Ramli Sarip — Rebel To Respect

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WHEN he stepped away from the collective might of Sweet Charity, Ramli Sarip was filled with trepidation.

Uncertain about the road ahead, he lay aside his fears and walked a path that he believed in. Urged on by then Warner Music head, Jimmy Wee, Ramli followed his gut and imagination to create a new wave of popular music.

When he stepped out on his own, there were still camps of followers for Sweet Charity who were upset with him. Confident that he would win them over, he pursued a new direction with his music.

Mellower, more melodic and reflective of the sentiment of the time, his music walked the gravelly path of today’s mores and cultural uncertainty.

One of the first songs to connect with his audience was Bukan Kerana Nama written by Bakri Johari, which turned into an instant hit for Ramli. As his career took off, he performed with other artists, which also helped forge his place in local music as a mentor.


Watch the other parts of the interview:

Part 1 — Rolling With The Times

Part 2 — Papa Rock — Bittersweet Times


Ramli recalls the trying times of cutting loose and not cutting his hair; the unfairness of a system bent on creating a conformist society.

They threw his music out, and he was shunned by the establishment. But he didn’t rebel because a “soft voice told me this is a small matter”.

In 1988, his album Syair Timur proved the turning point, as he was selected to perform on the main stage of WOMAD.

“Talent is not enough. You must have the discipline to open up your mind to listen to all sorts of music,” he maintains to this day.


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Ramli’s music transcends traditions, but still he grapples with new technology. Still using his old Nokia phone, he believes he needs to understand technology and the new generation, to help him further reach out to a larger audience.

Ramli Sarip performs an acoustic version of Adam Hawa for STORM.SG


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