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80’s Biggest Hit-makers: Where Are They Now?

We take a look at the current paths of these legends and icons of the local music industry

Regarded as arguably the best decade in the local music industry, the 80’s gave birth to many significant artistes and hit songs in a diverse range of genres. From blues to pop and rock, and even Nusantara, these artistes were also tastemakers that helped shape the industry itself. But where are they now? Read on…



With 27 studio albums from the 70’s till the new millennium, countless hit songs and an imitable front duo, Alleycats are without a doubt one of Malaysia’s most beloved bands. Hailing from Penang, they are big in both the mainstream scene and “live” circuit, entertaining fans with their memorable original ballads and flawless covers of contemporary hits. Alleycats though were hit hard in 2007 when co-founder Loga, and brother of the other front man Datuk David Arumugam, lost his battle with cancer and passed on. After a hiatus, they are now still powering through the “live” scene all across Asia while Loga’s musical legacy is continued by his daughter, Dasha, who has had some chart success in the UK.

Popular in: 1979-2000

Most popular track: ‘Sampaikan Salam Cintaku’


Ben Nathan

The crooner who scored a once-in-a-lifetime hit song, ‘Stanza Sepi Sekeping Hati’ in the mid-80s became the subject of much shock and sympathy when a video of him looking disheveled and receiving an ang pow from a stranger went viral a few years ago. The story got even sadder when it was revealed that Ben had been homeless and living in the streets. Veteran artiste Datuk DJ Dave, along with Ben’s family members then sent him for treatment and psychological evaluation, and is thankfully, on the road to recovery now while living in a charity home. Last year, it was reported that Ben has recorded a new single and is waiting for the perfect time for its release.

Popular in: 1986-1989

Most popular track: ‘Stanza Sepi Sekeping Hati’


Ramli Sarip

Singapore-born Datuk Ramli Sarip earned iconic status by fronting rock giants Sweet Charity from the 70’s till the mid 80’s. Once banned by Malaysian broadcasters for refusing to cut his hair, “Papa Rock” as he is also fondly known, has released landmark solo albums that celebrate the roots of Nusantara music and spirituality. At 68 now, Datuk Ramli uses his veteran status to lead the new generation of artistes in doing more for others, including raising funds for noble causes and fellow artistes in need by performing at exclusive shows. Indeed, he has more than lived up to the spirit of his biggest solo hit, ‘Bukan Kerana Nama’.

Popular in: 1979-1991

Most popular track: ‘Bukan Kerana Nama’


Francissca Peter

Affectionately known as “Fran”, she is recognised as one of the most-loved and popular female singers ever to grace the local industry. After a successful stint as one part of the Roy & Fran duet, her collaboration with composer Manan Ngah produced countless hits in the early 80’s, most notably ‘Sekadar Di Pinggiran’, winner of the first ever Juara Lagu Best Song award. Still a sought-after vocalist here and abroad, Fran also spends a lot of her time doing charity work and continues to spread her message of love and diversity.

Popular in: 1982-1990

Most popular track: ‘Sekadar Di Pinggiran’


Blues Gang

Arguably the only blues act to ever gain mainstream success, Blues Gang made it big in the 80’s with the song ‘Apo Nak Dikato’, a gem of a blues anthem sung in the Negri dialect. Ito, Julian, Karim, Ghani and Jim also never swayed from their blues and rock roots, and delivered eight solid studio albums during their peak and even opened for international bands like Uriah Heep and the Ian Gillian Band. Today, (now Dato’) Ito is more of an activist, fighting for artistes’ rights and political causes. Blues Gang continue to play reunion gigs and performed a memorable show in 2015 at the prestigious Istana Budaya, some 36 years after their first album was released!

Popular in: 1981-1988

Most popular track: ‘Apo Nak Dikato’


Man Bai

His unique vocals and good looks earned himself and his band “Gersang”, much adulation and commercial success in the late 80’s. ‘Masih Aku Terasa, released in 1987 became one of the most recognisable rock ballads ever, but after four studio albums, the band broke up following Man Bai’s serious vocal cord problems. After going through surgery, he built a career in acting and eventually released a couple of solo albums, one of which included the acoustic feel-good sing-along anthem ‘Kau Ilhamku’. This past December, a freshly-arranged version was released in conjunction with the song’s 25th anniversary.

Popular in: 1987-1990, 1995-1999

Most popular track: ‘Kau Ilhamku’



2021 marks the 40th year since the band’s inception and the legendary outfit from JB has been through it all; mega success, court cases, member changes and more. But the past few years have seen turbulent times for them that began with a dispute over the band’s finances with drummer, Yazid who later passed on in 2019. Last year, the band announced a mega gig that did not feature front-man Amy, opting to seek the services of Wings vocalist Awie instead. That gig itself has been postponed a couple of times due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and it remains to be seen if the ‘Projek Bikin Wilayah 2021’ concert, as it is called now, will actually take place as announced on 13 February at Malawati Stadium.

Popular in: 1985-1992, 1995-1999

Most popular track: ‘Isabella’ (But the list is a pretty long one)


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