If you read the newspapers today, you may have noticed that the Malaysian government has christened May 29 as National Artistes Day. Read the full article HERE

I’m not really bothered what new day the national government has called it because there seems to be a day to commemorate everything from January 1 all the way till December 31! If all these days were declared holidays, no one would ever be at work! But anyway, I’m totally getting sidetracked here. The reason for the exceptional interest is due to the fact that National Artistes Day is celebrated to honour the Malaysian film legend, TAN SRI P. RAMLEE.

Born Teuku Zakaria Teuku Nyak Puteh @ Ramli Puteh, he was born in in Penang on 22nd March 1929 of noble descent from Aceh of Sumatra, Indonesia. Unknown to many people, P. Ramlee did not burst onto the acting scene and neither was he a child acting prodigy. P. Ramlee worked in a tin factory during the Japanese Occupation in Malaya (as it was known back then) while attending a school set up by the Japanese navy, learning Japanese songs. He entered the Penang Radio singing contest in 1945 where he came in third. He was the runner-up the year after and finally the winner in 1947. It was in 1947 that Teuku Zakaria took on the moniker P. Ramlee in 1947, a modification of his name Ramli Puteh.

P. Ramlee got his big break in 1948, when he was spotted by director B. S. Rajhans from Malay Film Productions, who was so impressed with P. Ramlee that he offered the fresh-faced 19 year old a job as a back up singer for the Shaw Brothers studio films, before getting his first acting role in the 1948 film Cinta. He never looked back.

During his illustrious career, P. Ramlee directed and/or starred in 66 films, excluding 4 stage plays. Composing 360 songs during his lifetime, P. Ramlee was an immensely talented musician, playing instruments such as the saxophone, piano and guitar.

Sadly, P. Ramlee died of heart complications on 29 May 1973 when he was only 44 years old and left a void that no other Malaysian has ever managed to fill. A gifted actor, a talented musician and a sterling producer, P Ramlee was truly a legend in every sense of the word. To me, he is the only reason why National Artistes Day will be worth celebrating!

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