Sudirman (singer)

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Sudirman Arshad

Sudirman’s mural painting.
Sudirman bin Arshad

(1954-05-25)25 May 1954
Died22 February 1992(1992-02-22) (aged 37)
Lucky Garden, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Resting placeChengal Muslim Cemetery, Temerloh, Pahang
Other namesSudir
EducationFaculty of Law, University of Malaya
OccupationSinger, lawyer, actor, writer, businessman, cartoonist, journalist
Years active1976–1992
Datin Kamariah "Kay" Jamaluddin
(m. 1981; div. 1984)
Parent(s)Haji Arshad bin Haji Hassan (father)
Hajah Romlah binti Dahalan (mother)
RelativesDatin Rodziah Arshad (sister)
Razman Azrai Dato' Zainudin (Atai; nephew)
Musical career
LabelsWarnada Record
EMI Music Publishing Malaysia Sdn. Bhd.
Associated actsZaleha Hamid, Sharifah Aini, Noorkumalasari

Sudirman bin Arshad,[1][2] DSAP, JMN, AMN, AMP (25 May 1954 – 22 February 1992),[3] or better known by his stage name Sudirman, was a Malaysian singer and songwriter. His singing career kicked off after winning the Bintang RTM singing competition on 11 August 1976. His career defining moment came after he was awarded winner of the "1989 Asia's No. 1 Performer" title which he won during the '‘Asian Popular Music Awards'’ competition held at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 19 March 1989.[4] Throughout his career, he was known as the "Singing Lawyer", the "People's Singer", the "Patriotic Singer" and the "Elvis Presley and Claude François of Malaysia" in his native country. Apart from being a renowned singer from Malaysia he was also a trained lawyer, a composer, writer (specifically focusing in producing memoir and children books), cartoonist, canned drinks entrepreneur and an actor.[5][6]

Early life[edit]

Sudirman, born on 25 May 1954 in Temerloh, Pahang, was the youngest of seven siblings and born to Arshad Hassan and Romlah Dahalan. His father Arshad was a manager of a local bus company in Sudirman's family hometown, whereas his mother Romlah who used to work as a seamstress and was also the first woman to become a Malaysian state assemblywoman in Pahang during the 1950s. Both of his parent had also been involved in the business of fabrics and clothing. Sources revealed that he was given the name of 'Sudirman' after by his father who had hoped that he would grow up to become a brave warrior like Indonesian army general Soedirman, the man he was named after.

His passion for singing and entertainment started at a very young age, as during his childhood he would entertain his family and neighbours as they in turn would happily let him do so and encourage him.

He completed his secondary education in Sultan Abu Bakar School (SABS), Kuantan.[7] After turning down a scholarship to further his studies in medicine, he studied law instead from the University of Malaya in 1976 and received his degree with third class honours four years later together with Malaysia's former Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Patail. He commenced his pupillage in 1982 under Mr Ong Joo Theam of Messrs Abdul Aziz, Ong & Co. He was called to the Bar in 1984 in and commenced practice thereafter, though he left due to lack of interest.

It was during his period of studying law that he managed to juggle time between singing and tutorial classes. His big break came when he entered Johan Bintang RTM, a singing competition organised by public broadcaster Radio Televisyen Malaysia held in Malacca in August 1976, where he swooned the audience with his spontaneous sense of humour and melodious singing.



Possessing of a clear piercing tenor with a surprising breadth of range and dynamic control especially at the extreme high end, Sudirman's voice was instantly recognisable every time one of his songs are played in local radio or television. His ability to act through his voice is evident from songs such as "Bercanda di Pasiran Pantai", a Latin-flavoured duet with Anita Sarawak which displayed the sultry quality of his voice. His unique talents had helped him to win many local competitions from Bintang RTM Best Singer (1976) to Muzik-Muzik TV3 Best Performer and Berita Harian Popularity contest Most Popular Artist voted by fans. He topped Malaysian, Brunei and Indonesia charts with songs such as "Merisik Khabar", "Milik Siapakah Gadis Ini" and "Salam Terakhir".[8] Songwriters who have supported him in the past include S. Atan, Manan Ngah, Michael Veerapan and Syed Harun. Even today, his songs are popularly played especially during National Day and Eid-ul-Fitr.

Sudirman was also the first Malaysian singer to perform at The Paddock at the Hilton of Kuala Lumpur in 1983[9] and was the singing ambassador for companies such as Proton, Malaysia Airlines, Honda and honoured pioneer card member with Hong Leong Bank. He was known for his versatility and sang Malay, Indian, Chinese and English songs with outstanding choreography. He was even known for sketching portraits of his fans while singing.

Local musicians who have played for him include Alex Boon, Jay Jay (singer guitarist), Hillary Ang, Ricky Omar, Fauzi Marzuki, Michael Veerapan, Mac Chiew and Jenny Chin. Local women who have performed with him as his dancers (whom he refers to as "The Girls") include Joanne (Zainal Abidin's wife), supermodel the late Samantha Schubert and Linda Jasmine Hashim (now one of the leading dancing choreographer cum teacher in Malaysia's reality TV program show Akademi Fantasia).

Some Muslim fundamentalists and leftists detested his concert performances. Some even threatened and distributed warning pamphlets of "something would happen" during his Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Bangi concert to deter people from attending. The concert was postponed following protests from the UKM students union body, its academic staff association and the dean of the Islamic Studies faculty and six other student bodies. This incident was captured by Zainuddin Maidin (then journalist, now former Minister of Information) in his book "The Other Side of Mahathir". He narrated that the then-Prime Minister Mahathir had called a few ministers to his residence to review the situation as the issue reflected Malaysia's position in terms of modernisation. The meeting led to the conclusion that the show had to be allowed to go on. Sudirman's fans turned up in force. He went about pleasing the crowd, crooning his hits. One campus resident said, "At last something alive has come here." The negativity surrounding the UKM incident was not long-lasting. Ironically, a couple of years after Sudirman's death in 1992, UKM held a Sudirman karaoke competition.

Sudirman produced an album for his favourite nephew, Razman Azrai, under Sudirman Productions. Also known as Atai, he had a couple of hit songs that topped the charts in 1985. Atai also performed for Malaysia Day in 2014, Chow Kit Road concert 2.0 in 2016 and in SEA Games in 2017.

In April 1983, Sudirman sang a song for the late Puan Sri Saloma titled "Mama". When Sudirman approached her shortly before her death, Saloma expressed her disbelief with tears – that someone like Sudirman would still remember and make a song solely for her.

On 14 April 1986, Sudirman held an open-air concert on Chow Kit Road, which was the first time ever that a street concert drew a 100,000-strong crowd on a Monday night. It jammed the stretch of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Raja Muda to Jalan Raja Alang. Tan Sri Zaman Khan the Head of KL police then mentioned 'the crowd was so huge that we were praying at the office that it would be controlled' Several fans fainted in the crowd, a few suffocated and were rushed to the hospital. Fans was seen not only on streets but on top of roofs and trees. A Malaysian English tabloid, The Star, wrote that "Kuala Lumpur came to a standstill and it had nothing to do with the recession, but with one man, Malaysia's top entertainer, an electrifying performance and most memorable night".[10]

Sudirman's songs topped the charts with every new album that he released. There was a time when his song "Merisik Khabar" climbed up to the No. 1 position for two months while his second song "Milik Siapa Gadis Ini" from the same album came in second and stayed at the top for a few weeks after "Merisik Khabar".

In 1989, Sudirman won the title "Best Performer" at the Asia Music Award 1989 contest at the Royal Albert Hall in London, defeating among other contenders Cantopop legend Leslie Cheung, Anita Sarawak , Japanese singer-songwriter Epo and Filipino pop singer Kuh Ledesma .[11] Judges include Sinitta Renau Malone, mentor in Britain famous TV program, UK X factor and was dating Simon Cowell of American Idol. Other prominent judges include Chairman of BPI British Phonographic Industry Peter Jamieson, Dutch singer C.C. Catch and James Fisher Director of European Collection Body ASCAP

He was chosen to solely perform for the closing ceremony of the Southeast Asian Games on the same year and many others such as the opening ceremony of Sepak Takraw competition, Merdeka, New Year and other national functions. In most cases, he would use his own money to ensure a successful concert.

Sudirman Arshad also had a strong fanbase in Singapore. His concert there resulted in a large turnout at the Kallang National Stadium in August 1987. People came from all classes, races and ages. Kelvin Tan Look Siew, Director of Singapore Armed Forces Music & Drama company, said, "We wanted to bring down a prominent artist from the region and Sudirman's name automatically cropped up."

EMI London took him on to work together with Stock, Aitken & Waterman (British producer trio who took on Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and Rick Astley) with a song titled "Love Will Find a Way", released on the album Rising by Donovan. Vic Lanza, manager of WHAM (duet of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley) pronounced Sudirman as the institution of Malaysian Music industry. He was brought to The Beatles famous Abbey Road Studios and recorded the album, but died soon afterwards.


Sudirman Arshad wrote his autobiography Dari Dalam Sudir,comic book Sejarah Awal Sudirman in addition to some cartoons and weekly columns for magazines and some local newspapers such as Karangkraf.

One of his books for children titled "Taming Si Budak Pintar" was recognised the best by Mobil-Mabopa, a Mobil Oil book writing competition.

Moreover, he was also a journalist and columnist, who wrote on various serious issues. One journalist puts it, "It was quite difficult for us to concentrate on our job. The person sitting across the table during the meeting is a celebrity!" Those he interviewed include Tun Ghafar Baba.


Besides singing and writing, Sudirman also acted in a film called Kami,[12] which was released in 1982. It was about two destitute orphans who find each other amidst the Kuala Lumpur street life. One of the film's tracks, "Pelangi Petang" has since been heralded as one of his iconic works.[12][13]


Aside from hosting various main prime time TV singing programs like Mekar Sejambak, Sudirman also successfully hosted Malaysia's TV prime time gameshow "Keluarga Bahagia Singer". This program was sponsored by Singer Malaysia, a subsidiary of Singer Corporation (before it was taken over by Berjaya Group in 1989).

Charity work[edit]

Sudirman was also well known for his charity work in which he helped invite veteran artists in the slots of his singing shows aside from giving them generous donations. Money charity for mosques and people in need such as Yayasan Ozanam was something he would do willingly. During his life, he had also adopted and brought up an Indian boy from a poor family and he would actively seek charity work through the Singers, Musicians and Composers Association of Malaysia (PAPITA).


Sudirman Arshad also became Malaysia's first successful singer-entrepreneur by promoting Malaysia's most famous carbonated drink Sudi, with business magazines and TV programs from Australia to Hong Kong featuring the drinks. Within six months, Sudi broke five per cent of the carbonated drink market in Malaysia. Later, Sudirman opened a franchise of Sudi Shoppe clothing apparel famous for his unique sunglass signature and a Sudi restaurant.

He was Malaysia's first singer to be on the cover of Malaysian Business and Asian Business magazine. He had a business office atop the UBN Shangrila Tower and Sri Hartamas. He also served as Vice-President of PAPITA.

Illness and death[edit]

On 17 July 1991, Sudirman was admitted to Pusat Perubatan Tawakkal Kuala Lumpur (ICU) for 4 days. It was reported that he collapsed while singing at Butterworth, Penang. He died at 4 a.m. on 22 February 1992 at the age of 37 in his sister's (Datin Rudiah) house in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur after suffering from pneumonia for 7 months.

Thousands in Asia took part in his funeral procession. His remains were sent to his hometown in Temerloh, Pahang. Later, he was laid to rest at Chengal Muslim Cemetery, Temerloh, near the graves of his parents.


Sudirman Arshad was named 'Malaysia's Singing Ambassador' by the Malaysia Tourism Development Board (MTDC). He was the voice behind the MTDC (Malaysian Tourism Development Corp) tune, To know Malaysia is to love Malaysia which was composed by American Emmy, Grammy and Oscar nominated singer and songwriter Carol Connors. He was referred to as the 'Singing Dynamite' by Singaporean journalists. His singing brought him standing ovations in Australia (in Sydney and Melbourne), Japan, Kuwait and the United States (Hawaii). Simon Napier-Bell, the manager for George Michael's band Wham!, referred to Sudirman Arshad as the 'institution of Malaysian music industry'.

Sudirman's work was recognised by the industry when he was posthumously awarded an Anugerah Industri Muzik award and a street (Jalan Sudirman) was named after him in his hometown of Temerloh. PAPITA created an award especially categorised under his name, which to this date has yet to be won by anyone.

In the Malaysian Book of Records, Sudirman Arshad was given a posthumous award together with P Ramlee, Mokhtar Dahari, Tun Ghafar Baba and Ramasamy Letchemanah (Mighty Man).

On 26 July 2010, The National Choir paid a tribute to the late entertainer by organising a concert in conjunction with the KL Music Festival 2010, with an audience of about 1,000 present.

In 2011, his life journey documentary, Sudirman Arshad aired on The History Channel (Astro Channel 555) on 20 February 2011. Produced by FINAS and AETN All-Asia Networks.[14][15] It also reaired on RTM on 22 February 2015.[16][17][18]

On 2014, Malaysia's 57th independence day's theme is "Disini Lahirnya Sebuah Cinta" (Malay meaning for "Here Is The Birth Of Love") which is the starting line for Sudirman's "Warisan" (Malay meaning for "Legacy")

On 3 to 5 November 2016 Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre created musical tribute for Sudirman with 3 nights in a row, sold out having sponsors from JTI Malaysia, UEM Group, My Kasih Foundation, Yakult, Ambank and Nationwide Express. Yayasan Sime Darby gave out its first ever fund to create Sudirman Scholarship Fund for young talent.

On 25 May 2019, on Arshad’s 65th birthday, he was honored with a Google Doodle.[19]

Awards and recognitions[edit]

  • Penghibur TV Terbaik, Anugerah Seri Angkasa, RTM 1978
  • "Malaysia's Singing Ambassador" MTDC 1985 ("To know Malaysia is to love Malaysia")
  • Persembahan Terbaik Anugerah Juara Lagu TV3, 1987
  • Malaysia's Indian Music Award, 1987
  • Penyanyi Lelaki Popular, Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian 1989
  • Asia's Number One Performer at the Salem Music Award London, 1989
  • Malaysia Guinness Awards
  • Ahli Mahkota Pahang by Sultan of Pahang, 1990
  • Ahli Mangku Negara by Yang di-Pertuan Agong 1990[20]
  • Johan Mangku Negara by Yang di-Pertuan Agong, 1992[20]
  • No. 1 Malaysian singer (from New Straits Times)
  • Darjah Sultan Ahmad Shah Pahang (DSAP), carrying the posthumous title of Dato' by Sultan of Pahang, 2009
  • Balik Kampung voted as Malaysia's best song ever by readers of the Star Online, 2013
  • song "Disini Lahirnya Sebuah Cinta" chosen for National Independence Day theme (Tema Merdeka Malaysia Ke-57), 2014
  • Sudirman Scholarship Fund created by Yayasan Sime Darby launched in Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre on 5 November 2016 with a musical tribute
  • In South East Asia Games 2017, Sudirman's song balik kampung was performed by his nephew 'Atai' and ' Dato Aznil Hj Nawawi'
  • University Malaya launched Sudirman exhibition centre in its library in 2018
  • Sudirman Cafe at EDC Hotel KL launched in 2018
  • Tun Mahathir on 14 June 2018 eve of eid mentioned Selamat Hari Raya song sang and written by Sudirman as his favourite eid song
  • 25 May 2019, Google doodles Sudirman on his birth date


Among his other songs are Tanggal 31 Ogos and Tegakkan Bendera Kita.



Year Title Role Notes
1982 Kami Tookoo / Salleh


Year Title Role TV channel
1987 Keluarga Bahagia Singer Himself - with Atai (Host) TV1
1987–1988 Istimewa Bersama Sudirman Himself
1988 Mekar Sejambak Himself - with Atai (Guest)


  1. ^ It is now Datuk Sudirman Arshad The Star Online. 18 June 2009.
  2. ^ Nadia Azam (14 April 2016) 'Dia satu-satunya Sudirman kita' Malaysiakini. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  3. ^ Dato' Sudirman Haji Arshad[permanent dead link]. at
  4. ^ "Sudirman Haji Arshad". 24 October 2008. Archived from the original on 6 December 2006. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
  5. ^ Abd. Aziz Itar (29 February 2008). Sudirman atasi kekurangan diri dengan ilmu Utusan Malaysia. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  6. ^ Niezam Abdullah (22 February 2012). 20 Tahun 'Pergi', Sudirman Masih Tiada Pengganti mSTAR Online. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  7. ^ Abdul Jalil bin Salleh. (1 March 1992). "Diman Anak Yatim Yang Berjaya". Mingguan Malaysia (in Malay). pp. 4–5.
  8. ^ Nin, Muhamad, Detik Terakhir Sudirman, pg 87
  9. ^ Nin, Muhamad, Detik Terakhir Sudirman, pg 23
  10. ^ Nin, Muhamad, Detik Terakhir Sudirman, pg 28
  11. ^ Nin, Muhamad, Detik Terakhir Sudirman, pg 39
  12. ^ a b Nin, Muhamad, Detik Terakhir Sudirman, pg 121
  13. ^ Sinema Malaysia - Filem Kami Archived 15 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Dokumentari Sudirman di History Archived 19 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^
  16. ^ RTM Ulang Siar Dokumentari 'Sudirman Arshad' mSTAR Online. 20 February 2015.
  17. ^ RTM siar kembali biografi Sudirman Sinar Harian. 17 February 2016.
  18. ^ RTM Siar Biografi 'Sudirman Arshad' Pada 23 Feb Bernama. 17 February 2015.
  19. ^ "Sudirman Arshad's 65th Birthday". Google. 25 May 2019.
  20. ^ a b "Semakan Penerima Darjah Kebesaran, Bintang dan Pingat".

Further reading[edit]

  • Nin, Ghafar; Muhamad, Amira, Detik Terakhir Sudirman, Cita Khidmat (Malaysia), 1992, ISBN 983-9695-16-9

External links[edit]