One composer often associated with the golden era of Malay film produced by the Shaw Brothers is Osman Ahmad. As music director of Malay Film Production (MFP) Studio Orchestra, Osman penned film scores and songs for close to 40 films, among the most famous being Lela Manja.
Of humble origins from Arab Street his early musical instruments were a self-made bamboo flute and a cardboard guitar. Later as a young father, Osman often held two jobs – a regular job by day, and a musician by night. At this time he also established his own ‘bangsawan’ troupe, Madam Bangsawan, but soon after was forced to disband having failed to gather the requisite following. After the Japanese Occupation (1942 –1945), the ‘bangsawan’ opera was replaced by fast growing film industry. Osman was asked to join the MFP when Malay film industry mushroomed. Here he worked alongside MFP composers, such as Yusoff B., Ahmad Jaafar and P. Ramlee. From just a musician, this self-taught composer rose to become the leader of the MFP Orchestra. He produced theme songs for more than 40 movies, including the classic Lela Manja. Most of his song were sung by popular singers of the day such as Nona Asiah Julia Lina and A. Rahman (father of R. Ismail), while recordings made at His Master’s Voice at MacDonald House, which was later known as EMI Studio.
It is believed that Osman Ahmad composed hundred of songs in his lifetime, however, only 36 songs have been attributed to him thus far. His song such as Pengantin Bersanding and Kasih Ibu have been used in the curriculum textbook ‘Rakyat Yang Baik’, while many recorded under HMV (His Master’s Voice) label. Although his early life was hard, through sheer determination Osman Ahmad over came all odds to reach the pinnacle of his career. Some of his songs include Berhati Lara, Gadis Teruna, Hati Gelisah dan Dayung Sampan (all from the film Aloha in 1950), Juwitaku Sayang, from the film Pembalasan, Malamku Bermimpi, and Seri Dewi Malam. He died on 30 November 1964.