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Thursday, January 29, 2004


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The tune to 'Negaraku' is actually based on the Perak State Anthem "Dilanjutkan Allah usianya Sultan' ('God save the Sultan'), which is said to be based on an old Malay love song 'Terang Bulan' ('The Bright Moon'), which in turn is said to be based on a 19th century French song, 'Oh Rosaline' by the French poet Pierre Jean de Beranger.

The popular legend is that the song was heard by Sultan Abdullah of Perak and other Malays who were in exile on the Indian Ocean island of Mahe, in the Seychelles Islands, for their part in the assassination of the first British Resident JWW Birch in 1875. It is said that a French band regularly toured the islands and the tune to 'O Rosaline' was a
favourite with the group of lonely exiles, who turned it into song as the melancholy 'Terang Bulan'.

There is another interesting story about how the tune came to be the Perak State anthem. Sultan Idris of Perak is said to have been invited to London for an audience with the Queen in 1888, the year after he was proclaimed Sultan. Accompanying him were his Aide-de-Camp Raja Kamaralzaman ibni Raja Mansur, or Raja Ngah Mansur, and the British
Resident Sir Hugh Low. According to the story, on reaching England, Raja Ngah was asked to provide the musical score of the Perak State anthem, so that it could be played by military bands when welcoming the Sultan at official ceremonies. He thought it would be undignified to reply that Perak had no State anthem, so he asked for the Bandmaster to take down the musical notes of his own favourite tune from the Seychelles. Henceforth, the tune was adopted as the Perak State anthem, with words written by Raja Ngah himself.

The process for selecting the Malaysian national anthem is an interesting story as well. A special committee was set up in 1956, headed by our Father of Independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman, to select a suitable anthem for what was to become the independent Federation of Malaya. A worldwide competition was launched and the committee received over 500 entries - but none were felt suitable. The committee then decided to invite selected composers of international renown to submit compositions for consideration. Despite receiving compositions from such musical giants as William Walton and Benjamin Britten, even these were not considered suitable.

As a final resort, the panel then decided to hear the various State anthems to see if any of those might be suitable as a national anthem. The committee finally chose the tune of the Perak State anthem and, with Tunku Abdul Rahman taking the lead, wrote the lyrics to accompany the tune that was to be called 'Negaraku'. The melody of the Perak state anthem was deemed the most appropriate because it sounded peaceful and harmonious, to reflect the harmony and peace between the different races of the new nation.

This is primarily why I was so horrified with the new 'up tempo' march version of the national anthem that was unveiled in 1993. All the reasons we had chosen the anthem in the first place - its traditional Malay melody, its musical message of peace and harmony among the races - were simply just ignored or forgotten. And now they even want to change
the lyrics?! Can you even begin to imagine the uproar if some dull, lifeless bureaucrat in Downing Street, with nothing else to do with his time, suddenly decided to change the lyrics to 'God Save The Queen' - or if the French changed 'La Marseillaise' to 'La Parisienne'?

When they first changed the tempo, I thought that was a sad reflection of what was happening to the country - where we were lovingly embraced and caressed by the grace, harmony and traditional dignity of the old 'Negaraku', the new 'Negaraku' was frog-marching us to unbridled development and material riches at breakneck speed - whether we liked it or not.

And now they want to take the very words from the mouth of our late Father of Independence and consign them to the dustbin of history. This has confirmed what I have feared all along - there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that is sacred to the fools who dreamed up this nightmare. This is a song that has its roots going back to the days of Maharaja Lela; a melody crafted by Malays, exiled in a foreign land, longing and pining for their nation; a melody that our founding fathers
put words to and lovingly nurtured and passed on to us as a precious gift - a gift which we had already corrupted with that ridiculous march and are now about to defile again. But forget the struggles of our founding fathers, forget the values and traditions that won us our freedom, forget the rich heritage upon which our nation was built - just
because some unknown, soulless moron of an official thinks some new lyrics will please his Minister, or help him get a Datukship or get his bosses some political mileage to get elected next year. Why stop at the national anthem - let's have a new name for Malaysia as well?! Bolehland? Is this what we really mean by 'Malaysia Boleh'?

And you know what the ultimate tragedy will be? If Malaysians just sheepishly allow this rape of our historical heritage to happen without a whimper of complaint.

Adopted from writing by:
o o

Sabri Zain


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