P. Ramlee: A Penang superstar

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We’ve all heard his honeyed voice, but just who was this legend who died of a broken heart?

The Penang air was hot and dusty, and the corrugated iron roof of his house was no help. Seeking relief from boredom and the heat, a skinny boy zipped down the narrow lanes near 40A, Caunter Hall Road with his best friend on a rickety bicycle made for one, mischief in his eyes and the wind in his hair.

This was Teuku Zakaria bin Teuku Nyak Puteh, son of an Acehnese sailor who settled in Penang after falling in love with a widow from Butterworth. He didn’t realise it then, but the world would come to know him as P. Ramlee, prodigious award-winning actor, director, composer and singer. P. Ramlee, the man whose films consistently topped box office charts, whose songs were on everyone’s lips, and whose photo covered every girl’s wall.


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