National Anthem a pirated song?
KLUANG: Is the Negaraku adapted from a Hawaiian melody?
This question stirred in his mind when Mohd Zain Sahadan, 49, heard his son playing a record from his antique collection.
The song, entitled Mamula Moon by Felix Mendelssohn and His Hawaiian Serenaders, carried the melody of the national
anthem but had a slower and more romantic beat.
ON RECORD: Mohd Zain showing the old record that contains the song ‘Mamula Moon’ which has
the same melody as ‘Negaraku’ at his home in Kluang.
Zain, who works as a junior
general administrator with the National Institute of Public Administration (Intan) here, said he felt excited when he heard
An avid antique collector, he said he had owned the record for more than 10 years without realising the significance of
“I bought it together with 10 other records from an old man for RM500.
“Recently, my son rummaged through my antique collection and played the song on the gramophone.
“Only then did I notice the similarity,” he said, adding that he believed the record dated back to the 1940s.
The record showed the name of song, the artiste and also indicated that it was made in England, but there was no mention
of the year it was released.
Checks on music websites showed that Felix Mendelssohn and His Hawaiian Serenaders were artistes in the 1940s.
According to www.cduniverse.com, they played Hawaiian-style music, while www. musicweb-international.com described the
band’s music as “immediately recognisable by its swing, swooning, sensual ethnic style”.
This Mendelssohn should not be confused with the 19th century German composer and pianist Felix Mendelssohn.
History has it that the Negaraku was adapted from the state anthem of Perak, which had a similar melody to the keroncong-influenced
Terang Bulan, a popular song in the 1930s in Indonesia and Malaya.
It was also a familiar tune in the island of Mahe in the Seychelles where a former Perak Sultan lived in exile. A French
band used to play the tune when it performed on the island.
There is, however, no record of the exact origin of the melody.
Some historians believe that a well-known 19th century French poet and composer, Pierre Jean de Beranger, wrote the music.
But there is no reference on any link to the Hawaiian Mamula Moon.
Negaraku, tanah tumpahnya darahku,
Rakyat hidup, bersatu dan maju,
|Rahmat bahagia, Tuhan kurniakan,
kita, selamat bertakhta.|*2
Translation into English from the Malaysian Monarchy Website Oh, My Motherland,
The Land where my life began,
people live in harmony and prosperity,
|With God-given blessings of happiness,
Our King reigns in peace.|*2
At the time of independence, each of the eleven States of Malaya that made up the Federation had their own anthem, but there was no anthem for the Federation as a whole.
Tunku Abdul Rahman, at the time the Chief Minister and Minister for Home Affairs, organized and presided over a committee
for the purpose of choosing a suitable national anthem. On his suggestion, a worldwide competition was launched. 514 entries
were received from all over the world. None were deemed suitable.
Next the committee decided to invite selected composers of international repute to submit compositions
for consideration. The composers chosen were Benjamin Britten, Sir William Walton who had recently composed the march for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, the American opera composer Gian Carlo Menotti and Zubir Said, who later composed the National Anthem of Singapore. They were all turned down too.
The Committee then turned to the Perak State Anthem. On August 5 1957 it was selected on account of the "traditional flavour" of its melody. New lyrics for
the National Anthem were written jointly by the Panel of Judges— with the Tunku himself playing the leading role.
At the time this melody was, while still the State Anthem of Perak, also a well-known and popular Malay
song under the title, Terang Bulan ("Bright Moon").
The song had been very popular on the island of Mahé in the Seychelles. where the Sultan of Perak had formerly been living in exile. He heard it at a public band concert on
the island, a song to a popular French melody, originally composed by the lyricist Pierre Jean de Beranger (1780-1857), who was born and died in Paris. When a member of the Perak royal family was invited to a
reception in Europe, he was asked what his state anthem was. Realizing that his state did not in fact possess an anthem, he,
in order not to appear backward in front of his hosts, proceeded to hum the aforementioned tune. Thus was an anthem born.
The tune was later introduced into an Indonesian Bangsawan (Opera), which was performing in Singapore. In no time at all, the melody became extremely popular and
was given the name Terang Bulan. Aside from its dignity and prestige as the Perak State Anthem, the tune became a Malayan
"evergreen", playing at parties, in cabarets and sung by almost everybody in the 1920s and 1930s. (Today, of course, since
independence, it is not played as a popular melody, and any such use is proscribed by statute.)
Traditionally Negaraku was introduced with a short drum roll "which beckons the audience to
attention, and heralds a stately pace, where the nation sings its pledges of loyalty to King and country. It continues serenely
to express the unity of our multiethnic population and our gratitude to God for His blessings. And as the music repeats the
coda section, praying for the safety of our enthroned King, there comes a stirring crescendo of drum rolls and cymbals, which
culminates in a poignantly dignified ending."
The anthem was given a new quickmarch beat in 1992, which proved unpopular. Some Malaysians have gone
as far as to say that the altered tempo resembled circus music, and was the subject of much derision. In July, 2003 it was
reported in the Malaysian press that the anthem would be rearranged for the second time and the title and lyric would be changed
from Negaraku to Malaysiaku. There was a public outcry of dismay and the change of name was scrapped, but the
anthem was re-arranged and returned to the pre-1992 pace by composer Wah Idris.
The recent furore over the government's attempts to keep fiddling around with Negaraku as they please
has annoyed most Malaysians to such an extent that it is considered by many to be unwise to make any further alterations without
the support of a popular referendum.