When my parents acquired the little black and white bungalow on Kelawai (or Kelawei) Road in the early 1980s, I doubt they realized the significance of buying into a little slice of Penang and Eurasian heritage.
House number 111 in Pulau Tikus, used to be the home of the Eurasian community’s and Malaysia’s outstanding composer and jazz pianist, Jimmy Boyle.
Our dear family friend the late Uncle Edwin (of The Edwin Rajamoney and the Island Rhythimics fame) was one person who spent plenty of time with jazzman Boyle. When we moved into 111 Kelawai Road, he showed us where Boyle had positioned his piano (next to the window) and composed and arranged scores of beautiful and patriotic melodies about Malaysia and her people.
Among Boyle’s notable works were “Putera Puteri”, “Ingat Ingat”, “Chendering”, “Melody of Love” and the first Malaysian Jamboree song “Kemegahan Negara Ku” which was reportedly played at midnight on the birth of Malaysia in 1963.
Jimmy Boyle died in 1971 but his music lives on via many platforms and media.
The house along Kelawai Road today has morphed into a business premise, as have many other residences on what used to be a leafy and peaceful thoroughfare.
Boyle’s story, his music and the legacy of many of Penang’s musical sons and daughters have been beautifully and respectfully preserved and showcased today at the Penang House of Music (PHoM) located in George Town.
This gallery which is dedicated to music and the musicians of Penang can spell nostalgia to those who grew up listening to P.Ramlee, Ooi Eow Jin, Boyle, Ahmad Nawab, Larry Rodrigues (and his evergreen daughter Kathleen), Rudy Baum, Joe Rozells, James Rozells, Ruby Rozells, the Rajamoney brothers (Edwin, Austin, Sydney and Wilson), Nancy and Albert Yeoh, Sweet September, Ahmad Daud, Raja Fauziah and her singing partner Nita to name a few.
Younger visitors will be taken in by the varied influences which have made their mark on Penang music.
The gallery’s resource centre houses a rich collection of audio, print and recorded documents, while a cinema room lends a blast-from-the-past experience which black and white movies and old tunes offered.
A really clever and interactive offering is the gallery’s Radio Room which allows a visitor the opportunity to present a song “live” and later download the recording.
Other cute corners found are a replica “kopi tiam” (coffee shop) which has proven to be the perfect backdrop for photo opportunities on social media.
My biggest takeaway from the visit was the place of pride created to honour the people, their stories, and the rich cultural diversity linked to Penang’s musical heritage.
An afternoon or morning at this gallery definitely beats sitting in a classroom listening to the evolution of the state’s music scene.
Small wonder that PHoM has received rave reviews on TripAdvisor and ranked #31 of 139 things to do in George Town. Congratulations Paul Augustin and thank you for a spectacular tour and your infinite patience with young ones, Kevin Theseira!
Thank you Mazeta Hassan, for sharing this precious photo of her mother Raja Fauziah singing Jimmy Boyle’s “Putera Puteri” for the first time with Ahmad Daud.
(Don’t be put off by the absence of more prominent signages leading to this music gem which is located at L4-02, Level 4, Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak (KOMTAR), Jalan Penang, 1000 Penang. Simply call 04-3706675 if you are lost in the maze of Komtar!)