Tribute for Keroncong Queen

Tribute for Keroncong Queen
Veteran Malay singer Kartina Dahari.

Malay music doyenne Kartina Dahari, a familiar and elegant face and voice on local Malay television and radio from the 1960s to the 1980s, has amassed many achievements in an illustrious music career.

Known as the queen of keroncong, a traditional folk music genre, she was also a 1960s pop singer who became the first Malay singer in Singapore to record in English.

This Friday, the 72-year-old will chalk up another first. She will be the first living Malay artist here to have a tribute concert at Esplanade Concert Hall dedicated solely to her music.

Titled Sayang Di Sayang (Lover Is Loved) after her best known keroncong tune written by Zubir Said, who composed Singapore's national anthem Majulah Singapura, the 90-minute show will feature veteran Malay singers from Singapore and Malaysia paying tribute to her illustrious career by covering her best known songs.

Kartina, who was given the Artistic Excellence Award at the 15th Compass (Composers and Authors Society of Singapore) Awards in 2010, will not sing though. She is undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer but she is very much involved in the preparation of the show.

She personally chose former singing partners and musical collaborators Julie Sudiro, Kassim Masdor, Sugiman Jahuri, M. Ismail and Jamilah Samsuri and selected the songs that each singer would perform at the concert, which will have a 42-member orchestra led by local maestro Amri Amin.

She is fiercely protective of her repertoire. "If you get the wrong person to sing, they will kill my songs," she says. "Keroncong is not easy to sing. I have to be very selective. It's a very important concert."

Kartina, who sang classic Malay tunes such as Hati Ke Hati (Heart To Heart) and Budi Setahun Segunung Intan (A Year Of Morals, A Mountain Of Diamonds) has always been very serious when it comes to her craft, says her long-time singing partner and Malaysian veteran Sudiro, 68.

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