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The 1950s and ’60s are now thought to be the Golden Age of Malay film. A big part of what made films of this era so popular was their beguiling music. In this absorbing study, the scholar and musician Adil Johan examines the social and cultural impact of the film music of the period, and its role in nation-making.
Drawing on analyses of lyrics and music, interviews with musicians, and the content of Malay entertainment magazines, in an approach that spans ethnomusicology and cultural studies, he reveals this body of work to be a product of a musical and cultural cosmopolitanism in the service of a nation-making process based on ideas of Malay ethnonationalism, initially fluid but increasingly homogenized over time. Malay film music of the period covertly expressed radical sentiments despite being produced within a commercialized film industry.
Written in a lively style and illustrated with musical examples, the book will satisfy ethnomusicologists, composers, and film studies scholars interested in Southeast Asia and the Malay world. It will equally be of interest to scholars interested in the role of culture in nation-making more broadly.