Friday, October 26, 2012

60s Halloween Hantu Heritage: Pontianak Pop Hit

I asked Singaporeans around. If you remember Halloween do you remember the Singapore and Malaysian Pontianak? We even have a pop song about this Hantu-ween creature sung by well-known singer Ahmad Daud from the 60's. Read on.

The spirit:
It is with some trepidation that I write this post. Halloween is around the corner and I wonder if it is wise to write about spiritual beings that could be hovering around us soon since the big day is on October 31st.
'Pontianak' Legend
Most followers who read literature on ghosts and spirits are well aware what Halloween is about and those who live in the Asian region would probably be familiar with a similar theme, the Chinese with their Ghost Month or Seventh Moon Festival and the Malays and Indonesians with the Pontianak legend (from 'bunting-anak' spirits of females who die in pregnancy)  and Hantu Jerangkong stories (tall and gangling ghosts).

The pontianak [boen-ting-anak (literal) give birth to child], is a female vampire ghost in Malaysian and Indonesian myth. Also called Churel among Asian Indians.
The pontianak is said to be the spirit of a woman who died during pregnancy. Some believe that pontianak in folklore could also describe the ghost as originating from a still-born child, arising from the grave.

The city of Pontianak in Indonesia is named after this wicked creature. The ghost would haunt pregnant women, wicked husbands, children and was claimed to have haunted the first sultan who once settled there. The above picture shows one walking around lately in this city.

The Music and Movie:
Since this is a music blog I thought it would be appropriate if I discuss a popular Malay song from the mid 60s. This particular pop yeah yeah composition is relevant to the theme. It is sung by **Ahmad Daud and backed by The Swallows (yes, I sang with them before Ahmad Daud did).

Ahmad Daud with The Swallows
This song comes from the Malay movie, Pusaka Pontianak (1965) directed by Ramon A. Estella and starred Ahmad Mahmud, Saadiah, Aziz Sattar, Ibrahim Pendek, Ahmad Nesfu and Salleh Kamil. These actors and the series of Pontianak movies attracted crowds to the cinemas in the 60's.

Together with Ahmad Daud who sang the lyrics, Malay comedians Ibrahim Pendek (Shorty), Aziz Sattar and Ahmad Nesfu combined talent and lip-synced their way through Dendang Pontianak (Rhythm of the Pontianak) from the EP with similar title.

It has a twist and shake beat with do-wop backing composed by Singaporean composer/musician Kassim Masdor. Apparently this particular Pontianak film did not do well at the box office but I found the lyrics funny indeed.   The song is a humorous dedication to the Pontianak and composed in its honour.  So Horror + Humour = Halloween.
EP Sleeve Cover: Ahmad Daud with Malay comedians.
Silly and childish too but I love the 60's pop appeal of the melody especially when the three actors ham it up on screen with their solid guitars and Shadows-style antics.  

Ibrahim Pendek certainly looks lost surrounded by the drums that are larger than he is.  And with Ahmad Daud doing the vocals it certainly makes the song livelier. This man can whip up any song with his rubber face, gestures and mimicry.  By the way, the introductory bars are familiar (watch You Tube above).

Twist n Shake with Pontianak during Halloween.
The Critics:
One reader Lysha Dato Haji Ali remarked on You Tube, 'To me it's a great song. Who says the Malay do not know how to have fun. In the 60's they did.  These days, geez,  everything is way too complicated.' Another viewer said, 'Ini rockability Melayu untuk Halloween,' while a third surfer yelled, 'Bloody brilliant, best rock and roll Malay song ever recorded.

And I certainly agree. Happy Hantu Halloween everyone.

Meanings of Words:
*Hantu: a Malay word that means Ghosts.
**You can read about Ahmad Daud on the Comment page.
You Tube Video: from lurfiashelas.



Another Penangite, Ahmad Daud
(1932-2003) was a Malay singer who was active on Radio Malaysia during the 60s and 70s. He first starred in a movie called, Siapa Besar for Shaw Brothers Studios.

Later he was seen in other movies like 'Kacha Permata', 'Aksi Kuching', 'Sayang Si Buta' (but only as a guest singer for the song 'Si Manis Tujoh Belas' by The Swallows, 'Dendang Pontianak' in the horror movie, 'Pusaka Pontianak' also composed by The Swallows) and 'Permintaan Terakhir' (a Studio Merdeka film in colour).

Ahmad Daud had also cut vinyls under Panda Records, singing with Ramlie, Maria Bachok and dueting with Rahimah Rahim.

He had been a DJ with Radio Singapore and in his own 'The Ahmad Daud Show' on TV 1 RTM around the 1970s.

Ahmad Daud spoke English because he studied at the Penang Free School.

He had appeared on 'Rolling Good Times' on TV Singapore in 1994, with Julie Sudiro and the late Rahim Hamid singing 'Unforgettable' (a Nat King Cole hit).

The CD and cassette had been distributed by Hype Records sold in both Singapore and Malaysia.


Hey Andy,

I was looking out for you at the esplanade retro concert two weekends ago. Brian hosted n Jerry Murad, etc were playing. Did you play too?


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

No, Julia I didn't. But Ronnie and The Burns did appear as '60s All Stars' with Audie Ng (from Silver Strings), George (from Wes Cossacks), Victor Lam (Mysterians)and singer Ronnie See.

JULIANA LIM has a blog that discusses Arts and Cultural happenings in Singapore today. Check her out.

JIMMY from DECIBELS said...

Hi Andy,

Thank you and A Happy Halloween to you too :)

Also thanks for posting the wonderful videos, courtesy of Singapore Hantu Heritage Memories Project.

I must say that Ahmad Daud certainly looks dashingly handsome in the video.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Jimmy for comment and support. Always appreciate your visits and replies.

LEE YAN SAN said...

Hi Andy,

Thanks. Unfortunately, I do not know Brian Jeremiah although he is from Penang. My friend, Frankie Rozells who I believe also grew up in the same area as where Brian grew up in Pulau Tikus (where there is a Eurasian community) has sent me the utube of Brian 10 days ago:

Real talented guy and to be honest that was the first time I have heard of him.

Pulau Tikus started as a small suburb which soon developed very fast. I live around there and my clinic is right at the Pulau Tikus business center so I am very familiar with the place.

There was a Eurasian community area right in Pulau Tikus and many talented musicians of Penang came from there. They were allowed to build their houses on a church land there but when Pulau Tikus developed, they were asked to vacate the area without compensation and were rather dissapointed with the church who owns the land.

This was what my friend, Frankie Rozells, who was also brought up there, told me. His parents were top musicians of Penang during the 40s and 50s and stayed there for years.

(His father played the Hawaiian guitar and mother a well known singer working in a famous night club called the "Green Parrot" in the 40s, 50s and maybe early 60s).

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks again Yan San for the very informative email you sent. I have put it on the blog to show what a wonderful community and lovers of music you all are at Pulau Tikus.

I appreciate your helping me out with your knowledge and the Penang connections you have.


Hi Andy

Good day!

Thank you for your Halloween greetings! Have a wonderful week!

Warm regards,

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Daphne for the latest news about your staff members.

Wishing you all lots more documentaries to make.


Halloween or Hallowe'en (a contraction of its original title "All Hallows' Evening"), also known as All Hallows' Eve, is a yearly holiday observed around the world on October 31st, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows...

To read more click WIKIPEDIA above


The pontianak (Dutch-Indonesian spelling: boentianak) is a vampiric ghost in Malay and Indonesian mythology.

It is also known as a matianak or kuntilanak, sometimes shortened to kunti. The pontianak are said to be the spirits of woman who died while pregnant...

(Wikipedia connection, click above).

CHEWSTER said...

Amazing list! Didn't know that many devilish songs exists..


In keeping with the Halloween theme and of all things sinister and spooky, Andy writes about a 60's pop song that came from the Pontianak films of the time.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a 'Pontianak' a ghost from Malay folklore often described as a vampire, but more accurately is a spirit of a female who died during childbirth.

Welcome said...

I love this song... does anyone have the lyrics. I'd appreciate it. Thanks.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Welcome,

It may take a while but I might just copy the lyrics down for you.

Thanks for visiting this site.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

This post has been rejuvenated on 30th October, 2016 for Twitter followers as I need to explain the folklore regarding local (Asian) spirits and the reasons why such entities exist.

Not that I believe in them myself :-)


In the 60s there were ghostly tales of the Pontianak.I remembered once people gathered around the St Anthony’s Convent to get a glimpse it of the Potianak.