Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Belasungkawa: Ahmad Jais (1936-2011)

I once asked Ahmad Jais, "From the hundreds of songs that you have recorded, which one is very close to your heart?"

Suddenly he lowered his gaze, and paused. He didn't answer me immediately, unlike the question before. There was silence in the air - a queasy silence. In fact the pause was an extended one, such that I felt uncomfortable about it. May I had asked a wrong question. He had been so chatty up to this point.

He had recorded over a 100 songs in 15 albums. Most of his songs are a hit, and if you were to buy his EP in the 70s, you would not regret it. All four songs for each release are halwa telinga, every time, all the time.

Then he looked up at me  - I was waiting with bated breath, and he said, "It would have to be Sejak Kita Berpisah."

I knew most of his songs as I grew up with many of them, and I am talking about the late 60s and the early 70s, even though I was practically a child then. But I didn't know this song. I was expecting him to say Diambang Sore and the likes. I looked at him with a blank face and suddenly it occurred to me and I blurted out, "Isn't that the Kartina Dahari's song?"

Yes, Sejak Kita Berpisah is a favourite keroncong song of mine, and I thought it was Kartina's and no one else's.

He looked at me in bewilderment. "No, no, it is a copyright control song," he explained. "It means the composer is unknown."

I didn't have the heart to ask him why he picked that one up, over the hundreds of other songs. But my imagination were running wild with speculation, and I left it at that.

Apparently he recorded the song in 1966, while Kartina Dahari recorded the keroncong version in 1969.

We went on to talk about how much royalty he picked up during his heyday. "It was a miserable two cents per song!" he exclaimed. How ciput it can be, and I guess I can imagine (real) life as a singer, glossing over the glamourous pictures as shown on telly and magazines.

Yes, and I thought too that I could be multi-millionaire by running my own company! ;))

That Dato Ahmad Jais for you, ever willing to share his stories to this busy body. We were chatting over at the changing room for artist at Dewan Perdana FELDA in 2006. I managed to get into that room by virtue of Arif performing on the same stage with him.

I told him of the many EPs in my collection. Unfortunately I didn't bring it with me for him to sign. I think it was Mak who bought many of his EPs, so we would listen to them whenever she played it. Most of his song are really lovely. Until today, I can relate to them. Nak Dara Rindu - beautiful, Gelisah - well, dark, very dark. I love Budi Setahun Segunung Intan, a duet with Kartina Dahari too.

Moga Allah mencucuri rahmat keatas ruhnya. Amin and Alfatihah.

Dato Ahmad Jais posing with Datin Orchid Abdullah
at the rehearsal at Dewan Perdana Felda in 2006 for
the retirement party of the FELDA DG.
Alfatihah to both Dato and Datin.
Two generations apart, and two-size apart! The kids with the master singer
and composer. He had written many songs. Once on stage, while practicing
with the ghazal band, he wasn't pleased with the key chosen, so he called
for Arif, "Tukang piano, tolong bagi A." So Arif rushed to the piano
and hit the key for him. Tukang piano - sounds so much
like a PRamlee's movie!

The kids outside Dewan perdana at the end of the party with Dato seen
on the right in his white pants and shoes!

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