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The Indigenous Voice
We meet the team behind ASYIKfm, the first Orang Asli radio station in Malaysia.
Speaking to the team that runs ASYIKfm is hugely refreshing. They operate the first radio station that serves the Orang Asli, or indigenous people, in Peninsular Malaysia whose population only stands for less than 10 percent of the total 30 million population.
"First and foremost, our main objective is to inform, educate and create social awareness for the Orang Asli in the country," says Mariama Uda Nagu, station manager for ASYIKfm. Seeing that they are only a minor segment of the population, the mainstream media outlets tend to forget them. Hence, there is rarely any media content produced that caters to the interests and needs of the Orang Asli. Frankly, it is almost non-existent.
So ASYIKfm has a huge responsibility to its target audience and community. They inform the Orang Asli community of national happenings and issues so they are connected to the country. They also highlight issues in their own community.
Long-time producer, Majid Adik, who has been been with ASYIKfm since 1986, says that this has been the mission of the station from the very beginning. He personally has traveled into the far reaches of rural Malaysia to highlight the plight of the Orang Asli.
“It’s very fulfilling when we see remote areas start receiving basic infrastructure like roads and mobile phone service,” he smiles.
Aside from news and current affairs, entertainment and music is also broadcasted.
Majid remembers how he and other producers would hunt for talented Orang Asli and helped them in their music careers. One example was Jelmol, the first Orang Asli pop group in Malaysia. In the mid-1990s, Majid helped to bring them for recordings and meetings with music labels.
This effort of introducing Orang Asli musicians continues until today. Mariama explains that they constantly search for and accept songs that have been written and recorded by Orang Asli musicians and broadcast it on ASYIKfm.
“We are not too bothered about the quality. That can be improved. We want to give them the exposure and once it’s broadcasted, they can claim copyright and royalty payments,” she explains.
ASYIKfm has a long history. It was formed in 1959 by RTM (Radio Television Malaysia) and was initially known as Radio 7. To ensure that it serves the community sincerely, the entire team consists of Orang Asli.
Mariama, who has served the station for a total of 17 years, is from the ethnic group Semai. Majid, one of the longest serving staff, is Temiar. Popular DJ KA aka Kamel Alang, who hosts the entertainment programmes Bersama Artis and Santai Bersama Yek, is Temiar as well.
Even so, it is still quite a challenge. The station is small with a headcount of around 20 people. There are 18 different ethnic groups, and these are only the ones that are officially recognised. They do have challenges, not the least being limited resources. But they persevere.
“I take this job very seriously. Orang Asli representation in the media needs to increase. The social standing of the Orang Asli has to improve,” says DJ KA, as a-matter-of-factly.
ASYIKfm Frequency: Depends on the region in the Peninsular (Klang Valley: 91.1FM)
Broadcast time: 8am to 11pm
Language: Semai, Temiar, Jakun and Temuan
By Zan Azlee
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