Sunday, March 20, 2011

The National Anthem of Malaysia

Before independence in 1957, each of the (then) eleven states of Malaysia had their own anthem (which they have retained to this day), but there was no unifying anthem for the whole country. When independence was approaching, Tunku Abdul Rahman, then the Chief Minister and Minister for Home Affairs (later Malaysia's first prime minister), led a committee to select a new anthem. Hundreds were recieved, but none were deemed suitable. Finally, the anthem for the Malaysian state of Perak was considered, and the melody, due to its "traditional flavour" was selected to be the melody for the new anthem.

In 1888 the Sultan of Perak was invited by Queen Victoria as a guest. When the Sultan's aide was asked what the anthem of Perak was, so that it could be played upon his formal arrival, the aide, not wanting to be embarrassed by saying that Perak did not have an anthem, perhaps giving the impression that his country was "backwards", proceeded to hum a favourite tune of his from the Seychelles, which is believed to have been composed by Pierre Jean Beranger. It was, therefore, from that moment on, the tune for the state anthem of Perak (and later Malaysia).

After an Indonesian opera performed it in Singapore (at the time, part of Malaysia), the tune became popular throughout all of Malaysia in the 1920s and 1930s as the love song "Terang Bulan" (Moonlight).Once the melody was selected, new lyrics had to be written for it. The panel of judges charged with selecting a new anthem wrote the lyrics, with Tunku Abdul Rahman leading the group. The anthem was entitled "Negara Ku" (My Country).

The stamp above features Jean Beranger, the anthem composer. Below is Abdul Rahman, the lyricist.