NAZA MOHAMAD’S journey into the lost era of Malaysian music began as a curiosity. Delving beyond the catalogue of popular classic and retro music, he soon found a treasure trove of forgotten talents.
“I was searching through the music of Malaysia’s past,” said Naza. “I wanted to look at music besides the popular songs, the pop yeh yeh and the big names like Datuk Jeffrydin, A. Ramlie, and J. Sham.
“And what I found was music like nothing that I had heard of before.”
He added: “There is a quality, both musically and lyrically, behind every song, combined with a passion that you don’t get nowadays.
“I want to share that and archive that for future generations”.
If Naza looks familiar to you, it may be because he is also the guitarist and vocalist for The Times and a former member of legendary local alternative rock band OAG.
In 1997, Naza opened Sputnik Rekordz, a shop specialising in phonograph records, on the third floor of the Taman Tun Dr Ismail market. It is a hidden gem for music fans, especially those who appreciate music from before the 1990s.
This year, during the peak of the pandemic and during the nationwide movement control order, Naza and his writer friend Adly Syairi Ramly compiled and curated Psyche Oh! A Go Go, a book and music CD combo, showcasing “the lost gems” of Malaysia and Singapore pop music from ‘64 to ‘74’.
It is a physical manifestation of Naza’s mission to preserve music from Malaysia’s past.
The accompanying CD contains 24 songs handpicked by both Naza and Adly from the Sputnik Achieve (Naza’s collection) and recorded from its original 7in phonograph records.
“Almost all of the songs from Malaysia’s past are in the form of phonograph records. And forgotten,” said Naza. “Can you imagine the amount of music from our history that was once on these black discs, that disappeared when people and companies moved on to newer formats or even newer music?”
“Almost no one kept them, digitised them, or archived them,” added Naza. “You can’t find music like this on streaming services”.
Nowadays, the only way to discover the forgotten music from Malaysia’s past is to visit a record shop like Naza’s Sputnik Rekordz. Tell him the kind of music that you are into, and he will blow your mind with the music from his collection.
“I want to celebrate the music culture of our past. Other countries, like the US, take pride in their music and they take great care in preserving it.
“But for me, sadly, I had to discover all this music from Malaysia’s past for myself, there are no archives of it.
“Of course, most people know the big names, but there is more to music than just the big names.
“In my search, I found out that there are Americans who are researching music from Japan and Britain, including Malaysia’s ’50s, ‘60s and ’70s. And I learnt a lot from them.”
Naza exclaimed: “But, why should we depend on foreigners to learn and preserve our history? Why can’t we appreciate our own musical history for ourselves?”
When Naza began his journey, he wanted to learn about the ‘60s. But he did not expect that to be only the start.
He delved deeper and went further back in time, as far back as the ‘20s.
“It was fascinating, but none of it was documented,” said Naza.
He added that the biggest change between music back then and now is the culture.
“In the 50s there was swing, blues, jazz, and Bossa nova. In the 60s, music changed with the advent of The Beatles. It all came from the West. And yet, when it reached our shores, it became uniquely Malaysian,” said Naza.
If you want to see and hear samples of Malaysia’s forgotten musical past, follow Sputnik Rekordz on Instagram.