“Music Column: Penang House of Music”
By Aki Uehara
Penang had been one of the crucial trading hubs for East-West trade. Since old days, many trading ships stopped over at Penang port, and merchants and migrants from European, Middle East, and Asian countries gathered in Penang. This historical background has developed rich and diverse musical culture in Penang.
In September, I visited “Penang House of Music”, a Music Gallery, located at the Penang’s landmark, KOMTAR. Focusing on the popular music from the 1940s to 1970s, the exhibitions have variety of attention-drawing gimmicks to make visitors understand the historical and cultural backgrounds of Penang’s music.
The gallery starts with the introduction of art forms and music genres such as the social dance, Ronggeng, reciprocal singing, Dondang Sayang, Boria that represent Penang’s art forms, and the puppet theatre Potehi. Introduction of the popular music follows in chronological order with display of audio sources, musical instruments, pictures, paper cuttings, magazine cuttings, posters and flyers. The information materials show that the media including films, radio, television of the time had accelerated the development of commercial popular music. At the gallery, there are some spots that we can enjoy ourselves greatly with nostalgic tunes of our choice.
The large mural with Penang’s famous musicians such as P. Ramlee incorporates the newest AR technology and we can listen to sound clips of each musician with our own smartphone with the App. At the VR experience room, we can witness the live performance of singing with piano accompaniment. The exhibitions of the gallery that incorporate latest technology offer an interactive experience and hold visitors’ attention from beginning to end.
There also is the Radio Room with equipment from old days that create atmosphere of the time. Visitors can get a feeling of radio DJ by recording their own mini radio program and actually can upload it to the website.
For researchers, they also have a resource centre. As for me who love music from 1950s and 60s, I never have enough time to explore the whole materials and sound resources at the House. I promised myself that I will definitely return here and left the Gallery. For music lovers who visit Penang, this is the highly recommended place to visit.
PENANG HOUSE OF MUSIC
L4 -02 Level 4 KOMTAR,
10000, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +60 4 370 6675
Hours & Admission
Open daily: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Last admission: 7:00 pm