Thursday, October 03, 2013

Song: Nona Zaman Sekarang:The Modern Miss

The form fitting modern sarong kebaya.

I was lucky enough to have parents who thrived on English, Mandarin, Indonesian, Dutch pop songs and folk music.  As a teen I enjoyed the songs they played on the radio and gramophone records.  Some of them are still popular today and it's going back to the 50s with a You Tube video above that features Gus Steyn and his RTM Orchestra.

One of the finest band leaders Steyn was well-known in this part of the world.  The melody is an up-tempo piece and interpreted vividly with strings, brass and all. Personally it's the best version  I've heard for a long time. Delightful indeed to have rynamyra loading it. Thank you. (Videos will be deleted when the next posting appears).

There's another version below by Sandra Reemer, recorded probably in the 60's when folk songs had revivals and became popular again with new rendition of Kopi Susu, Nina Bobo and Bengawan Solo by pretty singers like Anneke Gronloh and Reemer.

These hits topped the music charts in our region and possibly in Europe too as many people of Dutch origin in RRI (Republic Ra'ayat Indonesia) migrated to Holland and the West during the Soekarno regime in the 60s.  

But this song is different.  Nona Zaman Sekarang or Modern Day Women was composed by our own Singaporean Yusoff B. in the late 1940s.  Some of his other songs include: Semarak Hati, Suka Sama Suka and Wanita dan Teruna. 

He was one of superstar P. Ramlee's music mentor when he first joined Malay Film Productions.   Ramlee's early songwriting was influenced by Yusuf B's music arrangement  and style.  Ironically, Yusuff B would borrow ideas from the late Ramlee when composing his own songs.

Singers who performed it initially was A. Rahman, R. Azmi, Julia and a host of Indonesian and Malay singers. Sandra, a Dutch singer of Indonesian origin, took the opportunity and made it a big hit.  Apparently her version is still the most popular.

The word Nona means a young lady, like Miss in English. The song is about how bold young ladies are compared to those who lived in earlier times - no one can interfere nor prohibit their dress code.  These ladies with their short, transparent clothes and painted red cheeks have triggered much controversy and have either confused the male species with their attitude or aroused their sensuality, possibly the latter.

Nona Zaman Sekarang.  Liyana Fizi. Video: Klasik Beb.

Lyrics by Yusof B.                                             
Nona-nona jaman sekarang                                
tak boleh ditegur,                                                
tak boleh dilarang                                              
bajunya pendek,                                                
bertambahlah jarang                                          
itu menjadi hati gembira                                    
First Verse:
nona jangan bikin keliru                                    
tidakla kenal cina melayu                                    
pipinya merah pula disapu                                  
sekarang sudah jadi tak tentu                                .

Second Verse:
dalam dunia banyak musuhan                          
yang non dibuat perkara yang sopan                
dalam dunia banyak penggoda                          
banyak yang jadi rusak binasa                          

Literal Translation
By: Andy Lim L.A.
About the ladies of today's generation:
Don't comment
Nor forbid them.
Their blouses are short
And more transparent
That make hearts flutter
 (Make hearts happy).

First Verse:

Ladies don't confuse us
Unrecognizable if Chinese or Malay
Cheeks are red and painted too
Causing much bewilderment.

Second Verse:
In this world of aggression
Ladies, be more careful
Or be teased, bothered
And fall into disrepute.

The mysterious East?

Written more than half a century ago, the lyrics painted an Asian society so different from today with strict moral values that many listeners, especially women, would question now.

A kebaya is a traditional blouse-dress combination worn by women in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Burma, Singapore, southern Thailand and some parts of Cambodia. It is sometimes made from sheer material and usually worn with a sarong or batik kain panjang, or other traditional woven garment such as ikat, songket with a colorful motif.

Images from

Videos from You Tube.


ANON said...

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as I found this article at this website.

MATT TAN said...

Do you remember this tune? Bangawan Solo, I think is the earliest song I know , because I was still in kindergarten when my driver picks me up after kindergarten in Tanglin, and I stay with him all day till he picks my dad from office. So I eat with him at the drivers' club near Rex Cinema. sit cross-legged and use hands to eat nasi padang on banana leaves.
and the music Bangawan Solo was the most memorable because my driver played it all the time.

The chinese tune, my dad's servants played them all day.

So, no doubt the first two earliest tunes in my life. way before Wake up Little Suzie or Peggy Sue. and then we had TV and Cliff came into my life.
and suddenly, wham, i want to be a pop star.
what an awful thought!

Andy Lim* said...

Thanks Matt for your mail. It's nostalgia alright. But for you to remember songs when you were still in kindergarten is special indeed. I couldn't remember what happened to me when I was already 6.

(If you wish to read Matt's articles click onto his name).

MATT TAN said...

It might surprise you till high heavens to know that perharps this is the first song that influenced me to be a singer and be interested in music. I think this was way before Buddy Holly or Everly Brothers (my first interest in music... Tommy Steele... which are all way before Cliff Richard and Ricky Nelson (my first entry into talent-time).

the other song that still strikes a note (no pun intended) in memory is a chinese song... a cantonese song.. about dating .. here is the line i remember in... yuck sam moh pat toh (if i remember my cantonese... pat toh means go out on a date with your girl friend). yuck sam moh... i don't know what it means.

Andy Lim* said...

Yes, Matt, I was influenced the same way too, listening to these Indonesian folk songs before learning the pops from the West. The Chinese song I am familiar with but these are the only two lines I know with perhaps: KAR-MART NGO OI HEY TAI HEY (or something like that) which means, TONIGHT, I'M GOING TO THE MOVIES.

Wow. You do bring back a lot of nostalgia for me and our readers. I hope some of them will write about these songs.

Andy Lim* said...

If anyone remembers the Cantonese song and lyrics by the late LEONG SENG POH please write in. Or if you have seen it on You Tube let me know.

Lyrics in Romanised Cantonese please.

minosawe said...

Thank you sooo much for posting this! I was born in Papua New Guinea, raised in Australia by Indonesian parents who have both passed away now. And they used to play this song to me when I was a child. Listening to it evoked the most wonderful feelings of my happy childhood. I cried when I heard it - hadn't heard it for 40 years!!! I don't speak Indonesian unfortunately and wondered if you had the lyrics? Thanks again!

Andy Lim* said...

I posted this article partly because of this letter written five years ago on You Tube.

Hope the lyrics, together with an English translation, helps.

FL said...

Hi, Andy,I heard the Cantonese song on dating by the late uncle Leong Seng Por. Ya, he was singing that tune to a lady he's dating with and says he's going to a movie with her tonight....... I remember it's a catchy love song. Fatman Seng Por was a great showbiz entertainer in the 1950s and 1960s. He was a Cantonese actor in numerous films, a comedian, an opera singer. This is all I could remember about him when I was a teenager. I used to listen to his songs through my neighbour's Redifusion box back then. Very interesting.

Andy Lim* said...

Thank you FL for your feedback. It's always a pleasure to read your informative comments that help readers understand the 60s better.

Rediffusion was a one-box entertainment set; a practical ideal for those who lived during simpler times.

grand of theft auto said...

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both equally educative and engaging, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head.
The issue is something too few folks are speaking intelligently about.
I'm very happy I stumbled across this during my search for something relating to this.

Andy Lim* said...

I don't know where you're coming from but thank you for the compliment. Much appreciated. And thank you for the visit.

Sarantos Melogia said...

The article is great. The solo music artist photo pic picture is awesome.

Andy Lim* said...

Thank you. The pictures are not those of the artiste but a model for the sarong kebaya.

Please drop in again anytime.