Monday, July 19, 2010

The National Anthem of Singapore

The National Anthem was written in the wake of nationalism during 1956-57. Its composer and author, Zubir Said, had written it on the basis of two words, "Majulah Singapura" or "Onward Singapore", as a theme for the city council's official functions. It was first performed in 1958 at the Victoria Theatre. After Singapore attained self government, the song was slightly re-written and was re-introduced on December 3, 1959, at the installation of the new head of state and the introduction of the state (later national) flag. The anthem was used as a state song within Malaysia, of which it was a part, and was adopted as a national anthem in 1965 upon independence.

In 2000, the anthem underwent a slight change in that the official arrangement was made more solemn and inspiring. The new version, arranged by Phoon Yew Tien, was officially recorded at the Victoria Concert Hall in November of that year (where the first performance took place 42 years earlier) and was officially unveiled in January, 2001.

Although Singapore has four official languages (Malay, English, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil), the anthem is only to be sung in the original Malay lyrics, not any translation, as Malay is indigenous to the region and is designated the National Language.

Zubir Said (22 July 1907 – 16 November 1987) was a Singaporean composer originally from the Minangkabau highlands of Indonesia who composed the national anthem of Singapore, "Majulah Singapura" ("Onward Singapore"). A self-taught musician, Zubir also worked as a score arranger and songwriter for Cathay-Keris Film Productions for 12 years, composing numerous songs for the company's Malay films. He is believed to have written about 1,500 songs, with less than 10% of them ever recorded.

It has been said that Zubir was viewed by many as a composer with a "true Malay soul", as his songs were interwoven with historical messages and Malay truisms, and that he and his Minangkabau contemporaries awoke a wave of national consciousness in the 1950s.

Above is a commemorative first day cover of the 30th Anniversary of Independence of Singapore. The anthem score is shown.