The 1980s and 1990s were the heyday of “rock kapak” (axe rock) and “rock jiwang” (melancholic rock), spearheaded by the success of Wings and Search. Then in 1990, along came an unknown band called Iklim, whose song Suci Dalam Debu went on to become one of the most successful and iconic Malay rock songs ever.
Iklim frontman Saleem, who died on Sunday (Oct 14), had a voice that was like the title of the song – purity in the dust, a melancholic, raspy drone that hit the high notes effortlessly, and standing out amongst all the other sound-alike bands with similar jiwang love ballads.
With Iklim, Saleem would go on to score plenty more hits, including Gerhana Cinta Luka, Sheila, Shakila, Mimpi Yang Pulang, Mahligai Seribu Mimpi, Sandiwara Cinta Semusim and Hakikat Sebuah Cinta among others, gaining widespread popularity not just in Malaysia, but also in Indonesia and Singapore.
Saleem, whose full name was AM Salim Abdul Majeed, later left Iklim in 1995, returning for a one-off collaboration for the Dirgahayu album in 1997, and reunited with his former bandmates again in 2003 and 2015.
Last month, the singer suffered injuries after he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle, but was re-admitted to the hospital after his condition worsened. He died on Oct 14, aged 57.
In tribute to the singer, here are some of Saleem’s most memorable songs with Iklim.
Suci Dalam Debu
The first single from the band’s 1990 debut album Satu Kesan Abadi, Suci Dalam Debu was Iklim’s first and arguably biggest ever hit, winning them numerous awards, including the 1990 Anugerah Seri Angkasa RTM, Anugerah Bintang Popular 1990, and second place in Juara Lagu 1990. It was so popular that a film inspired by and named after the song – 1991’s Suci Dalam Debu, was released, directed by Zulkifli M. Osman and starring Julia Rais, Sidi Oraza and Imuda.
Even our Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng paid tribute to this song after hearing of Saleem’s death, tweeting that it represented a “very fond memory to me in the 90’s”.
“When I was fighting as the opposition, his songs calmed my soul. I hope he is at peace,” Lim wrote.
Bukan Aku Tak Cinta
Bukan Aku Tak Cinta was part of the Dunia Iklim compilation in 1993, and went on to become one of its biggest hits. With lyrics about a boy who is kept apart from his lover because of their parents’ disapproval, this was rock jiwang at its most jiwang.
Di Pintu Mahligai
From the band’s self-titled 1994 fourth album, Di Pintu Mahligai is another of Iklim’s signature tunes, and one that really tested Saleem’s vocals to the max. Just check out the live video of him singing the song at the 1995 Juara Lagu, and you’ll appreciate just how effortless he made it look.
From the 1992 Budi album, this may not be one of the band’s biggest hits, but it is one of its most under-rated, and a personal favourite of mine. One of Iklim’s more melodic songs, Saleem’s vocal performance here is also one of his more nuanced performances, going from a yearning lament in the first verse to a more forceful, determined growl, and full-on angst in the chorus. My only complaint is that the song ends way too quickly and abruptly.
Blues Terengganu Kita
Iklim wasn’t just about the jiwang songs though. In this jaunty blues ode to the band’s home state of Terengganu, Saleem sings in a Terengganu-ian accent about going to Pulau Redang and Pulau Kapas via Merang, looking at turtles at Rantau Abang, and state staples like budu, belacan, batek and nasi dagang. It was a song that arguably did more to promote the tourism of the state than any Visit Terengganu campaign ever did.