Record shop owner sells his vintage T-shirts to fund book on lost 1960s Malaysian music


  • Books
  • Friday, 07 Aug 2020

'Psyche Oh! A Go Go', published by Sputnik Rekordz and Obscura Malaysia, is a book highlighting 'lost' Malaysian and Singaporean music from the 1960s and 70s. Photo: Cultkids

Record store owner and musician Naza Mohamad (frontman of indie band The Times) knew he needed to self-publish a book about obscure Malaysian music from the 1960s and early 1970s in order to find out more about the many forgotten musicians and bands that he has been regularly discovering through the years.

The result is the Psyche Oh! A Go Go hardcover book, published by Sputnik Rekordz and Obscura Malaysia, which comes with a handpicked CD of 22 rare tracks. Names such Rudyn Al-Haj, A. Zanne & The Fifty Fifty, A. Halim & De'Fictions, Fatimah Ismail, Adnan Othman & The Wanderers, Helen Velu & The Kilats, A. Sukiyaki & The Swinging Surfaris, M. Said & Les Remaja and Rubiah Lubis are some highlights.

The book itself offers a breezy music guide, journeying through a Bahasa Malaysia EP from Singapore's The Quests, entries on the mysterious acts Y. Hashim Dengan The Lost Dimensions and Azizah Jais & The Rebels right to the edgy side of the legendary Rocky Teoh.

Naza (right) and Adly planned and researched the 'Psyche Oh! A Go Go' book late last year. The pandemic lockdown in Malaysia gave them enough downtime to complete it. Photo: HandoutNaza (right) and Adly planned and researched the 'Psyche Oh! A Go Go' book late last year. The pandemic lockdown in Malaysia gave them enough downtime to complete it. Photo: Handout

"I have been actively collecting these rare Malaysian and Singaporean EPs and 7" singles for some years now. It's a growing archive of 'unknown bands' at home. The thing about this kind of collection is that you keep discovering music that has fallen through the cracks," says Naza, who runs Sputnik Rekordz in Kuala Lumpur.

"It isn't 'wholesome' pop yeh yeh to start with. So the music info is scarce. The sounds found on Psyche Oh! A Go Go are more raw, 'out there' and rebellious. But was this a nationwide movement? Or a bunch of isolated music groups from small towns in Malaysia recording music beyond mainstream pop? There isn't much documentation to help you piece things together, especially since a lot of these acts were on small and independent labels," he adds.

Naza wasn't going to wait around for a research grant, or to start a crowdfunding page. Instead, he dug into his cupboard of vintage rock T-shirts and sold them off to fund this book about the "lost era" of Malaysian and Singaporean music.

"I strongly believe that more people need to know about these forgotten acts, which fell off the pop radar. But this isn't a commercial thing nor is it a research-heavy project. It's more of a 'mixtape' to start a conversation going about this untold story of local music," says Naza.

The 'Psyche Oh! A Go Go' book, designed by Cultkids, tells the untold story of 'lost' Malaysian and Singaporean music.The 'Psyche Oh! A Go Go' book, designed by Cultkids, tells the untold story of 'lost' Malaysian and Singaporean music.

Along with writer friend Adly Syairi Ramly, Naza shortlisted 100 EPs and 7" singles from his personal collection, and discussed how he wanted to reintroduce them to the masses. The pandemic lockdown period also gave them enough downtime to fine tune the selections.

The Psyche Oh! A Go Go book, designed by Cultkids, offers a gateway into this rarely mentioned side of local music, which spanned early garage rock, funk soul, Nusantara grooves and mind-altering psychedelic music.

"This book needed to be written despite the fact that we had very little information here. It's about music documentation in a loose sense. This exciting music in the book impacted the lives of a niche generation of fans, and if you look at the big picture, these groups were trailblazers that were ahead of their time," says Adly.

"We hope people will come forward to help us get a broader understanding on why some of these groups have been largely lost in time... we had to start, and with the word out now, we can look forward to more leads and information shared about these unheralded musicians," he adds.

Limited stock for Psyche Oh! A Go Go is still available at RM89. Contact: 012-316-4375. Email: obscura.malaysia@gmail.com.

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