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History of the National Anthem

According to records there are two sources relating to the origin of the National Anthem before the song Negaraku became the National Anthem of Malaysia. The same tune was once the State Anthem of Perak and it was also the tune of a very popular contemporary song entitled Terang Bulan. According to Tuan Haji Mustapha Albakri, the tune was used as the Perak State anthem for the first time in England in 1901 during the installation of King Edward VII.

Sultan Idris Murshidul’adzam Shah was the Ruler of the State of Perak from 1887 to 1916. He represented the Malay Rulers of the Federated Malay States at the installation ceremony of King Eward VII in 1901. When the ship carrying His Royal Highness docked at the Southampton Port, a protocol officer from the Colonial Office boarded the ship to enquire about the Perak State anthem. It was a practice in those days, to play the state or national anthem of the visiting head of state or king on his arrival in England.

At that time Perak did not have a State anthem. It so happened that Raja Harun bin Sultan Abdullah, the private secretary to the Sultan, was himself a musician. Although Perak did not have a State anthem, Raja Harun refused to admit it. He told the protocol officer that Perak had its State anthem, but the music sheets were not brought along. Nevertheless, he said that he could play the song without looking at the notes.

After hearing the explanation, the protocol officer allowed Raja Harun to proceed. The tune that he played was actually Terang Bulan. So Terang Bulan was played for the first time on English soil in 1901. Since then, the tune was adopted as the Perak State anthem until it became the tune for the National Anthem.

Another story about the origin of Negaraku was related by Raja Kamarulzaman, son of Raja Mansur who used to serve as aide-de-camp to Sultan Idris. According to him, Terang Bulan was first used as the tune for the Perak State anthem when Sultan Idris visited London in 1888, one year after he was installed as Sultan. His visit to London was in conjunction with the Coronation of Queen Victoria in 1888. Upon the arrival of the royal entourage in London, a representative of Queen Victoria asked Raja Mansur, the aide-de- camp of Sultan Idris, for the note of the Perak State anthem. Protocol required that the Perak State anthem be played as the Sultan walked into the coronation hall. To avoid embarrassment, the quick-witted Raja Mansur told the representative of the Queen that the music sheets for the State anthem had been left behind. However, if the officer could get a musician, Raja Mansur said he could whistle the tune for the musician to write the notes. When a musician was brought forth, Raja Mansur whistled the song that was very popular among the Perak people at that time. So the Perak State anthem was officially played for the first time during the coronation of Queen Victoria in London. And it was actually the tune of Terang Bulan.

Tuan Haji Mubin Sheppard who was at one time the Director of the National Archives had done a research on the origin of Negaraku. His sources were two sisters, Raja Aminah and Raja Halijah, the daughters of Sultan Abdullah and also Raja Kamarulzaman. According to these sisters, the first time they heard the tune, now known as that of Negaraku, was in Mahe, one of the Seychelles islands, where their father, the former Sultan of Perak, lived in exile. They said the song was very popular there and very often played by a French band which usually played a variety of songs and held concerts for the people of that island. It was believed that the melody of the song was composed by a French musician named Pierre Jean de Beranger who was born in France in 1780 and died in 1857.

According to Raja Kamarulzaman’s story, the song was introduced by an opera group from Indonesia during a show in Singapore. Over a short span of time the song became very popular in Singapore and was given the name Terang Bulan. Even after the song had become the tune for the Perak State anthem, it was still played at social functions. It remained as such until it became the tune for the Malaysian National anthem named Negaraku.


In 1956, all the states already had their own anthem. However, a song that could be made a national anthem had yet to be identified. As Malaya was poised for independence at the time, it was thought appropriate that the country should be ready with its own national anthem. Tunku Abdul Rahman, who was the Chief Minister and Minister of Interior Affairs of Malaya, decided that a national anthem be composed before the Independence Day. Hence a committee was formed to select a song as the national anthem for the soon-to-be independent Malaya.

Tunku Abdul Rahman suggested that a competition be held for composing the National Anthem. The Tunku’s suggestion was agreed to and implemented. The competition which was not restricted to Malayan composers but open to composers throughout the world, resulted in 514 songs compositions. A committee was formed to analyze all the songs and select the most suitable one. The committee consisted of:

Chairman :
1.Y.T.M. Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Alhaj

Members :
2.Tuan Haji Mustafa Albakri, Penyimpan Mohor Besar Raja-Raja Melayu mewakili Raja-Raja.
3.Dato’ Abdul Razak Hussein, Menteri Pelajaran.
4.Encik Ya’akob Latiff, Pengarah Penerangan.
5.Encik D.S.P. Croft, Pengarah Muzik, Band Polis Persekutuan.
6.Kapt. Lenthall, Pangarah Muzik, Askar Melayu.
7.Encik A.T. Read, Pengarah Penyiaran Radio.

The committee members were diligent in their task. They examined each of the 514 songs that were submitted but found none suitable for the national anthem. It then decided to invite selected renowned composers as another option in their search for a suitable song. A few songwriters of international repute were specially invited to compose the national anthem. They were:

(a) Benjamin Britten,
(b) Sir William Walton,
(c) Carlo Manetti, and
(d) Zubir Said.

They composed a number of songs which were considered by a special panel of judges. The panel conceded that all the songs were of a high standard but none was suitable as a national anthem.

Despite the song-writing competition and the competitions from renowned song writers, a suitable song was yet to be found. This prompted the committee to consider the existing State anthems, with the hope of coming up with the right tune. The Perak State anthem was found to be the most suitable and was then selected as the tune national anthem of independent Malaya and later of Malaysia. A panel of judges wrote the lyrics for the national anthem with Y.T.M Tunku Abdul Rahman playing a significant role.


Tanah tumpahnya darahku
Rakyat hidup bersatu dan maju
Rahmat bahagia Tuhan kurniakan
Raja kita selamat bertakhta
Rahmat bahagia Tuhan kurniakan
Raja kita selamat bertakhta

MP3: Malaysia anthem, Negaraku

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