Batak among the malay in Spore

Population of the Malay in Singapore

The Malays in Singapore (Malay: Orang Melayu Singapura) make up about 14 % of the country’s population.

The figures below show the ethnic composition of the resident population in Singapore over the last 30 years.

Ethnic composition (%) of resident population
Ethnic 1970 1980 1990 2000 2006
Chinese 77.0 78.3 77.7 76.8 75.2
Malays 14.8 14.4 14.1 13.9 13.6
Indians 7.0 6.3 7.1 7.9 8.8
Others 1.2 1.0 1.1 1.4 2.4

Source: Singapore Department of Statistics. [1]

[edit] History of the Malay Kings of Singapore

The seventeenth-century Malay chronicle, the Sejarah Melayu or Malay Annals, tells of the founding of a great trading city on the island of Temasek in 1299 AD by a prince from Palembang. Palembang was then the capital of the diminishing Srivijayan Empire. The prince, Sri Tri Buana, (also known as Sang Nila Utama) was said to be a descendant of Alexander the Great and an Indian princess called Shahru Al-Bariyah. Legend states that he renamed the city Singapura (“lion city”) after sighting a strange beast that he took to be a lion although there is no real historical evidence of this.

In the mid-fourteenth century, Singapura suffered raids by the expanding Javanese Majapahit Empire to the south and the emerging Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya to the north, both at various times claiming the island as a vassal state. Around 1388, the ruler of Palembang, Parameswara, came to Singapore to flee from Majapahit control. He murdered the king and seized power. It was a futile act. The Srivijayan Empire, already in decline, finally met its end when Majapahit attacked its capital Palembang in 1391. In 1396, Majapahit or Ayutthaya forces drove out Parameswara, who fled northward and founded kingdom of Malacca in 1400.

When the Portuguese captured Malacca in 1511, the last Malaccan sultan, Mahmud Shah, fled to Johore, where he established the new Johore Sultanate. Singapura became part of this sultanate. In 1613, however, the Portuguese reported burning down a trading outpost at the mouth of the Temasek (Singapore) River, and Singapura passed into history.

The territory controlled by the Johore Riau Lingga Pahang Sultanate in the late eighteenth century still included Singapore as part of its territory. The sultanate had become increasingly weakened by a division into a Malay faction, which controlled the peninsula and Singapore, and a Bugis faction which controlled the Riau Archipelago and Sumatra. When Sultan Mahmud Riayat Shah III died in 1812, the Bugis had proclaimed the younger of his two sons, Abdul Rahman, as sultan instead of the elder son, Tengku Long. While the sultan was the nominal ruler of his domain, senior officials actually governed the sultanate. In control of Singapore and the neighboring islands was Temenggong Abdul Rahman, Tengku Long’s father-in-law. In 1818, he and some of his followers left Riau for Singapore shortly after the Dutch signed a treaty with the Sultan Abdul Rahman, allowing the Dutch to station a garrison at Riau.

In 1819, Tengku Long signed a treaty with the British led by Sir Stamford Raffles. In exchange for British protection and recognising him as Sultan of Johore, Tengku Long agreed to allow the British to establish a trading post in Singapore. Proclaimed as Sultan Hussein Shah, he became the Sultan of Johore.

In 1835, Sultan Hussein Shah died and was succeeded by his eldest son, Tengku Ali. Sultan Hussein had signed away his rights over the island in exchange for the land at Kampong Gelam plus an annual stipend for his family. After the Sultan’s death, disputes broke out among his descendants. In the late 1890s, they went to court, where it was decided that no one in the family had the rights as the successor to the sultanate and the land at Kampong Gelam should be reverted to the state [Tengku Mahmud vs. Tengku Ali, Straits Settlements Laws Report 1897 (Vol. 5)]. This ended the reign of the Malay kings in Singapore.

[edit] Malay Kings of Singapore (1299 -1396 AD)

  • Sri Tri Buana (Sang Nila Utama) (1299 -1347)
  • Raja Kecil Besar (Paduka Seri Pikrama Wira) (13xx -13xx)
  • Raja Muda (Rakna Pikrama) (13xx-13xx)
  • Paduka Seri Maharaja (Damia Raja) (13xx-13xx)
  • Raja Iskandar Shah (Parameswara) (1388 or 1390 (?) -1396)

[edit] Malay Kings of Singapore (1699 -1835 AD)

  • Bendahara Sultan Abdul Jalil Riayat Shah IV (Sultan of Riau-Lingga-Pahang) (1699-1718)
  • Abdul Jalil Rahmat Shah (Raja Kecil) (Sultan of Riau-Lingga-Pahang) (1718-1722)
  • Sultan Sulaiman Badrul Al-Alam Shah (Sultan of Johore-Riau-Lingga-Pahang) (1722-1760)
  • Sultan Mahmud Riayat Shah III (Sultan of Johore-Pahang) (1761-1812)
  • Sultan Abdul Rahman (Sultan of Lingga) (1812 –1832) (Placed on the throne instead of his older brother Hussein.)
  • Sultan Hussein Shah (Sultan of Singapore) (1819 –1835) (Recognised by the British as the rightful Sultan of Johore.)

[edit] Migration of Malays to Singapore after 1819

Singapore was not uninhabited when Sir Stamford Raffles came in January 1819.The waters of Telok Blangah, the Kallang River and other rivers had been home to the Orang Laut or Sea Nomads for a very long time. Here were also Malay settlements along the Kallang River Basin and the Singapore River. Turnbull reported that there was an estimated 1,000 people living in Singapore. There were about 500 Orang Kallang, 200 Orang Seletar, 150 Orang Gelam, 100 Orang Lauts , 20-30 Malays who were the followers of Temenggong Abdul Rahman and about 20-30 Chinese.

[edit] The Orang Laut (Sea Nomads)

According to Sopher (1977), the Orang Kallang, Orang Seletar, Orang Selat and Orang Gelam were the Orang Laut that lived in Singapore. The Orang Kallang (also called the Orang Biduanda Kallang) lived in the swampy areas in the Kallang River. They lived on boats and sustained their lives by fishing and collecting other materials from the forests. After 1819, they were relocated by Temenggong Abdul Rahman to the northern Singapore Straits at Sungai Pulau. Tragically in 1848, the Orang Kallang were wiped out by a smallpox epidemic.

The Orang Seletar lived in the river swamps and the small islands surrounding mainland Singapore. They would often gather on the coastal areas especially on the estuary of the Seletar River. They lived a nomadic lifestyle until the 1850s when they started living on land and followed the lifestyles of others living in Singapore.

The Orang Selat lived in the harbour waters of Keppel Singapore. They were believed to have traversed the waters of Keppel Harbour since the early 16th century, making them one of the earliest settlers of the island. They sold fish and fruits to the trading vessels that passed the area.

The Orang Gelam came from a tribe in Batam Island. They were brought by the Temenggong of Johor together with a group of his followers to establish a settlement in the first decade of the 19th century. Many of the Orang Gelam who lived along the Singapore River served as boatmen for merchant ships while their womenfolk were fruit sellers on boats.

The Orang Laut differed from the Malays in that they lived a nomadic lifestyle and lived at sea in their boats whereas the Malays lived in settlements in the villages on the land.

[edit] The Malays

When Raffles came to Singapore, there were already hundreds of indigenous Malays living there. They were made up of the nobility that were headed by the Temenggong, the palace officials and his followers as well as the Orang Laut. Subsequently, the numbers increased with the arrivals of other Malays from Malaya and the Malay Archipelago.

In a matter of several months, hundreds of Malays from Malacca came to Singapore, encouraged by the British who wanted to develop Singapore as a centre for trade and administration (Siebel, 1961:27). When Singapore became more developed and there were better economic opportunities, many Malays from Riau, Sumatra, Penang, Malacca and Johore came to Singapore (Roff, 1967:33; Census 1931:72). Many of these Malays lived in the towns and worked there (Siebel, 1961:35). The census for 1931 showed that the total number of Malay men working here were as many as 11,290. Out of this number, 18% worked as fisherman and as many as 12% lived by farming the land.

In the 1930s and 1950s, many Malay residents from Malaya were working in the British uniformed services. In 1957 alone, there were more than 10,000 Malays working in the uniform services because the British preferred them to the Javanese or Malays from Indonesia (Betts, 1975:41; Djamour, 1959:5). However, during the period 1957-1970, most of them returned to Malaysia when their terms of services ended.

[edit] The Javanese

The second largest Malay group were the Javanese. They came from Java in the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia). In the 1931 Population Census, the number of Javanese in Singapore was 16,063. The 1981 Population Census, however, showed that they made up 6% of the Malay population. However, many Javanese had actually registered themselves as ‘Malay’. It is likely that the actual percentage of the Javanese within the Malay population was much higher. The Javanese came to Singapore in stages. In the mid-19th century, they came and worked as ironsmiths, leather makers as well as spice merchants and religious books dealers. There were also a group of Javanese printers and publishers in the Arab Street area. There were also community of pilgrim brokers that played an important role in encouraging the migration of the Javanese to Singapore.

The political situation in the Dutch East Indies created by the Dutch government caused many Javanese go through Singapore to travel to Mecca to perform the hajj. From the mid-19th century until 1910, between 2,000 to 7,000 Javanese travelled to Mecca through Singapore until the regulations were eased (Roff 1967:39). Usually, these pilgrims would work in Singapore for several months or years before or after performing the hajj to earn money or pay their debts to their pilgrim brokers. Many of them stayed on in Singapore and became part of the Muslim community in the city (Roff, 1967:43).

A number of Javanese also came to Singapore with the help of the pilgrim brokers. They came voluntarily and a majority of them were young men who stayed in the lodgings of the pilgrim brokers until they found work. They worked as food sellers, gardeners and provided labour for the pilgrim brokers to build lodging homes for them. The pilgrim brokers also took in bonded labourers who worked for Malay or Javanese employers to clear forests to set up settlements in Johore, Malaya (Roff, 1967:37). The activities with these bonded labourers continued until the 1920s. From 1886 till 1890, as many as 21,000 Javanese became bonded labourers with the Singapore Chinese Protectorate, an organisation formed by the British in 1877 to monitor the Chinese population. They performed manual labour in the rubber plantations. After their bond ended, they continued to open up the land and stayed on in Johore.

After the Second World War, the total number of Javanese coming to Singapore continued to increase. The first wave consisted of conscript labour that were brought by the Japanese and their numbers were estimated to be about 10,000 (Turnbull, 1976:216). The second wave were those who moved to Singapore through Malaya. The 1970 Population Census showed that a total of 21,324 Malays who were born in Malaya (later Malaysia) had moved to Singapore in the years 1946-1955; and as many as 29,679 moved to Singapore from 1956-1970 (Census 1970:262-3). Interviews conducted showed that a majority of them were young men of Javanese descent from Johore who wanted to find a better life in Singapore. Most of them were not educated and not highly skilled and worked as manual labourers in the post war years.

[edit] The Baweanese (Boyanese)

The Baweanese or Boyanese came from the Bawean Island in the Dutch East Indies. They built the Kampung Boyan (Boyanese Village) by the banks of the Rochor River, between Jalan Besar and Syed Alwi Road since the time of Munshi Abdullah. Most of them came to Singapore in the late 19th century until the end of Second World War. The majority of them worked as horse cart drivers and later as motorcar drivers. They could not be considered poor as their lands in Bawean were fertile; they had come in search of cash earnings. They wanted to purchase jewellery made of gold and goods that they could bring back to their villages. Some also wanted to build a better life for themselves in Singapore.

Most of them were young men who came and supported themselves, living in communal houses. There were several such houses built in Singapore. They were found in places like Adam Communal House in Ann Siang Hill Teluk Dalam Communal House in Dixon Road and Dedawang Communal House in Sophie Road. There was also a village within the town area that was inhabited by the Baweanese called Kampung Kapur (literally ‘Lime Village’) in the western part of Kampung Boyan (Boyan Village). A mosque called the Masjid Bawean Kampung Kapur located at Weld Road was built in 1932. There was also a communal house that became the gathering point for writers and their friends from the literary group called Jejak Kembara (literally ‘Wandering Steps’) in the late 1970s.

Due to the fact that they shared the same religion and were closely related racially, both the Baweanese and the Javanese were able to mix freely and even intermarried with the Malays. In time, this caused the differences between them to be less obvious and more Baweanese and Javanese began identifying themselves as Malays.

[edit] The Bugis

The Bugis came from the Celebes Islands in Indonesia. They were well known for a long time as maritime traders. In the mid-seventeenth century, the Bugis were spreading out from Celebes to set up training centres throughout the region. Often they had to sail to distant land and fight indigenous tribes. They rarely lost and acquired a reputation as fierce warriors.

The Dutch control of the Dutch East Indies and their blockades cut off the Bugis from their traditional spice trade from Celebes to Java. This forced them to migrate to other areas to continue trading. Their migration to what is today Malaysia, Singapore and Riau began around the 18th century or even earlier. At the beginning of the 19th century, the number of Bugis traders in the region increased. Their influence in Riau was strong. Among the Bugis traders were also members of the nobility like Engku Karaeng Talibak who married the daughter Raja Ali Haji. According to Raja Ali Haji in his work, Tuhfat al-Nafis, the presence of Karaeng Talibak brought more Bugis traders to Riau.

The establishment of a free port in Singapore allowed the Bugis to expand their network in the archipelago. The Bugis ships brought cargoes of cotton cloth, gold dust, birds-of paradise feathers, pepper, trepang (sea slugs), sandalwood, tortoiseshells coffee and rice to Singapore. Most of these good were very much in demand by the Chinese merchants in Singapore. The Bugis also traded in slaves.

James Cameron gave a description in 1865 of the various ships that would visit of Singapore’s harbour. According to him, each year during October and November, the Bugis ships would come from Bali and the Celebes.

By the 1830s, the Bugis had established themselves in Singapore in Singapore and formed the majority of the pioneer communities in the Kampung Gelam area. By 1881, the Census of Population reported 2,053 Bugis in Singapore. The Bugis were gradually to form kampongs and settlements in places like Kampung Bugis (around the Kallang River), Kampung Soopoo, Jalan Pelatok and Jalan Pergam.

[edit] The Minangkabaus

The Minangkabau people came from Western Sumatra. The Minangkabaus are known for their matrilineal social system and their tradition for travelling. The Minangkabaus would leave their homes and travel in search of work, knowledge and experience. They would usually return home once they had fulfilled their objective. This tradition of travelling was a rite of passage for the young Minangkabau men and was considered a way for them to be in touch with the outside world.

The Minangkabaus have been migrating to Malaysia and Singapore since long ago. This only stopped when Malaya achieved independence from the British in 1957, when the immigration laws were tightened. The majority of Minangkabaus who came to Singapore came from Pariaman and Agam in Western Sumatra. The majority of them were engaged in business, especially in selling ‘nasi padang’ (a rice dish made of meat, vegetables and tempeh). The Minangkabaus also sold religious items, toys and clothes. They had shops in Arab Street and Geylang. They also worked as taxi drivers, gardeners and joined uniformed services. Many Minangkabaus also worked as sailors on ships owned by trading companies. The Minangkabaus even formed an association at one time but this was subsequently banned during the 1962-66 Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation.

After Singapore became an independent state in 1965, the majority of Minangkabaus either migrated to Malaysia or returned back to Sumatra. Those who stayed in Singapore assimilated into the Malay community. Not many Minangkabaus brought their wives or women with them to Singapore. As such, many married the local Malay women and did not maintain strong ties with the other Minangkabau communities. By 1973, it was estimated that there were 200 Minangkabaus family in Singapore and almost all of them were Singapore citizens.

[edit] The Banjar

The Banjar people originated from the southern and eastern coast of Kalimantan in Borneo. Most came from Banjarmasin in the area surrounding the Barito basin. These areas were used for the cultivation of paddy. The Banjarese who migrated to the Malay Peninsula were farmers who were experienced in paddy cultivation. They also migrated to spread Islam to the region, to escape poverty and the oppressive Dutch rule of their homeland. Some also wanted to escape the presence of wild animals that threatened their farms in Kalimantan.

The Banjarese generally did not like to be employees. They preferred to be self-employed, working as either farmers or businessmen. The Banjar were also well known as jewel cutters and dealers in the region. Many came to Singapore to deal in the jewellery trade and had their shops in Arab Street. They even formed a Kalimantan Association in Singapore.

The Banjarese made up a very small percentage of the Malay population in Singapore. In 1931, they numbered 445 out of a total Malay population of 65,104 (0.7%). In 1947, they formed only 0.3 % of the population. This dropped to 0.2% in 1957 and 0.1% in 1970. By 1980 and 1990, the total numbers could not be determined, probably because the Banjarese have effectively assimilated into the Malay community.

[edit] The Batak

The Batak people are the smallest Malay group in Singapore. Up till 1978, there were less than 350 Bataks in Singapore. Unlike other Malay groups that are predominantly Muslim, there are many Christians in the Batak community (Seventh-day Adventists, Lutherans, Jehovah’s Witnesses).

The Batak had been coming to Singapore before the 20th century. Not much is known about the Bataks that came to Singapore in the 19th century and before World War 2. Most were young men in their twenties who were from the Toba, Mandailing and Angkola.

The Bataks came to Singapore for economic, educational and social reasons. Most of those who came to Singapore before the War had received their primary education in the Batak and Malay language. Some came to Singapore to continue their education in the private and Christian schools. For example, the Seventh-day Adventist organisation had students’ amenities in Singapore in 1915 and they encouraged the Bataks from Spirok, Angkola and Permatang Siantar in Sumatra to send their children to continue their studies in Singapore. An English education was prized as it was seen as a passport to getting a white-collar job in the plantations in Eastern Sumatra that were owned by the Dutch and the Americans. After receiving their education in Singapore, the Bataks would return to their homeland. Some would marry and bring their wives to Singapore. The Batak Christians were the first Bataks to bring their wives to Singapore.

Most of the Bataks who came before World War 2 worked as gardeners, peons and manual labourers. During the Japanese Occupation, the Bataks were conscripted as foot soldiers or forced labourers by the Japanese. Some were sent to Singapore for military training. After the War, many of the Bataks returned home. At the same time, many others came to Singapore from places like Medan, Palembang and the Riau Islands. Some managed to find work as clerks, storekeepers and some started businesses with non-Bataks partners. Some also joined the British army as soldiers, technicians and electricians. Others started identifying themselves as Malays so that they could join the military or get jobs given to local Malays.

In 1947, the Bataks in Singapore formed a welfare organisation called Soroha (“one heart” in the Batak language). The aim of the organisation was to help the Bataks in Singapore. The organisation lasted until 1954 and was disbanded due to leadership problems and a lack of support from its members. Attempts to revive it later in 1958 proved futile.

There were Bataks who took Malay wives and converted to Islam. The majority of them and their descendants were assimilated into the Malay community and preferred to be known as Malays. A well-known Batak Muslim in Singapore is the radio personality, Aminah Siregar.

[edit] Ethnic composition of Malay population 1931-1990

The following figures show the composition of the various Malay ethnic population in Singapore for the past 60 years. The great increase shown in the other Malay groups, especially the Javanese, in 1990 is likely due to the increase in the employment of Indonesian domestic workers in Singapore.

Ethnic Composition of Malay population in Singapore 1931-1990
Malay Ethnic Group 1931 1947 1957 1970 1980 1990
Total 65,104 113,803 197,059 311,379 351,508 384,338
Malay 57.5% 61.8% 68.8% 86.1% 89.0% 68.3%
Javanese 24.5% 21.7% 18.3% 7.7% 6.0% 17.2%
Baweanese (Boyanese) 14.4% 13.5% 11.3% 5.5% 4.1% 11.3%
Bugis 1.2% 0.6% 0.6% 0.2% 0.1% 0.4%
Banjar 0.7% 0.3% 0.2% 0.1% N.A. N.A.
Other Malay Groups / Indonesians 1.7% 2.1% 0.9% 0.4% 0.8% 2.9%

(Reference: Arumainathan 1973, Vol 1:254; Pang, 1984, Appendix m; Sunday Times, 28 June 1992)

[edit] Religion

The majority of Malays in Singapore are Sunni Muslims belonging to the Shāfi‘ī (شافعي) sect. The Malay Muslim men attend Friday prayers at a communal mosque every week. Malay Muslims observe Ramadan yearly, which involves fasting during the daytime for a month before the Muslim month of Syawal during which they celebrate Hari Raya Puasa or Eid ul-Fitr.

A small Christian community also exists among the Malays here. However, the government has strongly discouraged the publication of the Christian bible in Malay, and strongly discourages missionaries from attempts to convert the local Malay populace. This was done so as not to cause racial and religious tensions in the predominantly Muslim community. So far, the Christian missionaries have not made a significant dent in the Malay community.

There is also a small Buddhist community, mostly consisting of Malays with mixed Chinese ancestry.[citation needed]

[edit] Culture

The majority of Malays in Singapore generally share a similar culture with those in Peninsula Malaysia.

Linguistically, most Malays in Singapore speak the Johore-Riau variant of Malay similar to that spoken in the west Malaysian peninsular rather than that of Indonesia. Some of the older generation who migrated here or whose parents were immigrants can speak Javanese. However, most of the Malays here do not speak the language of their ancestors from Indonesia.

English is also widely spoken. Arabic is more common among the Muslim religious teachers, and is the preferred language learnt by the more religious Malay Muslims.

[edit] Status of Malays in Singapore

Although many Malays in Singapore are generally of mixed descent, they are still recognised as indigenous people of Singapore by the Singapore Constitution, Part XIII, General Provisions, Minorities and special position of Malays, section 152:

The Government shall exercise its functions in such manner as to recognise the special position of the Malays, who are the indigenous people of Singapore, and accordingly it shall be the responsibility of the Government to protect, safeguard, support, foster and promote their political, educational, religious, economic, social and cultural interests and the Malay language.

[edit] Notable Malay Singaporeans

This article contains a list of notable Malay Singaporeans, people with Malay ancestry born or naturalized in Singapore.

Note : For Malays in Singapore, the last name is patronymic, not a family name. The person should be referred to by his or her first or second name which is the given name.The Malay word bin (b.) or binte (bte.), if used, means “son of” or “daughter of” respectively.

[edit] Politics

  • Abdul Rahim Ishak (1925-2001) – Minister of State (Education) (1965 – 1968) and Senior Minister of State (Foreign Affairs) (1972 – 1981). Brother of the first President of Singapore, Yusof Ishak.
  • Abdullah Tarmugi (1944- ) – Speaker of the Singapore Parliament, former Minister for Community Development.
  • Ahmad Ibrahim (1927-1962) – He was a Member of Parliament for the Sembawang constituency in the 1950s and 1960s where he held the seat as an independent and later as a member of the People’s Action Party. Later became a Labour Minister in 1961. Today a road, a school and a mosque are named after him in Singapore.
  • Dr Ahmad Mattar – former Minister for the Environment – credited with cleaning up the Singapore River and other waterways. In 1972, he entered politics and successfully contested for a seat in Parliament, representing the constituency of Brickworks, and was to remain in Parliament until 1996. During his long and distinguished political career, he has held many senior government positions, first as Parliamentary Secretary for Education and then as Minister for Social Affairs, and finally as Minister for the Environment. In 1996, he retired from politics. He is currently the Chairman of IMC Technologies, a private educational institution, where he continues to make contributions to education in Singapore.
  • Harun Abdul Ghani (1939-2005) – He was a Member of Parliament for the Hongkah Group Representative Council (1991-2001).
  • Othman Wok (1942 – ) – former Minister for Social Affairs – credited with securing inter-racial unity and Malay support during PAP conflict with UMNO.
  • Sha’ari Tadin (1932- ) – former Senior Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Culture, Member of Parliament and first Malay graduate PAP MP, 1968.
  • Prof Yaacob Ibrahim (1955- ) – Minister for Environment and Water Resources – credited with developing alternative water sources for Singapore and reducing dependence on Malaysian water.
  • Yusof Ishak (1910-1970) – Singapore’s first President.

[edit] Religion

  • Abu Bakar Hashim (1943-2005) – Islamic leader and educator. He contributed immensely to Islamic laws and family counselling in Singapore. A graduate of the Aljunied Islamic School and a Master in Theology of Al-Azhar University in Egypt, he set off as a registrar of Muslim marriage. He later became the President of the Syariah Court until his retirement in 1994. He was an active member of the board of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (1995-2001) and its fatwa committee. He led the Islamic Scholars and Teachers Association (Pergas) and was an Islamic financial advisor and chairman of the Aljunied Islamic School Manangement Board. Pioneered marriage counselling courses to strengthen Muslim families. Was awarded the Public Service Medal in 1974 for resolving the hostage issue of the Laju Ferry Affair.

[edit] Literature and culture

  • Alfian Sa’at (1977- ) – acclaimed poet and playwright. He has written his works in both English and Malay.
  • Djamal Tukimin (1946 – ) – writer, poet and theatre activist. Winner of the Tun Seri Lanang Award, the highest Malay literary award in Singapore, in 2007. Also the receipient of the Anugerah Warisan Kencana (Golden Legacy Award) given by the Taman Warisan Melayu (Malay Legacy Group) in 2007. He is the writer of the book Arus Teater Melayu (The Direction of The Malay Theatre), which highlights the history of the Malay Theatre in Singapore since the 1970s and also discusses it future.
  • Isa Kamari (1960- ) – writer, who is known for addressing controversial issues in his novels. His 1999 novel, Satu Bumi (One Earth), about a Chinese girl adopted into a Malay family, questioned where Malay loyalties lay when Singapore separated from Malaysia in the 1960s. Tawassul (Intercession) (2002) imagined what would happen if someone cloned Prophet Muhammad while Atas Nama Cinta (In The Name of Love) (2006) centred on the 1950s riots in Singapore triggered by the Muslim-Christian family feud over Dutch girl, Maria Hertogh. His novels have been translated into English and Chinese. He has written six novels, two collections of poetry, two television scripts and two plays. He was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 2007.
  • Mahmud Ahmad (1906-1976) – linguist, culturist, social reformer. He helped revitalise the development of the Malay language and culture in Singapore via many social organisations. Was posthumously awarded the Tun Seri Lanang Literary Award upon his death in 1976.
  • Dr Masuri Salikun (1927-2005) – poet, writer and playwright who uses the nom de plume Masuri S N. He was among the top laureates in the Malay world. His works are read in many universities. Founded the leading Malay literary group Angkatan Sasterawan 50 (Literary Association 50). His works included poems, short stories, essays and plays. Was a fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies and Iowa University as well as a resident writer of the Malaysian Language Institute and the National University of Singapore. Beginning with the poem Ros Kupuja (Rose I Admire) (1941), he had dedicated 60 years of his life to poertry. His notoble works include Awan Putih (White Cloud) (1958) and Dalam Merenung Dalam (In Deep Thought) (2006). Recipient of many awards including the Public Service Star in 1963. Was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters from the Sultan Idris University.
  • Mohd Eunos Abdullah (1876-1934) – writer and social activist. He was a member of the Johore royal family. Ran the first Utusan Melayu (1912-1914) which was a translation of the English paper, the Singapore Free Press. His progressive ideas in his writings lead some scholars to hail him as the ‘father of Malay journalism’. The first Malay to serve in Legislative Assembly and was awarded the Justice of Peace. A champion of Malay rights, he was the founder of the Malay Union Singapore in 1926, the first quasi-political body in the Malay world. Today, a road called Jalan Eunos is named after him.
  • Muhammad Ariff Ahmad (1924 – ) – writer and culturist. Responsible for the formation of several Malay literary and cultural organisations like the Malay Educational Council and Central Council of Malay Cultural Organisations. Regarded as the beacon of Malay literature and culture in Singapore and even the region, he has been honoured with many awards including the Tun Seri Lanang Literary Award (1993), Cultural Medallion (1993) and Public Service Star (2000).
  • Nongchik Ghani (1928-2006) – writer and culturist. His name was synonymous with the development of Malay arts in Singapore. Supervisor of the former National Theatre. Was active with the Anglo-Malay Evening School, Malay Youth Literary Association (4PM) and founded the Malay cultural body, Sriwana in 1955 and served as its secretary for 40 years. He wrote several stage plays and choreographed several musicals such as Todak (Garfish Attack on Singapore). After Singapore’s separation from Malaysia, he was instrumental in reviving the Malay arts especially with the Drama Festival that showcased many drama talents. Was awarded the Sriwana Meritorious Service Medal (2000) and the Public Service Star (1965).

[edit] Arts and entertainment

  • Abdul Wahid Bin Ahmad – singer, comedian and actor better known as Wahid Satay who appeared in many Malay films of the 1950s to 1960s. He became known by the moniker “Satay” after audiences indentified him with his role as a satay seller in the Malay horror movie Pontianak in 1957. He was awarded the Perdana Golden Award at the 9th Perdana Festival in 2007 organised by Suria television network.
  • Ahmad Jaafar (1919- ) – composer and musician. He has composed many songs for Malay films. Also headed the orchestra of the then Radio & Television of Singapore and Singapore Broadcasting Corporation until his retirement in 1992. Among his songs, Ibu (Mother), Bunga Tanjung (Tanjung Flower) and Selamat Hari Raya (Happy Eid), are still evergreen. He has been bestowed with many accolades including the Public Service Medal and Cultural Medallion (1982) and Gold Premier Award (Mediacorp in 2002).
  • Bani Buang (1930-1996) – director and producer. Hailed as “the father of Singapore Malay drama”, he had produced and directed numerous plays as well as nurtured many talents since the 1940s. Produced and directed the 1970s Malay TV series Sandiwara. Headed the Malay Drama Unit of the then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation. He was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 1979.
  • By Definition – pop group, winner of the reality TV series competition Live The Dream (group category) (2007).
  • Fendi Sahid – singer, winner of the reality TV series competition Live The Dream (solo category) (2007).
  • Imran Ajmain(1981- ) – award winning singer, songwriter and producer. His hit single Seribu Tahun (A Thousand Years), became the theme song for the Malaysian soap opera series, Kerana Cintaku Saerah (Because of My Love For Saerah). He was, at one time, also a celebrity columnist for Berita Minggu, Singapore’s weekend Malay-language paper, who chronicled the development of the Malay entertainment industry in Singapore. Songwriter/composer at large for many Malay-language singers with Taufik Batisah, Hady Mirza, Anuar Zain, and Faradina Mohd. Nadzir being among them.
  • Iskandar Ismail (1956- ) – composer, arranger, conductor, musical director, recording producer and jazz performer. He has done the musical arrangements for musicals such as Chang And Eng. Has also arranged for the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra and arranged and conducted for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Istana Budaya Orchestra of Malaysia and China National Opera & Ballet Orchestra. As a record producer, he has worked with Cantopop kings Jacky Cheung and Aaron Kwok as well as veteran Hong Kong singer Sandy Lam. He is also the music arranger for Singapore’s National Day Parades and Chingay Parades. Winner of the Cultural Medallion award in 2008.
  • Iskandar Jalil (1940- ) – a highly-regarded local ceramist who uses fine clay to develop bowls and pots into art works, integrating Japanese and Islamic styles. His work is featured in the collections of many international public and private collections, such as those by the National Museum of Sweden, Sultan of Brunei, former American President George Bush, and the former Governor of Hong Kong.
  • Ithnaini binte Mohd Taib (1952- ) – singer, host and actress better known as Anita Sarawak who appeared in several Malay films in the 1960s. She is more known for her live energetic singing performances in the 1970s and 1980s. She now still occasionally hosts some TV shows.(For more information, search “Anita Sarawak” at the Malay Language Wikipedia.)
  • Khalid Ibrahim (1936- ) – actor who goes under the name Cal Bellini. Notable for his appearances in a number of Hollywood films and TV series in the 1960s and 1970s. Appeared in films like Little Big Man, Fuzz, The Mountain Men and A Darkness at Blaisedon. His TV credits include shows like Hawaii Five-0, The Streets of San Francisco, The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Ironside, Cannon and Little House on the Prairie.
  • Marpiah binti Abdul Rahim (1921- ) – singer, comedianne and actress better known as Momo Makarim aka Momo Latiff who appeared in many Malay films of the 1930s to 1970s. She had also appeared in a number of films with P. Ramlee. She was awarded the Johan Pingat Sarawak medal in Sarawak, Malaysia on her 86th birthday on 8 September 2007.
  • Mazlan Ahmad aka Phyreman – Pioneer graffiti/streets artist, founder of renowned graffiti crew Operation Art Core Singapore/Worldwide.
  • Mohd Najip Bin Ali – musician and TV personality better known as Najip Ali. He became a household name for being the wacky host of the TV programme Asia Bagus in the 1990s.
  • Mohd Noor Mohd Yusofe – songwriter better known by the pen name Yusnor Ef. He has written over 350 Malay songs. A number of these songs were featured in the Malay movies in the 1960s including those sung by P. Ramlee. He has written songs for Malay singers from both Singapore and Malaysia and many of his songs are evergreen. He is the founder member of the Society of Singers, Musicians and Professional of the Malay music industry in Singapore (PERKAMUS). He is also the receipient of the Public Service Star for his contribution in the arts and letters.
  • Muhammad Mirzahady Bin Amir (1980- ) – singer, winner of the reality TV series competition Singapore Idol (Second Season in 2006). Also the winner of the first Asian Idol held in 2007. Performs under the name Hady Mirza.
  • Muhammad Taufik Bin Batisah (1981- ) – singer, songwriter and producer. Winner of the reality TV series competition Singapore Idol (First Season in 2004). Considered one of the most outstanding among the younger generation of artistes, he shone through local music history when his debut album Blessings became the best-selling local English album in the past decade with record sales of more than 36,000 copies. Audiences at more than a hundred performances within Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei have also witnessed his progression from an aspiring star to an iconic artiste in a league of his own. He has garnered many music and popularity awards including the regional MTV Asia Awards as well as the Best Local Song award for Usah Lepaskan (Don’t Let Go) at Anugerah Planet Muzik 2007. Taufik’s venture into Malaysia with his debut Malay album also received rave reviews from the critics and media in Malaysia, dubbing him “a gem in the Singapore music industry” from his capability as a performer, as well as his talent for songwriting and producing. A humble and endearing personality, Taufik has not only won a tremendous fan support throughout his career but also endorsements from popular consumer brands such as 7-Eleven and StarHub. His wholesome approach has also gained recognition from government agencies and he has also been the top choice to front for various national initiatives. He performs under the name Taufik Batisah.
  • Nordin Ahmad (1932-1971) – (deceased) actor who started his film career as a protege of P. Ramlee and also appeared in a few film with him. Due to his good looks and intense acting, he became a bankable star appearing in 49 films in his 15-year career. He is especially remembered for his role as a tragic hero who dies at the end in films like Air Mata Duyong (A Mermaid’s Tears), Dang Anum, Raden Mas and Hang Jebat. Tragically, in 1971 he died of liver failure at a relatively young age of 39. (For more information, search “Nordin Ahmad” at the Malay Language Wikipedia.)
  • Norleena Salim – popular TV actress,comedianne and singer, mainly known for her role as Rosnah in Mediacorp’s sitcom Under One Roof. She is currently working as a jazz singer in Australia .
  • Othman Hamzah (1962- ) – singer, songwriter, producer and motivational speaker. Winner of the TV singing competition series Talentime in 1979. Was a best selling local singer in the 1980s.
  • Rafaat Hamzah – poet, actor, director and songwriter. Winner of the Pesta Perdana Best Lead Actor (Pelakon Lelaki Terbaik dalam Watak Utama) in 2007. A compilation of his poems was published in 2007 in the book Yang Bilang (As Told).
  • Ramlah bt Mohamad Sulaiman (1921-1999) – actress better known as Siput Sarawak. Acted in about 50 films, mostly in the 1950s and 1960s. She is best known for her roles in playing the “bad girl” and evil characters. She was honoured with the Veteran Artist Award at the 9th Malaysian Film Festival in 1991. Her last film was Layar Lara (Lara’s Journey) (1997) at the age of 76, two years before her demise. She was also Anita Sarawak’s mother. (For more information, search “Ramlah bt Mohamad Sulaiman” at the Malay Language Wikipedia.)
  • Shamsuddin bin Dali (1928- ) – actor and comedian who goes under the name S. Shamsuddin. He has acted in a number of Malay movies in the 1950s to 1970s. He also appeared in a number of films with P. Ramlee.
  • Sharif Medan (1905-1997) – actor. Hailed as “Father of Bangsawan” because of his background in bangsawan (Malay Opera). He was also a pioneer in the first Malay talkie film Laila Majnun (1933). Appeared in a number of Malay films in the 1950s and 1960s. He served as an advisor and writer to many radio and television programmes especially bangasawan. Was a regular cast in the 1970s Malay TV series Sandiwara that was shown on the then Radio & Television of Singapore Channel 5.
  • Suhaimi Subandie – musician and founder of hardcore band Stompin’ Ground.
  • Wandly Yazid (1925-2005) – composer and arranger of Malay film music (1940’s to 1960’s).
  • Yusof Bin Latiff – (deceased) actor who appeared in a number of Malay films in the 1950s to 1960s. He also appeared in a number of films with P. Ramlee. He was later a regular cast in the weekly Malay TV series Sandiwara in the 1970s on the then Radio & Television of Singapore Channel 5.
  • Zubir Said (1907-1987) – musician and composer of the Singapore National Anthem ‘Majulah Singapura’.

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