Rose Iwanaga and the Avengers


Rose Iwanaga and the Avengers came from Kuching, capital of Sarawak in eastern Malaysia. Iwanaga is a Japanese name, but I don’t know anything of Rose’s background or how she came to be living in Sarawak.

Rose Iwanaga and the Avengers are credited as the first band from Malaysian Borneo to make an English-language recording. They are said to have made three EPs in total, but I have only ever seen this one, their debut, which I reckon was released in 1967. The Avengers were James Ong – rhythm guitar, Jimmy Ho – lead guitar, Peter Ho – bass, and Jalek Zula – drums.


James Ong (rhythm), Jimmy Ho (lead), Peter Ho (bass), Jalek Zula (drums), Rose Iwanaga
I love the liner notes description of Jalek Zula as a ‘violent’ drummer. This isn’t obvious from the recording, however, most of which is saccharine-sweet with huge doses of strings added into the mix. I wonder what the band might have sounded like when they played the small nightclubs of Kuching without all the accompaniment? Much better I am sure.

Too Young seems to be the song that most older Malaysians remember from this record, but my favourite is Please Tell Terry, which is a straight ahead pop song and the only one without the annoying strings or horns. This song and Say You’re Mine are credited to Adrian C. Tills. I have not been able to find out anything about Adrian and do not know whether these songs are cover versions or were written for the band. I have seen Adrian’s name on a record from a Singapore singer also, so perhaps he was a local.

What became of the Avengers is a mystery to me, but I have read that Rose was still performing in Kuching nightclubs until at least the late 1990s.

0 thoughts on “Rose Iwanaga and the Avengers”

  1. I remember the songs very well and grew up with this songs during our teen years. Recently I went back to Kuching and found this record [well intact and playable] in our old suitcase where all my old records were kept. These songs clearly bring back memories of the happy times during the 60s. I also recalled there is another Kuching band with a girl singer who also recorded around this time. I cannot remember her name or the group, thoough I met few mwmbers of the group at Kuching airport in the 60s when they were enroute to Singapore.

    JL
    London

  2. hie all.

    Rose Iwanaga is still singing for fun with old retiree’s ( my dad included ).
    Happy to report she still has a wonderful wonderful singing voice.

    just attended her b’day gathering whilst i was back in Kuching for the xmas break.

  3. To Frankie –
    One of her songs “Say You’ll be Mine” has been uploaded to Youtube. I would be grateful if you, chas_kit, could upload the
    rest of her songs to Youtube so that old-timers like me could listen to her songs again. Also there was another singer from Kuching – her name is Janice Wee, I think, who also cut an EP (I think) at about the same time that Rose Iwanaga did. I hope someone who has her record could also upload her songs to You tube. Thanks to all especially chas_kit!

  4. My parents were fans of the Avengers. He was told that Jimmy Ho and the brother or another member of the band either owns a bar in KL or plays at one. Does anyone know where?

  5. And I am glad to hear she is still singing. She has a nice voice, and is my favorite local singer. Would love to meet her and just say hi!

    Cheers

  6. yes.. mr.Jimmy Ho still plays somewhere in TTDI area (i’ll need to check with my dad the exact name of the pub). he plays fridays if im not mistaken.

  7. ok i’ve checked with my dad. Friday nites at a place called ‘titanic’ in TTDI.

    if anyone goes there, tell him cliff richard of sarawak says hi hehe

  8. Hello This is Janice Wee
    Thank you all so much for keeping this alive for Rose and myself.
    I am both astounded and so touched that we are still remembered. It was a great time, an enjoyable time and we had lots of fun (bar a family tragedy). I saw Jimmy in Kuala Lumpur two years ago. He is happy and well. Still playing for the fun of it …lucky man. He can still be contacted through the family grapevine from Kuching.

  9. I am proud & happy to say that Jalek Zula (the drummer) is my father. His real name is Haji Sajali Haji Julai. Just last Sunday, Auntie Rose Iwanaga was singing one of their hits songs on my wedding ceremony. She still has a beautiful singing voice.

  10. Hi this is Ex Avengers Peter Ho
    After the our band group was disbanded our drummer joined RTM Kuching, James Ong our rhythm player became a businessman, Jimmy Ho [my brother] our lead player joined the police force, went to uk to pursue law and became a lawyer. Ever since the group disbanded he still keep up his lead playing and very good at it. As for myself I went to Hong Kong and Scotland to study aircraft maintenance and finally joined Malaysia Airlines as a aircraft maintenance engineer. I still play the bass but only at prayer meeting. Finally Rose Iwanager joined a travel agency in Kuching. Rose is still singing sometimes at function and church service.

  11. hi. i am james the rythmist.still handy with my struming.has been active in church.was with full band in my previous church for quite a while.my interest now is still music and photography.u can go to my facebook under james ong.see if u can recognise me

  12. I am extremely happy to say that Peter is my dad. Listening to their old albums puts a smile on my face and to see them perform their music today is just something amazing to witness. I am far from home right now, but their music on YouTube keeps me connected and brings me right back to my childhood – when my father and I will sit and listen to his records…..awesome work everyone!

  13. Hi, I am a great fan of the Local music of the 60’s. Naturally as a Sarawakian, I love all the songs by Rose Iwanaga and Janice Wee. I have been hunting for all their songs in CD format and it was only recently that I managed to get some of their songs in my CD collections. Its such a joy to listen to all these songs cause they bring back all the good memories of the good and innocent old days.

  14. Hi Janice and Rose , yours songs are still remembered as among the best in the Golden Era of the 60’s music scene. They are among the songs released in a Collector Box-set consisting 5 Cds.

  15. A Canadian, I had the privilige of working in beautiful and wondrous Sarawak during the mid sixties. For some time I lived in an apartment located in Kuching’s Borneo Hotel then owned by Janice Wee’s mother.

    A further privilige was meeting and getting to know Janice Wee of whom I became very enamoured. I adored her and her singing. To this day I still have the recordings of her songs which I believe she made in Singapore.

    What blessed and sacred memories!

  16. Hi Rose Iwanaga . Love your song ” Too young ” since my childhood days in the 1960s and have been looking for this song in Cd but no luck so far.
    God Bless You

    fan of you

    Clement Sia

  17. Hi , In the Spore 60’s Box-set (5 discs) there are 2 songs from Rose Iwanaga and another 2 from Janice Wee. Unfortunately its not possible to find this in Kuching (I presume you are from Sarawak ). I bought 2 sets from Singapore for my own collection. Anyway some of the other Songs from Rose and Janice can be found on the Web.

  18. Not easy to get this in Kuching. As mentioned earlier, there are only two of her songs available in the 5cds Box Set released 2 years ago. The only alternatives to listen to her songs are through the various You Tube and some other blogs put up by kind music lovers. If you want to know the sites to go to, just email me and I will be happy to share them with you.

  19. Hi Ian,

    I am Edgar Ong, you taught us at St Thomas’s sometime in 1964-67, and we have always been trying to locate you in recent years! We had a big 40th year reunion when over 80 students and 15 teachers returned to Kuching for a reunion some 3 years ago – and no one was able to trace your whereabouts.

    How incredible that I saw your posting here! Please email me at Edgar Ong – edgarong@gmail.com, I still live in Kuching and my cell contact is +6019-8598928. Have you ever been back to Kuching since you left?

    Please do make contact! God Bless, and looking forward to a response soon. Cheers!!

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