Punk rock in Malaysia

Punk rock in Malaysia

For much of the last 30 years, Malaysia has been crazy about rock music. A country where the kids like it loud, it is one of the big global powerhouses of the hardcore punk rock scene. Of all Malaysian cities, Terengganu is known as the heart of Malay rock. Though known as a socially conservative little town, Terengganu has been the home of many of the most extreme and revolutionary voices in Malaysian punk.

In 1986, a band called Malaria formed in Terengganu. They played rapid, rabid crossover trash music. They recorded one single demo, with just four songs on it, and then disbanded but the influence of that roughhewn demo and their fearsome reputation as a cut throat live act permeated across the country, from coast to coast.

Throughout the early 90s punk continued to buzz along as an underground scene, though by this time it had migrated to Kuala Lumpur. While punk was still miles from the mainstream, many bands who would go on to large-scale success were forming and playing in KL at this time: Carburetor Dung, Formation Bee, Stoink and Mechanical Baby amongst them.

At the same time, other bands began adopting the style of the British Oi-scene, like ACAB, The Official and Roots n Boots.

In the mid-90s the punk finally began to make inroads into the popular Malaysian culture. Many of those aforementioned acts became well known at this time as the sheer popularity of the scene amongst the urban youth forced it into the reluctant mainstream.

One major recent trend is for bands to sing in their native Malaysian tongue, as opposed to the English of their British and American influences. Nowadays the scene thrives, with hugely successful acts such as OAG, Estranged, Pop Shuvit and Bunkface. These acts adopted a style that was both more poppy and more Malaysian.

As well as being successful in their home country, these acts have also made international splashes, in countries like Japan, Indonesia and Singapore. In Indonesia, particularly, Malay punk rock is considered to be a huge influence on the local scene and local youth culture.