During my younger days of growing, I hardly listened to the radio because my time were spent running here and there around the house. When I reached the age of five to six, I listened only to the songs that were being aired and I can still remember some of these songs. The most popular singer during those days was R.Azmi with his songs of ‘Hitam manis, Ayah dan Ibu, Dunia sekarang’ and few others. Another famous male singer was Jasni Ahmad of the ‘Seroja’ fame. The lady singers were Momo Latif and Aishah. Our late legendary Tan Sri P.Ramlee was beginning to shine and the song I loved most was ‘Berkorban apa saja’ from the filem Hang Tuah. I watched this movie in Singapore along with grandma and grandpa and it was my uncle Wak Tan who brought us there as he was already working in Johor Bahru.
In Singapore we visited many places such as Oderlan (Woodlands), Chincali (Chain Alley) and Robensen (Robinson). We have a close relative who always bragged of being a frequent visitor to Robinson and so he was called Dollah Robensen and the title was extended to his wife and so we all called her Mak Gayah Robensen.
Indonesian singers too were popular during my time, such as S.Effendi, Bing Selamat, Sam Saimun and the most popular lady singer was Titiek Puspa. All my uncles listened only to the English channel and from here I learned many songs of Nat King Cole and the most popular lady singer was Doris Day. We all liked her song of ‘Que sera sera’. The song ‘Mona Lisa’ by Nat King Cole would be frequently sang by Uncle Yem and he would try his level best to sound just like Nat King Cole. He would sing with his eyes closed maybe pretending to be like Nat King Cole but a very good looking Nat King Cole, of course. Our youngest uncle Wak Jis seldom sing, in fact I never heard him singing. Maybe he would only sing to himself alone while in the toilet, just maybe.
We had three radios and two were Grundig from Germany and one Philips. One Grundig was placed at the first floor of our house at the front living room. The radio would be covered by a hand-made cloth with some flowery designs knitted by our youngest auntie Mak Chu. On top of the radio would be some decorative items. Another Grundig was at Wak Yem’s bedroom (which I inherited in later years) and one Philips was at the ambin near the dinning table.
Among the famous programs of that time were ‘Bangsawan DiUdara, Kebun Pak Awang, Sandiwara Radio and Rancangan Seram’. Our maid-servant Mak Yang would never miss all these programs, she would listen to it while cooking and when she need to wash something, it would be a torturous moment for her and that meant washing would come second. Sometime she even refused to ease herself when the story reached its climax and the moment the story ended she would make sure that she reached the toilet first.
Grandma would only listen to ‘Bangsawan DiUdara’ because the stories were about the ancient days of Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat. During the fasting month, she would listen only to the Quran reading competition along with grandpa. They were both such a loving couple.
‘Sandiwara Radio’ would air many love stories, a detective story and some stories on mysterious happenings. Some of these stories were aired part by part and so every time when the first part ended, Mak Yang would grouse. If the first part told of the hero’s defeat, she would be very unhappy and sometime she would have sleepless night thinking what would happen to the hero. She would count the days when would the second part be aired and while waiting she would predict many speculative events and most of the time she was wrong. It would be worse if the story had four parts, because each part would take one week and that meant she had to wait for one month to know the end of the story. Of course most of these stories ended with the hero achieivng victory and Mak Yang would be so very pleased. She would smile alone for a few days at least.
If the story concluded with a very sad ending, like the hero or herione died, Mak Yang would cry like as though her own son had passed away and we would console her and it would take quite sometime for her to recover.
‘Kebun Pak Awang’ was a very a nice program about family life in the kampung. It was also some sort of the government’s effort to promote the attitude of the Malays in general towards the agriculture sector and how the sector could provide good income just like any other sectors.
‘Racangan seram’ was a program we all wished to listen but with our ears closed. The program would normally begin at 11.00pm with the introduction of the soundtrack of a woman laughing with a terrible tone that of a pontianak and echoed by the howling of dogs. When this program would be on air, Kak Fuzi would normally sleep with me and Mak Yang had to sleep with both of us as well. Sometime Kak Shidah and Kak Arah would join in and at the end of the program, Mak Yang had to send them home but she had one problem. She dared not return home alone in spite of the distance that was just a few steps away. So we all took the trip together, well at least Mak Yang would not be returning home alone.
Every time the story began we would be around and our two hands already closing our ears. When the story began to feel more eerie, we would automatically sat very close to each other and our eyes would be wondering all over the place just in case if some ghosts might have sneaked into the house. When suddenly a thunderous sound was heard, we immediately buried our heads with the pillows, just like an ostrich and of course including Mak Yang. Then slowly our heads began to appear just like a tortoise and of course including Mak Yang as well. At the end of the story, we’d better not have any feeling of wanting to ease ourselves because that would be almost impossible as our toilet was outside the house.
There was also a program about cooking, sewing and some other activities specially for women.
When a young and talented singer named P.Ramlee came to the scene, we began to listen more of his songs. We would memorise the songs we liked, ‘Tiada kata secantik bahasa, ‘Tanya sama air’ and some other songs from his early films. Mak Yang too liked to sing P.Ramlee songs and she would sing while cooking, while washing the clothes and while drying the clothes but short of dancing because she could not dance.
Those wonderful days are gone, but the memories will be never be. Today’s generations are so lucky to have so many fantastic instruments to satisfy their growing needs but they are certainly not so lucky to have missed those days when listening to the radio programs could activate your mind to create a great wonderland of our own imagination.