As I listen to the sound of The Swallows on my trusty old turntable, I can roughly sense the playing style of The Swallows evolving with the times - to suit their target audience that were moving from instrumental, melancholy rhythm and lyrics to R&B tunes that were gaining popularity in Malay pop bands by the late 60s. The Malay numbers by The Swallows swayed towards melodic tunes, ideal for Malay wedding gigs. And also simply because Kassim Slamat couldn't sing in English. The incompetence of not being able to compose and perform in the English language puts them at a disadvantage in the Singapore music scene. Unlike upcoming bands such as The Siglap 5 and The Quests that were both capable in performing Malay and English numbers, The Swallows were wholly dependent on the Malay speaking audience. According to Yusope Lamat, (Rhythm Guitar/Piano/Composer) the response from the audience was fairly lukewarm before the decision to record in Baweanese language. Despite their shortcomings, it is apparent that Beat music of the 60s knows no boundaries and the hit song 'La-a-Obē' bears testament to this claim.
In 1966, The Swallows shifted its foresight to another target audience by recording a Baweanese number in which only a Baweanese household can understand its meaning. The Baweanese/Boyanese ethnic community make up the second largest ethnic group of the Malay Community in Singapore. The Swallows latest target audience was small, considering that the vehicular language in the multi racial society of that region at that time was the Malay language. When other garage bands started recording originals and covers that sounded contemporary to the western beat, The Swallows followed suit - to blend contemporary beat with Baweanese language as a replacement for their English language deficiency. As a result, only one out of the few Baweanese songs that were recorded by The Swallows is a ballad. Most ballads recorded by the Swallows are in Malay and they only recorded original songs. The rest of its Baweanese numbers were contemporary to the sounds of R&B after 1966. By that time, the revolutionary sound of R&B in Malay Pop Yeh-yeh bands was steadily gaining momentum although The Swallows were not entirely an R&B band. By listening to all the recordings of The Swallows that started out from the early 1960s, one could suspect a little mish mash Jukebox of almost every style of music of that era. Nevertheless, in my opinion, interpreting as a new fan, unlike their Malay numbers, the Baweanese songs contain 'hooks' and probably hard enough for the mosh pit of today!
During a visit to my ancestral island of Bawean in early 2010, I learnt that the songs 'Angkok-angkok Bilis' and 'La-a-Obē' from The Swallows 1966 EP are still known among its dwellers. To my dismay, I learnt that the Bawean youths of today prefer to dance to the sounds of Dangdut. (Dangdut is a genre of Indonesian music that is partly derived from Malay, Arabic and Hindustani music that was developed during the 70s.)
The Swallows learning to read notes at a
late stage in their part-time career.
Yahaya Gaib,the most versatile
& talented in the band.
Yahya Gaib with the clarinet.
|Member's of The Singapore Photographic Society with |
Kassim Rahmat in front of Panggung Negara.
As the Singapore economy took its form, and the gradual withdrawal of The British Far East Command in its eastern bases loomed, The Swallows were unofficially disbanded when all its members went on to carve a rather conventional career path for their respective families. Kassim Slamat regained his old name, (Kassim Rahmat) stopped singing with a band, joined a photography club to pass his time and later went on to work as an off-shore technician in a Scandinavian ship building company. The Swallows went on to pursue their respective careers outside the entertainment industry.
Our voice is probably one of the best gift bestowed upon us mere mortals. Having been a singer for a garage band myself during my teenage years, I know that in the long run, activities as such, soothe the restless mind which needs to be kept positive and sharp throughout the years of retirement. It pleases me to find senior citizens actively participating and traveling with choir groups here in France. Notably, those which I was inspired to attend annually as an audience in remote villages of southern Germany. Now in his 70's, Kassim Slamat still sings passionately at the invitation of social functions such as birthdays, weddings and Expo.