Friday, 9 July 2010

The song of a nation

I watched the football World Cup semi-final match between Spain and Germany early yesterday morning. Before each game starts, the national anthem of the two countries are played. I had not previously paid any attention to the anthems played at the previous matches but this time round I was quite captivated by the national song of Germany. It has a beautiful melody and to my mind, is the best anthem I have heard so far.

This prompted me to do a bit of online reading on this subject. According to Wikipedia, a national anthem is a patriotic musical composition recognized by a nation's government as the official national song or by convention through the use by its people. They are played on national holidays and festivals, and have also come to be closely connected with sporting events. Most of the best-known anthems were written by little-known or unknown composers. For example, the author of the British national anthem `God Save The Queen' cannot be verified or is disputed.

In rare cases, there are anthems of some countries that were written by famous composers. Germany is one such example. Their anthem titled `Das Deutschlandlied' (The Song of Germany) was written by classical composer Joseph Hadyn. No wonder it sounds so lovely.

By comparison, our national anthem Negaraku, is based on a folk song called Terang Bulan. This song is said to be adopted from a French composition titled La Rosalie written by Pierre-Jean de BĂ©ranger. It was originally popular in the Seychelles islands, where the Sultan of Perak was living in exile. I am a bit amused upon reading how the melody came to be the Perak state anthem which later got selected to be Malaya's anthem upon independence. Even well before that date, a version of the song was commercially recorded under the title of Mamula Moon with a distinctive Hawaiian tune. You can google the title for a Youtube video and listen for yourself.

I then read up on the anthem of Spain, the other country in the second semi-final game. Interestingly, Spain's national song La Marcha Real (The Royal March), has no official lyrics. No wonder I didn't see any of the Spanish players singing when their anthem was played. Imagine that... a national anthem with no words. If Negaraku was a wordless song, then we would be standing still during weekly school assemblies just listening to it being played, with no need for our voices to be heard.


HLiza said...

Banyaknya masa buat research..tak pahamlah saya Perak masih pakai lagu tu sampai sekarang..budak2 ni tak ada can nak belajar lagu2 lain macam negeri2 lain. Ingat lagi lagu Melaka..toya tapi best gak lah bagi budak kecik.

Aizan Suhaira said...

If Negaraku was a wordless anthem, we'd all do the hoola in the school hall.

ladymarko said...

Can't imagine a national anthem without words... not being able to collectively express one's love for the country, a song without emotions because it's usually the lyrics that evoke emotions...

Oldstock said...


You got a point there about the state anthems. Kita jarang dengar lagu negeri selain dari negeri kita sendiri. Lagu negeri Johor pun saya ingat-ingat lupa..

Oldstock said...


The rhythm of Negaraku is too slow for the hoola, heheh...

Oldstock said...


Yeah, it's very strange not being able to sing to the national anthem.

There's a reason behind Spain's wordless anthem. Spain is actually a multi-lingual, multi-racial country. Maybe they couldn't decide which particular version of lyrics to adopt.

Shahieda said...

It's my first visit here, Sir :)

South Africa's anthem is the only anthem sung in more than one language. In fact there are five languages used in it.

South Africa has 11 official languages. I suppose that would be the reason for SA's anthem, it's diversity. We are known as the 'Rainbow Nation' after all :)

Oldstock said...

Salam Shahieda from South Africa,

Welcome to this blog. I have noticed you (or a mention of you) in the other Malaysian bloggers pages... especially with regards to your friendship with the late Raden Galoh.

Thank you for dropping a line here and do visit again soon.

So in South Africa, which language would take priority in singing the anthem... if say, you are only allowed to sing one?

Shahieda said...

Wasalam Sir,

Yes, I've visited Malaysia last year and met all the bloggers you mention, particularly Dalilah, Alghumdulillah.

Well, the anthem is literally sung in five languages. Priority is set on the five languages I mention, not particularly just one. Meaning, the first few verses in one language, the second few verses in another and so forth. I take it that you didn't watch SA play??

You're welcome to check Wikipaedia and search for SA national anthem. There's a breakdown of the anthem as well as the translation :)

Oldstock said...


Thanks for the reply. Sorry I didn't watch any of the games played by South Africa... I was actually rooting for Ghana, but they couldn't take their penalty kicks properly.