The origins of the Malaysian national anthem, which was derived from the Perak State Anthem, of late have been the topic of great debate. Originally, there are indeed three versions of the story describing the origin of the Perak State Anthem – Allah Lanjutkan Usia Sultan.
The State anthem was claimed to be derived from the tune of a very popular contemporary song entitled Terang Bulan. According to 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 Azzam Shah represented the Malay Rulers of the Federated Malay States at the installation ceremony of King Edward VII in 1901. When the ship carrying Sultan Idris docked at the Southampton port, a protocol officer from the Colonial Office boarded the ship to enquire about the Perak State anthem. It was 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.
Comment: Whilst Queen Victoria met her demise in January 1901, Edward VII’s coronation was in fact in 1902. Sultan Idris was accompanied by Raja Chulan ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdullah on this trip to England in 1902, which on his return to Perak accompanied by his son, Raja Alang Iskandar, who had completed his studies in Oxford. Raja Chulan’s brother, Raja Ngah Mansur, who was ADC to Sultan Idris, did not travel to England in 1902. Furthermore, there has been no documentation of a ‘Raja Harun ibni Sultan Abdullah’ in the Perak royal family tree, provided Sultan Abdullah in this instance being Sultan Abdullah Muhammad Shah II. It is also unlikely that Raja Harun was a son of Sultan Abdullah Muhammad Shah I (SP22) as Almarhum had only three sons, none of whom was named Raja Harun.
This version was related by Raja Kamaralzaman (Raja Di-Hilir 1948-62), son of Raja Ngah Mansur who was ADC 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 Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1888. Upon the arrival of the royal entourage in London, a representative of Queen Victoria asked Raja Ngah Mansur, being the Sultan’s ADC, for the music notes of the Perak State Anthem. Protocol required that the state anthem be played as the Sultan walked into the coronation hall. To avoid embarrassment, the quick-witted Raja Ngah 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 Ngah Mansur said he could whistle the tune for the musician to write the notes. When a musician was brought forth, Raja Ngah 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 Queen Victoria Golden Jubilee in London. And it was actually the tune of Terang Bulan. This version is the one described in the website of the Sultan of Perak’s office and Portal Raja Kita.
The late Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard who was at one time the Director of the National Archives had researched on this subject. His sources were two sisters, Raja Aminah and Raja Halijah, the daughters of Sultan Abdullah, and also Raja Kamaralzaman.
According to these sisters, the first time they heard the tune La Rosalie, now known as that of Negaraku, was in Mahé, one of the Seychelles islands, where their father, Sultan Abdullah, 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. Raja (Sir) Chulan, visited his exiled family regularly and took a liking to La Rosalie, and even learnt to play it on his violin. Raja Ngah Mansur (Raja Chulan’s elder brother), had never been to the Seychelles, and it was Raja Chulan who introduced La Rosalie to Raja Ngah Mansur, possibly c.1883-5, who was then a junior officer at the secretariat. The rest of the story involving Raja Ngah Mansur whistling the tune in England in 1888 would be as per version 2.
It was believed that the melody of the song (La Rosalie) was composed by a French poet and songwriter named Pierre-Jean de Béranger who was born in France in 1780 and died in 1857. According to Raja Kamaralzaman’s story, the song was introduced by a bangsawan group from Indonesia in Singapore. Over a short span of time, the song became very popular in Singapore and was given the name Terang Bulan.
Comment: It is likely that versions 2 and 3 are to be ‘told together’. Sheppard’s interview with the two daughters of Sultan Abdullah in Taiping was elegantly described in an article in a 1960 issue of Malaya In History. A possible explanation of how Terang Bulan was made popular in the Malay archipelago is that La Rosalie was well known amongst island and seafaring folk. There was a regular steamer service that travelled from the Seychelles to Singapore, and it was inadvertently introduced to Indonesian bangsawan. Raja Kamaralzaman’s account of this to Sheppard was that the tune was then called Stamboel Satu and played in the bangsawan Indra Zanibar or Wayang/Komedie Kassim. This was likely have been the origin of Terang Bulan, which had been sung in Malay, Dutch (Terang Boelan) and English (Mamula Moon by Felix Mendelssohn & his Hawaiian Serenaders). As for whether or not La Rosalie was actually ever popular in the Seychelles in the late 19th century, a gramophone of Terang Bulan was sent by the Sheppard to the Seychelles in 1960, which was then played over the radio. It was recognised instantly by an elderly resident as a tune popular in the 1890′s. In 1963, the French ambassador in Malaysia, Pierre Anthonioz, had requested the government of Seychelles to procure the lyrics of La Rosalie:
La Rosalie assise par sa fenêtre
J’entend la pluie qui verse sur son dos
Son petit coeur qui répose a son aise
Et le mien qui n’a point de repos
In 1964, the governor (the Seychelles were still under the British then) replied and reaffirmed that the tune was recognised by some of the elderly populace, and provided the words to the song, which was still hummed at that time.
The late Raja Azaham Raja Adnan, who was previously curator of the Perak Museum in Taiping and had a strong interest in music, had described that it is debatable whether or not the state anthem is sung note-for-note like La Rosalie. Raja Azaham commented, “We (at the museum) have acquired both recorded melody of the songs. Obviously, both melodies were not the same as our national anthem, Negara Ku. I may say it was a coincidence that the three melodies were the same. We should be very comprehensive in our research, especially in song melody. What I have found was only one line of La Rosalie‘s melody that was coincidentally identical with that in Negara Ku. Whilst it is true that Negara Ku‘s melody is that of the Perak State Anthem, both anthems are, on the whole, not completely identical to La Rosalie. To argue this point, there are many instances in music that contain identical melodies despite being composed independently. P Ramlee’s Di Pinggiran has a melodic similarity to the theme from From Russia With Love sung by Matt Monroe, and there are numerous other examples. That is why music is seen to be an entity that is universal (sejagat).”
We have been informed of a fourth version of the story as described by Dr. Talib Samat, an associate professor at UPSI. According to Dr. Talib’s research that brought him to the Seychelles, the song Terang Bulan itself was composed by Sultan Abdullah himself in the Seychelles as he loved the aforementioned French tune of La Rosalie. Sultan Abdullah was then said to have himself suggested that Terang Bulan to be made the Perak State Anthem.
Comment: Whilst Sultan Abdullah during his exile may have suggested to his sons that Terang Bulan was to be made the state anthem on Raja Ngah Mansur’s trip to England with the then reigning Sultan Idris in 1888, this version is at odds with the accounts of Raja Aminah and Raja Halijah who made no comment that their father had indeed penned a tune called Terang Bulan based on La Rosalie.
The words of the Perak State Anthem:
Dilanjutkan Allah usianya Sultan
Adil dan makmur memerintah watan
Ditaati rakyat kiri dan kanan
Iman yang saleh Allah kurniakan
Allah berkati Perak Ridzuan
Allah selamatkan Negeri dan Sultan
To hear the Perak State Anthem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TB-nN6-pJs8&feature=related
2. Laman Rasmi Pejabat Sultan Perak
3. Portal Raja Kita Perak Darul Ridzuan
4. Sheppard M. The origin of Negara-Ku. Related by Raja Aminah binti Almarhum Sultan Abdullah, Raja Halijah binti Almarhum Sultan Abdullah and Raja Kamaralzaman Raja Mansur. Malaya In History. 1960; VI (1): 14-17.
5. Ponnusamy DM. Perak royal brothers made trip to England. The New Straits Times. 1992 March 23.
6. Finestones J. Raja Chulan was the Sultan’s son. The New Straits Times. 1992 March 3.
7. Mooney Datuk P. National anthem based on Terang Bulan. The New Straits Times. 1992 February 24.
8. Personal archived documents of YM Raja Kamariah Raja Kamaralzaman.
9. Dr. Talib Samat. Syurga yang hilang di Seychelles. Utusan Malaysia. 2011 May 1.