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The Rakyat Post
Benjamin's Britten, one of the renowned composers who were hired to compose a national anthem for Malaysia in 1957. — hpo.org. pic
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OUR national anthem Negaraku could have sounded completely different if the tune created by famous English composer Benjamin Britten was accepted by the government then.
A recent report by BBC News quotes Alex Marshall, author of Republic or Death! Travels in Search of National Anthems, said Britten’s composition — which has a more gentle touch — talks about Malaysians living together and their desire for the king to have a long and successful reign.
Not that it’s far-fetched from what we have now but Britten’s original composition may have averted the whole argument of whether or not Negaraku was adapted from the original 1940s Hawaiian song Mamula Moon or Indonesia’s Terang Bulan (which technically is an Indonesian adaptation of Mamula Moon).
When the first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman’s committee created a competition to compose the national anthem of Malaysia in 1957, a total of 514 entries were received but they were all rejected.
The committee then hired reputable composers to submit their compositions. This included Britten, Sir William Walton, Gian Carlo Menotti and Zubir Said (who later composed the national anthem for Singapore) but their work were all turned down as well.
The government finally resorted to Perak’s state anthem which is said to have been adapted from a French melody composed by Pierre Jean de Beranger.
The report said the government never gave a reason for rejecting Britten’s composition but another author Mervyn Cooke — who has written about Britten — guessed that it was probably because Britten was an Englishman and since Malaysia was just gaining her independence from the British, the whole idea would’ve been awkward.
Marshall said Britten too was equally surprised that he was chosen to compose a national anthem for Malaysia and apparently “struggled for two days to write something suitable” and when he finally completed the composition, he called it “a curious & I’m afraid rather unsuccessful job”
Marshall added the composition was never publicly played after the rejection except for that one time in 2007, at a London concert, to celebrate 50 years of Malaysian independence.
Here’s what Britten’s composition sounds like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fY1Y4rSUo8
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