OBITUARY

Momo Latiff, golden voice in Malay cinema

Singer-actress Momo Latiff died on Thursday at the age of 92 after slipping into a coma the day before.
Singer-actress Momo Latiff died on Thursday at the age of 92 after slipping into a coma the day before.PHOTO: ST FILE

Veteran singer-actress lent her voice to movies and acted in films

Veteran singer-actress Momo Latiff - who made a name for herself during the golden age of Malay cinema in the 1950s and 1960s - died on Thursday afternoon at the age of 92 after slipping into a coma the day before.

Momo, who had high blood pressure, was rushed to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on Wednesday, when she collapsed at home after evening prayers.

Her family was told that a blood vessel in her brain had burst and decided to take her home. She was surrounded by family when she died.

Momo, who was born in Indonesia as Marfuah Makarim, was best remembered for her role as Ibu Rose - the wife of a martial arts master in the 1959 film Pendekar Bujang Lapok (Three Bachelor Warriors), starring P. Ramlee, S. Shamsuddin and Aziz Sattar.

She moved to Singapore in 1939 while on tour in the region with an Indonesian performing troupe.

Her performances caught the attention of executives at Shaw Brothers, which owned the legendary Malay Film Productions studio in Jalan Ampas. She became a playback singer, lending her voice to movies here.

She also acted in a number of films, including Topeng Syaitan (1939), Buluh Perindu (1953) and Si Tanggang (1961).

Momo, who had 12 children, left her mark on Malay music and film, says Cultural Medallion recipient Yusnor Ef, 78, himself a titan in the Malay music industry.

He recalls her rich singing voice and versatility, belting out anything from love ballads to keroncong, a traditional folk music genre.

"She did everything with such sincerity and passion. When she was invited to events and functions, she never said no. She would always turn up, even in a wheelchair.

"She never made any excuses. Even when people came up to her and asked her to sing, she would. She was such an upbeat person," he says, laughing at the memory.

"In the history of the development of Malay music and cinema, she will never be forgotten. Her name is etched in gold."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline 'Momo Latiff, golden voice in Malay cinema Obituary'. Print Edition | Subscribe