one of the most versatile composers of the Malay music of various genres such as pop, jazz, rock and dangdut. He has composed various songs such as Datuk Sudirman Ashad’s “Bila Wajahmu Kubayangkan”, Black Dog Bone’s “Dulu dan Sekarang” and Tan Sri S M Salim’s “Pandang-Pandang Jeling-Jeling”. S Atan was a conductor of Singapore Broadcasting Corporation’s Kalungan Nada Orchestra, and joined EMI as a composer. The talented composer has composed over 1,000 songs for singers such as Carefree, Anita Sarawak, DJ Dave, Tan Sri S M Salim, Jamal Abdillah and the late Datuk Sharifah Aini.
Datuk Wah Idris
Datuk Wah Abdul Hamid Idris or most popularly known as Dato’ Wah Idris is a multi-award winning music composer who is also a member of the International Jazz Festival held in Kuala Lumpur and the music director of “Malaysia All Stars Big Band”. In 1998, Datuk Wah composed the famous song “Standing in the Eyes of the World”, which was sang by Ella and also the song, “I Feel Good” for NTV7. In 2013, he rearranged the song “Negaraku” and it was played during a Merdeka celebration in Putrajaya. Besides, he also managed the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. Datuk Wah has won numerous awards for his astounding success and contribution of music works for the country.
Datuk M Nasir
Award-winning Datuk Mohamad Nasir Mohamed, popularly known as Datuk M Nasir has composed more than 2,000 folk, rock and pop songs since 1979. Besides, composing songs for himself, he also composes songs for other artistes such as Alleycats, Flybaits, Datuk Sudirman Arshad, Datuk Sharifah Aini, Datuk Jamal Abdillah, Datuk Ramli Sarip, Datuk Ahmad Azhar (Awie), Ella, Rahim Maarof, Search and Wings. Among Datuk M Nasir’s famous songs are “Mantera Semerah Padi”, “Sang Pencinta” and “Lagu Jiwa Lagu Cinta”. He has also released several solo albums which include Solo (1988), Saudagar Mimpi (1992) and Srikandi Cintaku (1999). Besides being a music composer, he is also a singer, songwriter, producer, actor, artist and film director.
Dato’ Johari Salleh
Dato’ Johari Salleh has composed many masterpieces for symphony orchestras which were performed by bigger orchestras such as orchestras from Spain, the National Symphony Orchestra and the Kuala Lumpur Symphony Orchestra. In 1966, he was the conductor of Radio Television Malaya’s orchestra. Some of his works have been performed by The New York Symphonic Ensemble, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, St Pittersburg Philharmonic Orchestra from Russia and Cadaquez Symphony Orchestra. In addition, Dato’ Johari also contributed to patriotic songs such as UMNO’s “’Bersatu Bersedia Berkhidmat’ (1986)” and also composed songs for famous singers such as Tan Sri SM Salim, Suhaili Shamsuddin, Frankie Cheah, M Rizal, Yasmin Yusuff, Herman Tino, Hanafiah Yunus, Shidee and Rahimah Rahim.
Fauzi Marzuki is one of Malaysia’s renowned composers and he has composed songs for celebrities such as Ziana Zain, Sheila Majid, Erra Fazira, Jamal Abdillah, the late Datuk Sharifah Aini, Nash, Siti Nurhaliza and Amy Mastura. Among the songs written by Fauzi is “Pusara di Lebuhraya”, “Jejaka Idaman”, “Kekasih Awal dan Akhir”, “Pada Syurga Di Wajahmu”, “Tirai Semalam” and “Meniti Hari”.
Datin Saidah Rastam
Datin Saidah Rastam, a lawyer who turned music composer, has composed music for theatre, film, dance, gamelan performance, orchestras, electronica, Chinese opera singers and even choral groups. During her first year as a music composer, she wrote a musical with Jit Murad, which was called “The Storyteller”. Datin Saidah continued to compose music for local shows such as Occupation (2002), M! The Opera (2006) and Spirits (2005). Besides, composing music for the local scene, she also wrote a book “Rosalie and Other Love Songs” which was about the history to raise awareness about the beauty and importance of Malayan music.
Dr Tazul Tajuddin
Renowned Malaysian music composer, Dr Tazul Tajuddin, has won numerous awards and has written more than 50 works which were performed and broadcasted in 23 countries. Dr Tazul’s famous music works such as “Arabesque”, “Tenunan”, “Mediasi Ukiran”, “Gamelbati”, “Pantun” and “Topography” have been inspired by Malay-Asian cultures, Islamic geometrical patterns and Western European art combined with diverse contemporary cultural ideals. “Opera Puteri Saadong” was his first opera composition and the first in Malay language which was funded by Ministry of Culture and Arts and premiered in Malaysia, Japan and United Kingdom.
Dr Chong Kee Yong
One of Malaysia’s leading contemporary music composers, Dr Chong Kee Yong is well-known for his music works which consist of a rich palette of sounds and his experimentation into traditions, infusing his own Chinese and multi-cultural Malaysian heritage into his music. Dr Chong’s distinctive style of music has garnered him numerous awards locally and internationally. Besides, he was also recognized by Huddersfield University, a university in United Kingdom for his contributions to South East Asia’s contemporary music scene and was granted a full scholarship for PhD by publication 2014-2016.