It's almost impossible to imagine the Jalur Gemilang being raised without the beautiful melody of Negaraku playing in the background. The majestic tune and powerful lyrics like 'tanah tumpahnya darahku' are seared into the hearts and minds of Malaysians everywhere.
The choice in picking Negaraku as the national anthem 1957, when Malaya gained independence. A worldwide competition was launched on the advice of then-Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. However, even though over 500 entries were received, none were deemed suitable. As a result, the decision was made to use the melody from the Perak State Anthem instead.
Before the government finally decided on the Perak anthem, they had also asked several notable composers to submit their works for consideration, including Sir William Walton, who had previously composed the march for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation and Zubir Said, who would later compose the Singaporean national anthem, Majulah Singapura.
Another famous composer whose submission was rejected was Bejamin Britten, one of the foremost composers of British classical music in the 20th century.
Though he was world-renowned, Britten had only ever been to Malaysia once in his life and that too was only for a few hours. It was during a world tour in 1956, and Britten, terrified that he would be shot by communists, described the visit as "hair-raising".
According to Britten himself, he struggled unsuccessfully for two days to write suitable music and eventually produced something that he himself described as a "curious and rather unsuccessful job".
When they heard the score, the Malayan government asked Britten if he could make it sound more Malayan and sent him several recordings of folk music, hoping he could give his melody a more local flavour. Though he obliged, Britten's view perhaps reflected the colonial mindset of the time, as he described the folk music as "the oddest noises" he had ever heard.
Mervyn Cooke, an expert on Britten's music, told the BBC in 2015 that Britten only accepted the composition for two reasons: he wanted to write 'useful' music and the payment for the work was quite high despite it being a short piece.
Cooke also said he suspected the Malayan government rejected the piece because they didn't want a tune composed by an Englishman to be used as their national anthem after getting independence from the British.
Whatever the case, after listening to Britten's composition, we feel it's nowhere close to being as beautiful as our Negaraku.
What do you think?
Image credit: Says
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