Saturday, September 17, 2016


Changes in life
As we continue with our journey in life, changes often take place. Changes can occur from within and sometimes situations initiate inevitable changes. Perhaps changes are necessary in life. Without change, we may never know that the path that lies ahead can sometimes make life even more meaningful.

I made that decision and changed my path and left behind the entertainment world as an artiste. With this, I left behind not only the way of life but also the people that I knew and worked with. I did not look back at that chapter of my life.

TV Memoirs 
Today, I feel that it's time to share some of my past experiences as an artiste and dedicate this piece to the memory of those days. Here are some of the highlights. 

I performed in many TV musicals and dramas and worked with TV Producers in Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei. My most memorable experiences were when I hosted my own TV shows - Hiburan Malam Minggu bersama Sarena - (Sarena in Saturday Night Entertainment) & Personaliti Hiburan Malam Minggu.

Zainal Abu
Zainal was a well-known singer before he joined RTM. This was long before I set foot in the entertainment world. I met him when I was appointed as one of the judges for the National talent show  "Bakat TV". (Below - Zainal seated on the extreme right).

In 1976, Zainal produced the first musical programme "Personaliti Hiburan Malam Minggu” that I hosted.

I offered to write the script for the comedy segment of the musical. I was happy that Zainal agreed without hesitation. No singer was given this privilege before. He made minor changes to my script, to be more in line with RTM’s policy.

This was the beginning. Subsequently, Helan Abu produced "Hiburan Malam Minggu - bersama Sarena" that I hosted, and I wrote 5 more comedy scripts for the show.

Ironically, two persons who share a similar surname, but unrelated, were instrumental in bringing to life, this latent potential in comedy/scripting, and unleashed the humour in me, that the public had never seen before. For this I'm grateful.

(Below - Part 1 - Audio/visuals of a comedy sketch with guest artiste Connie Looi, 
and comedians, Ishak Jonid, and Hamid Gurkha. Helan Abu produced the show).

Helan Abu
Helan introduced many unique ideas for the weekly show. These were carefully planned by him ahead of schedule, and I was excited to do my best. He was the script writer, director and producer.

The show was nominated for “Best Women's Entertainment Production”. I did not attend the function, as I had moved on with my new life. Helan deserved the recognition for his creativity, and commitment to the show. 

Sadly, as a normal practice at RTM, all tapes were eventually erased. Today, what’s left are memories embedded in my mind. Some of the salvaged audios were uploaded on YouTube, for sentiment.

Helan had good things to say about my performance, as reported in the article below:-

Utusan article, dated 24 August, 2009 written by Muzlina Abu Bakar (translated)

Quote - “I can still remember the show that I produced on Sarena Hashim in 1976, after my return from a 2-month work assignment in Sarawak. In this weekly show telecasted on Saturday nights, Sarena not only sang with her sweet voice, but participated in comedy, acting, and dancing. For 6 consecutive weeks, Sarena hosted HMM show with many invited guests, like the late Puan Sri Saloma, and Veteran actress Datin Saadiah. HMM became the most eagerly awaited entertainment programme, by fans. TV channels did not feature many artistes then, and such appearance was really looked forward to”. 

·      (Lagu & Fesyen - Song & Fashion)
Four extra dresses were needed weekly for this particular segment of the show. Since RTM fees were low even for professionals, to lessen my burden, I arranged with several boutiques to sponsor this segment. The clothes by “Lady Jane Boutique” that I modeled, turned out the best. Jenny, the boutique owner, received well-earned credits on TV.   

Each time I made a 360 degrees turn, I appeared in a new dress. The live audience present, were puzzled seeing me running in and out of the studio, in a new outfit, halfway in between the song. Lagu & Fesyen, became the topic of conversation, and I was often asked, how this visual effect was created by the Producer.

·       Outdoor filming
The song “Tie a yellow ribbon”, was filmed at several locations, around Kenny Hills (Kampung Tunku)". This was a challenge for me, because the roads were winding, steep, and narrow.

As I cycled downhill, then got down from the bike, untied the yellow ribbon from a huge tree, and ended the song, a small crowd that gathered applauded. I felt silly then. Today, this song is still remembered by viewers of my generation.

                     Video below, is an amateur replica of "Tie a yellow ribbon"

Different themes
Each week a different theme was created to depict the mood, and concept. One was a picnic scene and camping, with actual campfire setting in the indoor studio. This too was an original concept, that had never been done at RTM. 

Another was on “travelling with songs” that commenced with the song "Kenangan Manis" with photo montage of my visit to Bollywood. This was followed by a Middle Eastern song performed with Normadiah dancers (Video below)

The week's theme provided me with the opportunity to perform a repertoire of songs in Malay, English, Hindi, Arabic, and Mandarin, all in one programme.

Producer - Teh Ching Chiang 

Here, I wish to record my gratitude to TV Producer, Teh Ching Chiang, who was very spontaneous in helping me with my diction in this Mandarin song. He was then the Producer in the Chinese entertainment section. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to work much with him, except a few occasional appearances as a guest singer, in his programmes.

Well-known Celebrities
Several well-known personalities were guests of the show, and among them were the queen of songs, Saloma, veteran actress Sa'adiah, Actress Noor Azizah, veteran actors, Abdullah Chik, Mustafa Ma'aof, and many others. It was an honour to have them in the show. 


We sang a medley of her old songs together (below)

"Solitaire" is my favourite song by her. I can feel her sadness as I recall the stories she told, of her emotional struggles, after her beloved husband, P. Ramlee departed. I wrote a tribute to Saloma in this post.

I liked her movie roles especially in "Antara dua darjat" and "Penarik Beca" with P. Ramlee. She was a legend of the silver screen, a great actress and beautiful in real life, as she was on screen. 

This was the first time that we worked together. I liked Sa'adiah at first sight. I had earlier imagined her to be quiet, and soft spoken, but found her to be cheerful, and bubbly. Her performance in  this comedy,  showed that she also could be funny, and firm. 

Sa'adiah was referred to as beautiful and "montel" (meaning chubby) 
in the comedy. Helan added the word, with no disrespect intended - and I told her so. Sa'adiah was gracious, and immediately brushed aside, and said no apology was needed, and it was all for fun, and that she actually was chubby then. The word "beautiful" was enough compliment to make her day. She was very encouraging, and sisterly towards me. 

Sa'adiah was married to the late veteran singer/actor Ahmad Daud. Occasionally, when she spoke, I could hear the Penang slang coming from her, obviously inherited after years of exposure to her beloved Penangite husband. 

I once appeared in Ahmad Daud TV Show, and performed on stage in Penang with him, and his sweet celebrity niece, Rahimah Rahim. This was the very same stage that I sang when I participated in the Bintang Radio competition, and where I performed alongside P. Ramlee and Saloma. It was a happy moment for my parents, and relatives, seeing me performed live for the first time, after becoming a Recording/TV artist. 

Actress Noor Azizah 
Noor Azizah was popular then, with many movies to her credit. I was happy that she was invited to appear as a guest. In real life she looked even better. This was the first time that the comedians met her in person. They were excited, and this coincided with the script that I wrote.

(Above - Noor Azizah and Ayappan standing next to me, and Lim Goh Poh, Shafee, and Yahya Sulong seated together).

The comedy was about 4 guys who came for a screen test, and only one would be selected to act as Noor's leading co-star. Seeing her in person, they became nervous, and there were squabbles among them. They forgot their lines, and invented their own. 

Situation in the studio became so hilarious and uncontrollable, during the rehearsal, that it had to be stopped for awhile until everyone settled down. That day, I laughed so much, as I had never laughed before. 

(Below - in a comedy sketch with the late Abdullah Chik
and the late A. R. Ayappan)
Abdullah Chik 

He was a veteran singer and actor. His presence in the comedy, was looked forward to by fans, after his long absence, living overseas. 

Ayappan appeared with me in other comedies too. From the press reviews, this was said to be the best comedy performed in the show.

Shortly after the show, Abdullah Chik acted with me in a TV drama "Wajah wanita". I remember him as a jovial person, who had many stories to tell, that kept the casts and crew continuously entertained. I did not see Abdullah again after filming ended. 

On 26th September, 1995, I read the sad news that he had passed away. Alfatihah. Ayappan passed away in the year 2000. (May their souls rest in peace).

Singers & Musicians
The participation of well-known singers namely D.J. Dave, Hail Amir, Helen Velu, Salmiah Hassan, Jasmin Hussein, Mex Siwalette, Jamal Abdullah, A. J. Ajmain, Zainal Adnan, and many others, alongside local and foreign musicians, made the show even merrier. 

(Below)"Leave me alone" (Ruby red dress) 
performed with Helen Velu, and Salmiah Hassan).

(Right) In a medley of popular songs with well-known singers - Mex, A J Ajmain, Zainal and Jamal)

The finale
Perhaps it was an intuition, or pure coincidence that all the songs selected for the finale were goodbyes, and farewells  - Selamat Tinggal Bunga ku, Masa Berpisah,  Kucupan Azimat, etc. 

"Hasta Manana" performed during the finale
(Below - pictures and audio)

Whilst performing, I felt an unusual sadness then, as though I was bidding my last farewell to my fans. The atmosphere was sombre, and I was asked why I chose all depressive songs, and if I was going somewhere. 

Yes I did go, and by my own choice. This show turned out to be my last farewell, and I never sang again on TV, after this day. Subsequently, I acted in Saloma Show as her guest, and thereon acted in a feature film "Menanti Hari Esok". 

I then left the entertainment industry and never again faced the camera as an artiste. I returned to the scene, 6 years later, as a music & film producer.

Rahimah Alias
She was a young lady from a small village, who ventured to Singapore city to make a name for herself, in the movie industry. There were many reigning stars then, and it was more her beauty that captured the hearts of movie goers.

Her first movie was a supporting role in the film "Cinta gadis rimba", directed by Tan Sri L. Krishnan in 1957. Thereon, other 
supporting roles in Labu Labi, Ibu Mertua Ku, Chuchu Datuk Merah.

I first saw Rahimah in person, when she visited my mother and auntie in our home when I was youngShe was the same age as my mum. Her daughter Suraya Harun was also in the movies. During her childhood, Suraya lived in Penang for awhile with a close relative of mine.  

Make-up artist
Rahimah then stopped acting, and was employed as a make-up artist at TV Malaysia. She did not know that I was the daughter of her family friend. When she found out, she insisted that I called her "mama", and thereon, was persistent in wanting to personally do the make-up for my TV appearances.

We maintained contact like most families do, and this bond was sustained for many decades. Two years prior to her departure, she asked me to write her autobiography, and said that she had many stories to tell of her struggles, and experiences, as a movie star. From the stories she related, it would have been a best seller. Sadly, I could not spare the time to write, and suggested that she could get one of her daughters to write. 

Rahimah is remembered for her generosity in sharing her affection, and for her cheerfulness. She had the gift of making people happy with her entertaining stories, aside from the delicious food that she happily cooked with her very own artistic hands. 

Mama departed on 30th December, 2009, and will always remain close to our hearts. Alfatihah.


Yusuf Ahmad
Pak Yusuf, as he preferred to be addressed, was a fatherly figure to all the artistes. I often appeared in his shows, alongside well-known Singapore artistes. The invitations were eagerly looked forward to, as I would be meeting many of my Singapore counterparts. 

The pictures in the article (right) were taken during filming of a Hari Raya TV Special produced by Pak Yusuf. That day, I was the only Malaysian artiste invited
to perform alongside Singapore singers - Kartina Dahari, Rafeah Buang, Anita Sarawak, Ahmad Jais, Ismail Harun, Eddie Ahmad, A Ramli, etc.  

Pak Yusuf was a veteran Producer, well-respected in the industry, as someone who thoroughly enjoyed his work. I was proud to know that his daughter Azizah was a fan, and I was privileged to meet his family.

During one of my visits, and just before filming commenced, 
Pak Yusuf appeared on the floor with a microphone in his hand. This was said to be unprecedented. 

In the presence of the audience, he said that he received many requests from my Singapore fans, who wanted to hear in my own words, what it felt like to be a well-known singer. Also, if I could give some advice for upcoming singers, on how to confront challenges in order to succeed. (The above photo with Pak Yusuf, was taken during the interview).

Pak Yusuf is fondly remembered. Alfatihah. 

Brunei TV

Over the years, I made several trips to Brunei, to perform in the TV shows, as a guest. Several times alongside Malaysian singers and celebrities, and once as an invited guest of the country with the late Saloma, the late Sharifah Aini, Uji Rashd, Ahmad Nawab, Hail Amir, Noor Azizah, and several others. 

In the old days, artistes were appreciative of each other's talents. Jealousy and animosity if at all existed, were rarely demonstrated openly, or perhaps, I was unaware. I seldom performed on stage, and during the rare occasions when we appeared together, I had the opportunity to get better acquainted with my counterparts. 

One day, an unforgettable phenomenon occurred in Brunei. Sharifah Aini, Uji Rashid, Saloma, Daisy Devan (our chaperone), and myself, had an unbelievable experience of our lives. This happened when we were returning late from a TV recording session. Perhaps, I might relate the incident one day, in a different segment of the blog. 

(Pictures in the press article were taken in between filming, at Brunei TV). 

In life, there may be times when words were left unspoken, but it’s better late than never. This long overdue piece, is my gesture of appreciation to some of the many persons, whose presence in my life as an artiste, made it pleasant, and colourful. 

The song below is dedicated to the memories of those times.

(Photos - By courtesy of Helan Abu & RTM. Newspaper articles from Utusan Malaysia, Berita Harian,  Malay Mail). Thank you.



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