This article was published in Malaysiakini with the title 'Will Negaraku be stripped of all remaining dignity?' on August 1, 2003 and in The Star with the title 'Old version of national anthem is more inspiring' on August 3, 2003. This is followed by a news report in The Star on August 7, 2003 entitled 'National anthem to revert to its stately pace' and another commentary on the same day entitled 'Our national anthem does not need any changes' by Nationalistic.
I refer to the article entitled 'National anthem to be rearranged' which was published in The Star on July 31, 2003 (page 26). It was reported that the anthem would be rearranged for the second time with a new and more energetic beat and the title and lyric would be changed from Negaraku to Malaysiaku.
I could clearly remember that it was just a little bit over ten years ago that the tune was given a new abominable marching tempo, which totally denuded it off its original motif of majestic splendour. At that time, as it is now, I could not understand the reason behind the change except that it reflected our Government's lack of respect for the sanctity of our national symbols of Independence.
The original Negaraku which was chosen as the national anthem in 1957, when we gained Independence from Britain, was a piece of music capturing the essence of our national identity at that time. Our society's values have always remained the same as they had been for 46 years, and therefore I do not see the need to alter the tune in any other way, including the alteration made in 1992.
The original version of the anthem is one of the most beautiful and inspiring musical composition in the world, that can be equated to Britain's 'God Save The Queen' and The United States 'Star Spangled Banner'.
It begins 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 1992 version took away all these passion from the national anthem when it introduced a uniformed marching rhythm. I fear that with the current change in the title from Negaraku to Malaysiaku, and the proposed quickening of the tempo again, our national song will ultimately be stripped bare of any remaining dignity.
I believe that the nation is just as curious as I am about why the Government is pressing for a second change in just 11 years after the first one was made. Has the Government lost its confidence in the ability of the original anthem to unite the nation and to instil patriotism? Or are we changing it just for the sake of change?
I have always thought that national symbols such as the anthem, flag and monuments, are to be treasured and respected. These items have been passed down to us for conservation and not desecration. How are we supposed to teach our children to respect our national heritage, if it is not permanent enough for them to appreciate it?
National anthems are not Hollywood movie theme songs that change from one sequel to another. Our national anthem, in its original form, is a masterpiece by itself and should be immortalized as such. Artists do not repaint Mona Lisa's smile once every ten years. Neither do composers rearrange Beethoven's Ninth Symphony once every 20 years. Malaysia is only about to celebrate its 46th. year of Independence, but we are already witnessing the second revision of the national anthem.
Why has this only been recently announced, when the plan is already in its final stages of approval? Why wasn't the public informed earlier so that their views could be taken into account? In my opinion, rearranging the national anthem is a very serious undertaking, which almost amounts to altering the Constitution of the country. In a democratic country like Malaysia, big decisions that affect people from all generations and all walks of life should be taken only after consulting and reviewing the will and consensus of the people.
Malaysians have a tendency to believe that new things are better than older ones. We constantly discard time tested concepts and ideas to embrace new ones without first assessing whether it is more superior or whether there is a need for it. This attitude clearly exhibits our lack of appreciation for originality and function.
The Government has always been saying that Malaysians are not grateful for what they already have. I suggest that our leaders take this golden opportunity to revert the present national anthem to its original 1957 soulful version, in order to demonstrate that they themselves are grateful to the founding fathers of this nation, for passing on this symbol of Independence.
We should learn to conserve our heritage rather than maiming it every now and then to suit our whims and fancy. Like all modern consumer societies of the world today, Malaysians have a 'use once and discard' mentality towards most things. We need to rectify this mentality soon and understand that not everything is disposable like plastic cups and paper napkins.
The national anthem has been in the hearts of Malaysians from all walks of life for many generations. Although it belongs to the whole nation, it will always invoke a special meaning in each individual. The anthem's unifying appeal should never be taken for granted and it should be reinstated back to its original form.
My father gave me a very good advice when I was younger, and I believe it still applies today:
"If a thing is not damaged and it still in good working condition, do not mend it".
The 1957 version of the Negaraku was, and still is one of the most beautiful and patriotic musical compositions ever written. Please do not attempt to mend it.
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The Star news report on Thursday, August 07, 2003
It will still be the same Negaraku that we grew up with except that it will be slightly faster than the original one, said a high-ranking Information Ministry source.
The 1957 arrangement captured the essence of our national identity but after it was changed to a marching rhythm in 1992, this essence was lost.
It appears to have failed to invoke that patriotic passion, he said.
Apart from retaining the original melody, the lyric Negaraku will be replaced by Malaysiaku. The rest of the lyrics remained the same.
The tune was borrowed from a popular song of that time, Terang Bulan, which originated from the state anthem of Perak.
It was chosen for the national anthem by a panel of judges headed by Tunku Abdul Rahman, who was the Prime Minister when the Federation of Malaya gained independence from the British in 1957.
Last week, Utusan Malaysia reported that composer Datuk Wah Idris had been entrusted with the new music score which, it added, was to be presented to the Cabinet.
The new version of the national anthem will make its official debut on National Day on Aug 31.
The Information Ministry source said four composers, including from the army and police force orchestras had submitted their variations of the arrangements.
RTM music director Datuk Mokhzani Ismail, who was among those who had submitted the variations, said:
The original version was beautiful and inspiring. It holds a special place in our hearts. We sang it with pride and as a pledge of loyalty to King and country.
So, if there is any attempt to change it then it should be done in a dignified manner.
The Star Letters to Editor Section on Thursday, August 07, 2003 by Nationalistic
I FULLY support Pelita Negaras comments regarding the impending change to the national anthem Negara Ku, Old version of national anthem is more inspiring, (Sunday Star, July 31).
The last change made to Negara Ku was to increase the beat. Ten years later, apparently not only is the beat too slow but also the name Negara Ku is deemed not up to standard.
After this what will be next? Will our national flag Jalur Gemilang be deemed old fashioned too?
I suppose if we can demolish the Stadium Negara, the cradle of our independence, without blinking an eye, then we can do anything.
Change is necessary in a changing environment. I for one will support any change that will bring a better tomorrow.
Like Pelita Negara, I agree that when we change, it must be for the better.
There are certain things in life one does not change. For example, one does not change ones family name. If one does it, it is usually to hide something.
I dont know of anything in our national anthem that necessitates such a move.
If old buildings can be protected as heritage buildings, then add the national anthem to the endangered list.
Should there really be a need to change Negara Ku again, please do not leave such decision to some individuals. Hold a national referendum if necessary.