As birthplace of Malaysian music, Penang must protect arts and culture scene, says assemblyman

Opalyn Mok
Seri Delima assemblymen Syerleena Rashid speaks to reporters at Dewan Sri Pinang George Town November 5, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainuddin

GEORGE TOWN, Nov 5 — Penang is the birthplace of Malaysian music and has the potential to be a leading arts and cultural hub in Asia, a backbencher told the state legislative assembly today.

Syerleena Abdul Rashid (DAP - Seri Delima) said Penang is on the right path but must inject more funds to develop the sector.

“The state should protect and promote its arts and culture background to be on par with its focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM),” she said when debating the Supply Bill at the legislative assembly today.

She said the field of arts and culture will encourage creativity, innovation and critical thinking, so instead of purely focusing on STEM, the state should push for STEAM, in which A stands for arts.

“The arts encompasses humanities, language studies, drama, music, visual arts, graphic arts and new media,” she said.

Syerleena said Leonarda Da Vinci had shown how technology, science and arts can be combined to produce something innovative.

“The state needs to protect arts and culture in Penang in its policy-making and through close collaboration with various agencies such as Penang Art District, National Department for Cultural and Arts, universities and colleges,” she said.

Syerleena said Penang is the birthplace of artists and talents like the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee, famed composer Ahmad Nawab and musical legend, Datuk Ooi Eow Jin.

She said P. Ramlee won many accolades and awards as a singer, actor, director, songwriter and musician while Ahmad Nawab had produced 2,000 songs in his time.

Ooi was a songwriter and composer who had written for singers such as P. Ramlee, Rafeah Bujang, M. Nasir, Salamiah Hassan, Jennifer Yen, Francis Yip and Alleycats.

“The three names I mentioned have contributed to the art and music world in Malaysia and their contributions were featured in the Penang House of Music,” she said.

She said the Penang House of Music is located in an obscure place, and that the state should do something to promote it.

Syerleena said it showcased Penang’s musical history as well as a wide range of musical instruments, and would prove to be a good tourism product for the state.

“I feel that it is a good proposal to make the Penang House of Music as part of the State Museum and this move will put Penang in the spotlight once again as the birthplace and heartbeat of Malaysian music,” she said.

Syerleena also called on the state to form the proposed Penang Arts Council as soon as possible so that it can take charge of the promotion of arts and culture in the state.

“There was a proposal to set up the council but till today, it was not set up yet,” she said.

She said the council will be able to monitor, manage and promote arts and culture in the state with a focus to bring local traditional arts to the international stage.

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