In the world of homegrown pop music, there are divas and prima donnas ... and then there’s Salamiah Hassan.
AWESOME. That’s the word that came to mind after watching veteran singer Salamiah Hassan taking her bow after a two-hour concert aptly titled Gelombang Salamiah Hassan at Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur last Friday night.
The crowd at the venue stayed on their feet and clapped with much enthusiasm as the curtain came down.
It was truly Salamiah-mania once again, and how this wonderful singer deserved the attention.
For local music fans – young and old – Salamiah doesn’t need any introduction. Her hit-making years in the 1970s and early 1980s will never be forgotten.
At 62, she proved that she could easily attract a crowd to Istana Budaya.
Hers was an intimate performance and, you could say, Istana Budaya felt like your living room. Without any glitz or glamour, Salamiah just sang her way into the hearts of the audience. No frills, just pure class and a wondrous voice.
On stage, Salamiah filled her setlist with a diverse range, showing off her versatility with jazz, pop and traditional Malay tunes.
How she captivated her audience when she rolled back the years with classics like Gelombang, Menghitung Hari and Semut-Semut Di Titian Usang.
Her fans had waited all these years to see her headline a big show. At Istana Budaya last week, she delighted the masses with a three-night concert series.
These dates, as we found out later, were her biggest concerts since her involvement in the music scene at the tender age of 19.
Last Friday evening, Salamiah opened her concert with that melodramatic If You Go Away made popular by the likes of Dusty Springfield and Shirley Bassey in the late 1960s. An adaptation of the 1959 Jacques Brel song Ne Me Quitte Pas, it was a perfect start for Salamiah, who is very much still in charge of her own personality on stage.
Prior to her performance, there was a show reel of her vintage live performance when she took part in RTM’s Bakat TV talent show in 1971. Even though she did not clinch the top spot, her talent caught the attention of composer Datuk Ahmad Nawab.
From there, Salamiah released several EPs. Still feeling a little dissatisfied, she turned to performing at nightclubs, something uncommon among most female singers then.
There, she tried out various music genres. Her career has been a curious mixture of soulful music and sentimental songs.
“I just love singing. Just let me sing ... anywhere and anytime and I’ll be the happiest,” said Salamiah before working her way through evergreen songs such as Cita-Citaku, Bila Hati Dah Sayang, Kau Dan Alasanmu and Surat Terakhir.
“Thank you so much for coming tonight and I will give you all my best. Tonight I’m sharing with you a little bit about my life,” she added.
Divided into six segments, the concert was a story of her journey as a singer and more. Backed by an eight-piece band and a string ensemble – with Aubrey Suwito as the musical director – it was just amazing to catch Salamiah in her element.
She even looked much younger than her age. Salamiah managed to salute the pop idols of her youth with spirited versions of Frim Fram Sauce (Nat King Cole Trio) and Fever (Peggy Lee). Out came the finger-snapping cool. She got the crowd to move their feet with I Feel The Earth Move and Upside Down. And much to everyone’s delight Salamiah invited her daughter – singer Atilia – on stage. The mother/daughter act performed the duet Kadang Kala.
It was also a nice touch to see Atilia performing Salamiah’s Cintaku Mengatasi Segalanya as her tribute to her amazing mother.
Produced by her dear friend, film producer Raja Azmi Raja Sulaiman, the concert saw Salamiah performing 25 songs. The setlist also included Salamiah’s late mother’s favourites such as Kenang Daku Dalam Doamu, Kini Hatiku Telah Tertawan and Patah Hati, accompanied by her songwriter-music producer brother Ahmad Shariff.
Salamiah also brought to light songs from her newly-released album Aku, which sounded at home alongside her classic material. And no Salamiah concert would have been complete without her biggest hit Gelombang. When she performed that infectious ballad, the crowd knew that the night was drawing to a close. But they refused to budge. Obligingly, Salamiah returned to the stage and sent the masses home with the magical Malam Bulan Di Pagar Bintang.
A less seasoned performer might have wallowed in the adulation and made tearful speeches. Salamiah, however, said good night and, most importantly, left us wanting more.