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Title: Articulating a nation-in-the-making : the cosmopolitan aesthetics of Malay film music from the 1950s to 1960s
Author: Johan, Adil Bin
ISNI:       0000 0004 5368 2244
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis provides an in-depth study of the ‘Golden Age of Malay Film’ (1950s to 1960s) by analysing the musical practices and discourses of commercially-produced vernacular Malay films. In exploring the potency of such films and music, it uncovers the relevance of screened music in articulating the complexities and paradoxes of a cosmopolitan Malay identity within the context of mid twentieth-century capitalism, late British colonialism and Malaysian and Singaporean independence. Essentially, I argue that the film music produced during this period articulates a cosmopolitan aesthetic of postcolonial nation-making based on a conception of Malay ethnonationalism that was initially fluid, but eventually became homogenised as national culture. Drawing theoretically on how cosmopolitan practices are constituted within discursive and structural contexts, this thesis analyses how Malay film music covertly expressed radical ideas despite being produced within a commercial film industry. While non-Malay collaborators owned and produced such films that were subject to British censorship, Malay composers such as P. Ramlee and Zubir Said helmed the musical authorship of such films; thereby, enabling an expressive space for their Malaynationalist aspirations. Methodologically, the study unravels the complexities and paradoxes of emergent nation-making through an intertextual analysis of Malay film music; drawing on film narratives, musical and historiographical analysis, literature surveys, and ethnographic fieldwork. I argue that Malay film music from the independence-era could not be confined by rigid ethno-national boundaries when its very aesthetic foundations were pluralistic and contemporaneous with the history of constant change, exchange, interactivity and diversity in the Malay world. This thesis reveals that despite the forced homogeneity of Malay nationalism, Malay film music from the independence-era challenged a limited conception of ethno-national identity. The aspiring and inspiring cosmopolitan ‘frameworks’ of P. Ramlee’s and Zubir Said’s music reverberates in new interpretations of identity, independence, and musical expression in the Malay world.
Supervisor: Fry, Andrew Martin ; Schofield, Katherine Ruth Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available