Humble abode of a great star

THE modest kampung house in Jalan P. Ramlee (formerly known as Counter Hall), Penang, is like a time capsule. It is the place where the great Malay artiste P. Ramlee was born.  

A rich collection of artefacts from the bygone era is on display in the humble abode that once belonged to the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee’s maternal grandparents. 

Visitors will be drawn to the sites and scenes spanning more than four decades from the day P. Ramlee was born in 1929 to the day he died in 1973. 

Photographs capturing the life of the versatile artiste are on display at every wall and corner of the house. 

The photographs tell the story of a young boy who grew up to be a famous singer, actor, drama artiste, songwriter, magazine publisher, script writer and film director. 

The P.Ramlee Birth House at Jalan P.Ramlee, Penang.

P. Ramlee was also active in sports in his younger days.  

Apart from his musical instruments, also displayed are the clothes he wore. Some of his clothes are stashed away in an old trunk in the bedroom. 

His old bicycle is parked under the house. Even the old trees near the house where the young boy used to play are still there.  

Childhood friend Ahmad Hashim, 71, is there to guide visitors and to tell stories about P. Ramlee.  

“Ramlee was the most popular guy in Penang at that time. Even gangsters and Pak Imam (prayer leader) knew who he was. He was also well known among the Chinese and Indian communities. 

“Simply put, everybody knows and loves P. Ramlee. Even now, 32 years after his demise, young children know who he was. He is remembered because of the legacy he left behind,” said Ahmad. 

Ahmad said tourists from the United States, Europe, Australia and many other countries who visited the P. Ramlee Birth House were eager to know more about the legendary artiste. 

“All that I can tell is stories from our childhood days. I befriended Ramlee when I was five years’ old. He was a couple of years my senior. I used to follow him everywhere to play,” he said. 

Ahmad said Ramlee who was staying with his parents at the then City Council quarters in Kampung Jawa (not far from the present Gama supermarket) used to go back to his maternal grandparent’s house in Counter Hall to play. 

“Ramlee would borrow fishing boats from fishermen to go to his grandparents’ house at night. He was so likeable even during his younger days that the fishermen would always accede to his requests,” he said. 

Ahmad said P. Ramlee always found excuses to go back to his grandparents' house. 

“So, practically, he grew up in this house. He was such a jovial character,” said Ahmad, who has been working at the place since it was open to the public in 1990. 

Ahmad said P. Ramlee Birth House was rebuilt the way it was at the same site. It was officially opened by then Minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism Datuk Seri Sabbaruddin Chik on Dec 13, 1991.  

The P. Ramlee Gallery at Pustaka Warisan Seni Complex is adjacent to the house. 

Opened in 2000, the gallery also showcases his personal artefacts, photographs and movies. 

The house is open from 10am to 5.30pm daily from Tuesdays to Sundays.  

On Fridays it is open from 10am to noon and from 3pm to 5.30pm.  

Admission is free. For de-tails, call the museum at 04-2817484.  

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