Penang’s Forgotten Scene

Penang’s always had a vibrant music scene, none more so in the 1940s and 1950s. The introduction of cinema and radio led to an unprecedented boom in the local industry, allowing popular music and local talents to flourish. Penang’s famed multiculturalism introduced a diverse range of musical styles, influenced by local cultures, Western pop music, British colonialism and the Japanese Occupation.

From the Shanghai Hotel to New World Park to the Runnymede and many more, Penang had no shortage of venues for local talents to perform, experiment and hone their skills. Legendary personalities began to emerge: Ahmad Nawab, Jimmy Boyle, Joe Rozells, P. Ramlee and many more; musicians who changed the landscape of the music scene and set the bar for the rest of a young nation.

Much of this key part of Penang’s history has been forgotten by today’s generation. The “Penang’s Popular Music of the 1940s and 1950s” exhibit aims to change that, bringing this significant period of Penang’s history back into the spotlight, and reminding us of a time when Penang was filled with the vibrancy and excitement of the new.

The exhibit is open to the public at the Penang State Museum.

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