2021 Cultural Medallion recipient Rahimah Rahim shares her showbiz secrets

2021 Cultural Medallion recipient Rahimah Rahim shares her showbiz secrets

Rahimah Rahim’s storied career has been recognised by the National Arts Council with a Cultural Medallion. (Photo: National Arts Council)

Coming from a family of stars, 2021 Cultural Medallion recipient Rahimah Rahim was almost predestined to be an entertainer. 

Her father was Rahim Hamid, Singapore’s answer to Nat King Cole (an American singer, jazz pianist and actor). Her mother, Mariam Baharom, was an actress and her uncle, Ahmad Daud, a famous singer and screen actor who hosted his own television show in the 1970s.

Rahimah was a precocious talent and made her big screen debut at the age of six, playing a little rich girl in a Cathay-Keris production titled Korban Kasi (Love’s Sacrifice). More film roles followed, including Kasih Ibu(Mother’s Love) and Masuk Angin Keluar Asap (Enter Wind, Come Out Smoke) and in 1966 she underlined her acting chops with a starring role in Pak Awang Temberang (Mr Awang Temberang), the first Malay series ever aired on TV in Singapore.

From an early age Rahimah would perform in nightclubs and on TV with her father, and by the time she released her first record in 1972, an EP titled Mana Ibumu (Where Has Your Mother Gone?), she was already a seasoned performer. 

She struck gold with Gadis Dan Bunga (Girls and Blooms) and Bebas (Free) with Panda Records and producer Johari Salleh, and soared to greater heights by triumphing at the prestigious Kimi Koso Talentime contest in Tokyo in 1974, cementing her status as a fan favourite. Every single she put out was a hit. Love Challenge (Cabaran Cinta), The Broken Heart (Hati Yang Rapuh) and Selamat Berhari Raya flew off the shelves.

Rahimah’s versatility is legendary. She is adept in a range of genres from Malay pop to jazz to Cantopop, singing multilingual hits and performing alongside Gloria Estefan’s Miami Sound Machine, Cantopop kings Alan Tam and Leslie Cheung, and Malaysian star Sudirman Arshad. Locally, she has collaborated with the Asian Cultural Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Association Singapore. Rahimah has regularly represented Singapore at international singing festivals and performed at multiple National Day Parades and Singapore National Day events overseas – most recently in London in 2019. 

At 66, Rahimah’s energy and big personality is focused on vocal coaching and presenting a show for Vintage Radio SG, which she uses as a platform to share information and educate seniors on current issues. 

Rahimah was inducted into the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame by Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO) in 2017 and in the same year received a Lifetime Achievement Award (Anugerah Perdana Emas) from Mediacorp Suria. Now, in 2021, comes the crowning award of a Cultural Medallion.

The A List asked Rahimah about the influences that have helped make her the much-loved artist she is today. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as an artist?

Try to be creative and original in your music and singing. Always have a positive attitude as a performer, and always stay humble as an artist. Don’t be afraid of challenges, and when you feel you can’t make it, never give up, even though it might be a failure, because failure is the best teacher.

Who has been most influential in your career as an artist, and why?

The most influential person in my life, who made me who I am as an artist, is my father Rahim Hamid, who was also known as the Nat King Cole of Singapore in the 1950s. I enjoyed his originality and especially his great sense of humour and his aura on stage.

Find out more about the Cultural Medallion here.

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