• OMAR ARIFF - The Strollers : Malaysian Pop Legends Book
156 pages with paperback cover
When Cliff Richard and The Shadows played at Merdeka Stadium as part of a campaign to raise funds for the construction of the National Monument (Tugu Negara) on Nov 16, 1961, they inspired many pop yeh-yeh bands. Teenage boys, influenced by the pop yeh-yeh genre – driven by Western guitar combos – began bands in their schools, playing by ear.
St John’s Institution in Kuala Lumpur had The Teenage Hunters. The band’s lead guitarist was Terry Thaddeus while another guitarist cum singer was James D’Oliverio from St Michael’s Institution, Ipoh. Cochrane Road School, also in Kuala Lumpur, had The Strangers whose lead singer Agus Salim had a penchant for Cliff Richard songs. Caught up by the mania, Kampung Baru boy Hassan Idris, started a band, Sputnik, named after the Soviet satellite. In Klang, The Blue Dominoes were rocking with the mainstays, guitarists Michael Magness and Peter Ghouse. The Ghosts, made up of school friends in Petaling Jaya included an Indonesian migrant Amrin Abdul Madjid, and were popular at house parties and social functions. A curious kid, Billy Chang Chee Lam, whose brother Danny was with the band tagged along. The drummer of another Kuala Lumpur pop yeh yeh band, Sinaran, was Ramli Yaakob while Petaling Jaya’s, The Typhoons, had Hussein Idris as their drummer.
As fate would have it, Amrin, Billy, Hassan and Ramli came together and formed an instrumental band called The Strollers in 1965. Hussein, Terry, James, Michael, and James were to join the band later. Their first manager was 19-year-old Tan Soon Loke, who was better known as Jap Tan.
The story of the schoolboy tearaways, the making of The Strollers and how they embraced the stirring bell-bottomed music scene of the 70s comes alive in an informative book, “The Strollers: Malaysian Pop Legends” by Omar Ariff. In probably the first book on a local pop band, Omar details the most memorable times of the band, telling us how they became the voice of their generation. The memoir takes readers through a life-long friendship of the early band members and a collaboration that eventually earned them legendary status.
The book is a great place to start for young music fans who might want to find out more about The Strollers, or who might want to know about the period when “kugiran (kumpulan gitar rancak)”, meaning fast guitar bands, ruled in Malaysia and Singapore.
The legacy of The Strollers is until today uttered with reverence. They were the first and only Malaysian band to sign with an international recording label to release English songs. They released nine singles, one EP, one album and 33 songs, of which 17 were original compositions.
They were accorded the honour of being the “First Malaysian Pop Band” by the Malaysia Book of Records at the “Return of Legends” concert at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur. “Their legacy endures to this day albeit largely forgotten by Malaysia, save in the collective memories, hearts and minds of their diehard fans,” writes Omar.