A Gallery of Malaysia’s Musical Heritage

The Penang House of Music (PHOM) in George Town is the brain child of Paul Augustin and is a gallery dedicated to Malaysia’s musical history and heritage. MALAYSIA INSIGHTS visited the place in December 2017. Editor Uwe Fischer conducted an interview with PHOM’s Kevin Theseira.

Kevin, can you tell us what Penang House of Music is all about?
Penang House of Music is a representation of Penang’s musical heritage of the 1940’s to the 1970’s. We have a collection ranging from traditional music instruments to modern songs in the 1950’s and towards the interactive part. We also have a radio station and there is also a Virtual Reality room where we can put on a VR goggle and experience 360 music performance. Those are just some of the things that we have that are interactive. We also have a Resource Centre, where you can do research on what’s available from our library, and there are music performances inside the gallery as well.

Where did you get all those records and books and posters from?
A lot of things that we got are from the books “Just for the love of it” and after we did the book, we realized that we have so much of research but we did not have a place for it in the book so Paul Augustin and James Lochhead opened up this space so that we can find a resting place for all the things that they found such as pictures and also to the music that you hear.

…at this point we should explain that there is a book out called “Just for the love of it” which deals with Penang’s and Malaysia’s heritage of music.
Yes. We chose Penang first because Penang had most of the materials and later on we decided to expand it to the rest of Malaysia.

Is it restricted to any kind of music of do you try to cover everything?
We try to cover everything but mostly popular music. The recording technology at that time was not available to many people but what was very common among everybody was the passion for music so you have bands that go all the way back to 1930’s to the 40’s and even before that you have the traditional music instruments.

So, visitors can come here to the Komtar and visit this ‘museum’…which actually is not really a museum but a gallery…

Museum is a big word where you would have a curator. What we want to do is to make it very approachable so that everybody can come here and browse and find out a little bit more so that they can get more interested and find out more themselves.

And if the visitors have any questions, I am sure they can always ask you.
Yes, or any of our staff will be able to help as they are well versed with the materials here.

Kevin, thank you very much.

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