While politicians try to divide us, ‘Negaraku’ is the national anthem that unites us all

NOT many Malaysians would have been aware that the melody used in their national anthem was first composed by Pierre Jean de Beranger (1780-1857) who was dubbed “the most popular French songwriter of all time” and “the first superstar of French popular music”.

Through her research, music composer Datin Saidah Rastam has discovered the richness behind the melody which has enchanted many people around the globe for over three centuries.

It was a love melody, a lullaby, the Perak state anthem, a melody well loved by many around the world and played on jukebox and dance halls.

Saidah had her audience in stitches during her TEDxKL talk when she sang the lullaby which her own father had repeatedly sung to her.

Coincidentally, the lullaby was to the tune of Terang Bulan (Bright Moon) which was thought to be the basis for the creation of the Malaysian national anthem, Negaraku.

During her 21-minute lecture delivered in 2016, Saidah had attempted to get the facts right about the origins of the national anthem. Therefore, her lecture is still relevant today despite it being more than seven years ago.

Saidah said it was important to know the origin of the national anthem especially since there have been numerous claims that the national anthem originated from various sources, including even a Chinese melody.

Tough decision

In her speech, Saidah shared how the Father of Independence, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman and his selection committee had tried for over a year to choose the best national anthem for a new country that was to be formed on Aug 31, 1957.

A total of 514 entries were received from then Malaya, Indonesia, Britain, France, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Turkey, America and India but the committee rejected all of them although it was just two months to go before Aug 31.

Out of desperation, the committee even invited three well-known composers, Zubir Said who later composed the Singapore national anthem; American Henry Cowell who played avant-garde music by playing the piano with his arms instead of his fingers; and Englishman Benjamin Britten who is regarded as one of the 20th century’s most renowned composers.

However, their entries were also rejected. At the eleventh hour, Tunku Abdul Rahman who went on to become the country’s first prime minister (PM) picked the national anthem that was based on the melody used in Terang Bulan and the French melody of La Rosalie.

Of course, there were some who were initially opposed to the tune, claiming that it was not very dignified as the melody was playing in jukeboxes and dance halls but Tunku Abdul Rahman stood firm insisting that the melody was one loved by everyone.

Thus, when the Malaysian flag was raised on the eve of Merdeka, the Negaraku was played for the first time. Due to the popularity of the tune, most people were able to relate to it emotionally.

Fast forward 66 years later, the national anthem should unite every Malaysian regardless of our race, religion, culture, language or loghat (dialect) spoken, social status or political affiliation.

Those who continue to harp on the 3Rs (race, religion and royalty) should be asked to sing the national anthem once again. Of this nation, we will say with one voice that regardless of what dialect or language we use, “Inilah Negaraku!” (This is my country!) – Aug 31, 2023

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