|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.