Malay Women Singers of Colonial Malaya

Tan Sooi Beng

in Vamping the Stage

Published by University of Hawai'i Press

Published in print July 2017 | ISBN: 9780824869861
Published online January 2018 | e-ISBN: 9780824875695
Malay Women Singers of Colonial Malaya

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Popular Malay music developed in Malaya in tandem with socio-political transformations which took place as a result of British colonialism. It was at this time that a new type of local commodified urban popular music known as lagu Melayu (Malay song) emerged to entertain the multiethnic urban audiences from different social and class backgrounds. This new music was shaped by the convergence of the new social conditions, technology such as print, gramophone, radio, film, microphones, cultural forms, and performance sites that emerged. By examining the song styles and texts of 78 rpm recordings of Lagu Melayu, oral interviews with performers, and published texts of the colonial period, this chapter illustrates how the new popular music accorded women performing artists voice and agency to negotiate dominant discourses regarding modern colonial subjectivity and gender. Women singers promoted a type of vernacular modernity that was not defined solely in European terms butwas characterized by continuity, difference, and hybridity. The musical recordings and stories of their lives reveal the complex polyvocal and sometimes contradictory experiences of women performers in colonial Malaya.

Keywords: vernacular modernity; gramophone; British Malaya; hybridity; agency; Malaysia; Melayu

Chapter.  8702 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Society and Culture

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