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40 years after it was composed, "Puteri Santubong' continues to be popular

Last update: 11/01/2019
KUCHING, Jan 11 -- Madzhi Johari, the composer and original singer of popular Sarawak's folk song, Puteri Santubong." -- fotoBERNAMA by Noor Bakhtiar Ahmad (STR)
KUCHING, Jan 11 (Bernama) -- “Puteri Santubong” may have become a folk song for Sarawakians, and is popular among other Malaysians, but most people would be hard pressed to name its songwriter.

Few may know the name Madzhi Johari, the man born in Sri Aman here who played a key role in creating the song which he wrote in 1974-1975.

Unraveling its secrets to Bernama recently, Madzhi said the rhythm and rhyme of the song came to him while he was travelling on a boat up a river to Ulu Limbang to work as RTM Controller for Limbang.

The 75-year-old government pensioner said besides creating the song and writing the lyrics, he was also its original singer.

Madzhi said the song tells the story of two beautiful princesses of Sarawak, Princess Santubong and Princess Sejinjang, who were originally good friends but later became enemies because of their jealousy of each other’s beauty.

“Every Sarawakian know the mountains in the story. I am interested in history and want old stories to be enjoyed, especially by the younger generation, or they will be forgotten once the older folks die as there would be no one to pass on the stories.

“I tried writing down the story, but I think many people do not like to read, but prefer to listen , so I decided to put into into a song,” he said when met in Shah Alam recently.

After that, he began searching for a catchy tune for the song so that it would attract public attention.

“One day, while travelling in a boat to Ulu Limbang, we stopped at the riverbank at a part where the water was flowing fast. There I began humming a rhythm with the sound of the waves,” he said.

“Later, around 1976 when I was deputy director of the Radio Section in Sarawak RTM, I continued searching for a catchy tune for the song. Finally, with the help of my father, siblings and brother-in-law, I completed the song before recording it at RTM Kuching," Madzhi, a skilled guitarist, said.

He said the song became popular after former Information Minister, the late Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat proposed that folk songs from all the states be compiled and broadcast almost every day through RTM radio and television channels.

Rahmat selected several songs to represent the states and a female singer was chosen to sing Puteri Santubong.

“What is interesting is that nobody knows who composed all the folk songs, except for me writing Puteri Santubong and ‘Joget Pahang’ which was composed by the late Tan Sri P Ramlee for the film ‘Hang Tuah”. When the Malaysian folk songs were being collected, I was the only composer who was still alive.

Today, he still receives royalty payments for ?’Puteri Santubong’ and another Sarawak folk song ‘Pak Tambang’.

“My objective that the people should know the legend has been achieved. From observation, I have found almost 20 versions of the song on the Internet, and it is even been sung by popular singers,” Mazhi, who has resided in Peninsular Malaysia for almost 37 years now, said.


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