Did You Know: Malaysia's National Anthem 'Negaraku' Was Created From Perak's State Anthem
As a symbol of unity and patriotism, picturing Malaysia without the resonating notes of our national anthem, Negaraku, feels almost unthinkable.
However, did you know that it was based off one of our state anthems?
In 1957, the Federation of Malaya was gearing up towards a once-in-a-lifetime moment — independence day. Yet, at the time, there was no national anthem for the federation as a whole, despite the 11 states, which made up Malaya at the time, each possessing their own regional anthem.
With an intention to fill this gap, the person who would become Malaysia's Founding Father, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, made it his purpose to ensure that the Federation of Malaya would have a national anthem.
Acting as the Chief Minister and Minister of Home Affairs at the time, Tunku Abdul Rahman proceeded to organise and preside over a committee, called the Special Committee of the National Anthem Selection (JKPLK), which worked towards choosing a suitable national anthem for the country.
By February 1957, an official worldwide anthem contest was held, resulting in 514 entries that were collected by the committee, in hopes that one of them may become Malaya's first national anthem. Unfortunately, every option was rejected and simply deemed unsuitable.
Attempting to cast a wider net, the committee then decided to invite a select number of composers of international repute to submit compositions as options for the national anthem.
Among those invited were English composer Benjamin Britten, the man who composed the march for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 (Sir William Walton), Italian operatic composer Gian Carlo Menotti, and Singaporean composer Zubir Said.
However, none succeeded in producing a suitable national anthem for the federation, with Britten citing that his submission was purely a "curious and I'm afraid, rather unsuccessful job".
After some time and consideration, Tunku Abdul Rahman then suggested to the committee that the state anthem of Perak be used as the basis for creating the new national anthem
Agreeing with his suggestion, it was officially announced on 5 August 1957 that the Perak State Anthem would be used to create the national anthem. The basis of this selection was said to be the "traditional flavour" that was found in the melody of the anthem.
Titled Allah Lanjutkan Usia Tuanku, the members of JKPLK quickly got to work to create a national anthem worthy of representing what would soon become Malaysia. With the help of multiple qualified professionals, the score for Negaraku was provided by Alfonso Soliano, Leader of the Radio Orchestra of Malaya; DSP Croff, the Music Director of the Royal Police Band; Captain Lenthall, Music Director of the Malay Military Band of Port Dickson; and AT Reed, the General Director of Radio Malaya.
Additionally, the committee also worked together in curating the lyrics of Negaraku, upon the agreement of the Malay Sultans at the time.
Listen to the similarity of the Perak State Anthem and Negaraku:
At the stroke of midnight on 31 August 1957, Negaraku was played for the first time at the Royal Selangor Club Field
Alongside the anthem, the historical moment also saw the lowering of the Union Jack flag, which was then replaced with the flag of the Malay Peninsula (which would later become the Jalur Gemilang in 1997).
Later that day, Tunku Abdul Rahman would conduct what would now be referred to as the Malayan Declaration of Independence at 9.30am in Merdeka Stadium.
Through the years, Negaraku has gone through a number of revisions. In 1992, the anthem was given a faster march beat, which proved to be unpopular among the people. In 2003, it was reported that Negaraku was to be rearranged for the second time, with the title and text in the anthem to be changed from Negaraku to Malaysiaku.
After a public outcry, the move was soon scrapped, with the anthem returning to its pre-1992 form after that point.
While it was no easy feat, the history that surrounds the efforts that contributed towards creating Malaysia's national anthem will remain a true symbol of pride for our nation