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Kassim Slamat & The Swallows

Kassim Slamat & The Swallows
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Friday, July 29, 2011

La-a-Obē | Telah Berubah

Kassim Slamat & The Swallows jamming at their 
Kampung studio in the dead of the night.

For the next twenty years since 'La-a-Obē' was first aired on Singapore airwaves, the government of Singapore devoted itself to the challenge of transforming the island state from a developing country to that of a successfully industrialised nation. The Swallows, like many other Singapore bands of the 60s, have since disappeared into the fabric of the new and progressive Singapore society. Ironically, the instrumental rock bands which they were once heavily influenced by (The Ventures, The Shadows & The Who) are still intact and performing to a sell-out concerts today. Although 'La-a-Obē' was sung in Baweanese and its lyrical contents may not have been understood by the majority who could understand Malay at that time, the birth of the title to the song seem fitting to the political and social changes that were taking place in Singapore. 'La-a-Obē' which means changed, evolved or transformed was born, right after Singapore's ejection from The Federation of Malaysia.

Kassim Slamat on double bass at their kampung home. 
The Swallows style and their music has, from the day they devised a plan to take the plunge by recording a Baweanese song, (knowing that not many understood Baweanese) was a pivotal point; to set The Swallows apart from other bands that were plentiful by the mid 60s. Despite the overwhelming number of fans gained through the introduction of Kassim Slamat, The Swallows remained attentive to its listeners and were fully aware of the expectations and the developments in the entertainment scene. One particular evidence to this claim comes from a 2 page black/white 60s article on The Swallows determination to pick up and add new musical instruments such as the piano and saxophone to their act. Before the eyes of the media, The Swallows had projected themselves as "serious" music professionals, working on the betterment of their trade; by learning to read music notes, even at a very late stage in their portrayal as a "serious" recording band. In reality, they knew that these activities were merely a passion which provided the petty cash in order to sustain the band's weekly activities. The initiative to re-skill themselves was spurred by the introduction of new acts that were stealing the limelight - in particular, Filipino bands called The Reynettes and D' Starlights that were mentioned in the article. Their skillful and exciting stage performances that wowed the audiences had evoked awe, respect and envy among The Swallows. These foreign acts came on the shores of Singapores' music scene to compete for a small, yet hungry youths who were aware of the new kinds of sound that were evolving in the West. They were awakened by an exciting stage performance and fresh brand of sound that included keyboards and brass instruments in its array - something which was thought to be unconventional for a 4/5 piece garage band set up that relies primarily on drums and electric guitars. (Thank you to The Doors and psychedelic drugs?)

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