Friday, April 25, 2014

SALOMA - Remembered and loved

In the early years, the clock did not move as fast as it does now – that was how I felt.  I could not wait for time to fly, so that I could accomplish my dreams. What was really changing faster than the clock then, was actually me!

My preference for food, clothes, even music began to change. I only listened to music by foreign artists. I was no longer interested in Saloma, even after winning a 1st prize in a competition, singing her songs ‘Muda manja’ and ‘Selamat Hari Raya’.

Some time later, I saw the movie ‘Bujang Lapok’ directed,  and acted by P. Ramlee. In that movie, Saloma (his wife), was dancing in her stiletto, wearing a knee-length dress, singing the song ‘Gelora’. (Pictured on the right, the actual scene from the movie).  

Alas, that was dejavu for me. I was fascinated by that performance, and, liked her again, but I said to myself that I was not really her fan.


It was in the late 60s.  I was not yet a recording artist, but already known in Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei (also Indonesia, I was told). It was after my first TV appearance in the 13-week musical series ‘3 Juita’.  (Pictured left, with Jimmy Ooi Quartet, in 3 Juita).

I was invited to sing at a show organized by Radio Malaysia (Penang). I could not believe that I would be appearing on stage, with the two most famous personalities in Malaysia, and Singapore.     

So, on that fateful day, back-stage, I set my eyes on P. Ramlee, and Saloma for the first time. I was standing on the opposite side of the stage, waiting for my turn to sing.  

During that few agonizing moments, I was perspiring profusely, and I could hear my own heartbeat. I then noticed P. Ramlee looking at me.  It must have been obvious to him that I was nervous.  He would of course understand what I was going through, having been in the same position in his early years.

From a distance he seemed like a nice, and kind person.  He nodded at me, smiled, and raised his hand, as a polite gesture of encouragement. This actually displeased Saloma, from the look she gave him. She then glared at me, continuously.

I was surprised - “what on earth was that for …why was she hostile to me?”, I asked myself.  I already had problems with my racing heartbeat, how could I cope with an extra stress?  After all, he was only being polite, and, I was not even his fan. I then maintained my cool, and performed my best. My parents, and close relatives were with the audience, and that must have given me extra strength.  

We met again, for the second time, in the early 70s.  I already had a few hit albums to my credit, and was appearing regularly on TV. It was during ‘Muzikarama’ -  a grand show held at Stadium Negara,  Kuala Lumpur.

This was the first, and only such event organized by EMI, to present to public, its prized showcase of singers, and musicians, from Malaysia and Singapore. (Pictured on the right singing my song 'Ingin Berkenalan')More on Muzikarama in another posting.

P. Ramlee, was the emcee for the night. Another glaring session transpired between Saloma, and I. After that first incident, prior to this, I had decided that I would not look at her, even if she stood two feet in front of me. 

Destiny brought us together. Thanks to Producer Helan Abu. He had invited Saloma to perform in my show - 'SARENA in Saturday night entertainment'.  (Pictured below during our medley).  Of course, we had no choice but to meet in person to discuss the show (even though we did not like each other).

That day, over coffee at RTM cafeteria, we were cordial to one another. I suggested that we performed a medley of her old songs.  She was surprised that I knew her songs by heart, whereas she could not even remember any (having recorded hundreds of songs in her life-time).

Suddenly, I saw her face lighted up, and she flashed her most famous smile at me.  A miracle had just taken place. We were chatting, laughing, and, giggling for hours, as though we had known each other for ages. This was how, and where, it all began.  What was originally a childish irritant between two strangers, turned into an everlasting friendship. 

(Below, video-clip of the medley, we performed)

We were put together again, by Helan Abu. This time, I was Saloma's guest in her show ‘The Saloma show’.  It was my debut in TV acting. I was casted as a rising star, not able to cope with personal problems, being in the limelight. In this drama/musical,  Saloma was my confidante. 

The script 'Cemburu' written by Helan, was nearly close to our real life experience together. (Pictured on the right - the actual scene from the drama/musical).

I can still remember the end shot when we were told to hug each other, while the credit titles were rolling.  It was really odd, having to hug for nearly 5 minutes. We were giggling throughout the rehearsal, and the actual shooting of that scene.

I often wondered why Helan did not freeze the ‘bear-hug’ shot, immediately after my dialogue “you are my sister, for eternity”!

Perhaps, Helan really wanted to bring us together,  or perhaps he was amused. I never really asked the reason. What we both knew, on that fateful day, our friendship was finally bonded. She became the sister that I never had.

Saloma was a very special person, gentle, and soft spoken. Very sisterly towards me, and insisted that I called her ‘Sally’ (her nickname). Those days we often did not call our counterparts ‘kakak’ (big sister), for various reasons, even though the person was older.  Perhaps, I can write about this another time.

What I observed about Saloma was that, she was never angry with anyone (at least not in my presence).  She was always calm, and composed, even when situations got out of hand.  She was extremely dedicated to her profession. Her favourite singer was Doris Day.  She was obsessed about her family, and generous to them all.

Saloma would not burden anyone with her problems. She was ever-ready to listen, and was always there when someone needed her help or advice. I never heard her talking ill of anyone or gossiped.  Although she knew there were times, some friends, and family members were disloyal to her, she was ready to forgive, and forget.  She was never affected by any gossip that anyone spewed, and quickly brushed them aside.  

She had many struggles in life, and each, she confronted bravely. She confided her problems, and I would always give emotional support, when needed.  She was of strong character, determined, independent, and proud.  These were the characteristics that placed her on the pedestal, as the top female songstress, actress, that ever lived in Malaysia, and Singapore. This title, she rightfully earned for decades in her life time, and even after she departed.

From the inside, Saloma was a very lonely person, after P. Ramlee passed away.  She would spend hours relating precious moments they shared. I came to know the real P. Ramlee from her -  how pressured he was to meet certain schedules, what he did when he was unable to get inspired to churn out new compositions,  and movie scripts. She knew, what she confided would be well guarded by me.

What I can stress here, is that,  P. Ramlee was not treated well by several persons in the entertainment industry. This somehow or rather, affected him. I once suggested to her to get someone to write a story about her life with P. Ramlee.  She was very interested, but I am not sure if she managed to pursue this idea.

Saloma was the only person in my past, as an artist, that I maintained contact with, (after I withdrew from the entertainment industry). My biggest regret is that, I had inadvertently isolated myself, and we did not spend much time together, towards the end of her life.

(Video on the right) The song ‘Solataire’ sung by her in my show, is my favourite. I cry each time I hear it, as it reminds me of the good times we shared, and the regrets that I have, in losing a ‘sister’, and a sincere friend, that can never be replaced. 

Pictured below with Saloma, 
my beloved mother, Mariah 
(both departed, and sadly missed)

May their souls
be placed among the righteous,
in the Hereafter. Ameen.

This blog by D. J. Calito provides Saloma's background and achievements.



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