[i have written regarding the origin of negaraku as a footnote for my 48th merdeka blog entry here. since this topic has somewhat raised its ugly head recently, buluh runcing notwithstanding, i thought of expanding the aforementioned footnote somewhat.]

“we have an indonesian keronchong tune as an anthem.”
“no lah, it’s a hawaiian tune. mamula something.”
“wait, it’s a bangsawan tune which was played a lot in singapore.”

the origin of negaraku has been debated for some time. i don’t admit to know the answers, but following my short trip home for hari raya, i have collected some information from my aunt, YM raja kamariah raja kamaralzaman, in the form of old paper clippings, photocopies from the archives at seychelles and a copy of the july 1960 issue of ‘malaya in history’, a journal of the malayan historical society edited by (the late) haji mubin sheppard, all of which proved to be insightful reading.

there was a french tune called la rosalie penned by a late 18th century french poet by the name pierre-jean de béranger. the song went like this (just sing it to the tune of negaraku – easy kan?):

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

(the last two lines are repeated, just like our national anthem)

there are two more verses, but you get my point. la rosalie was well known by people in the seychelles, especially by sailors on the island, who hummed and whistled the tune.

in sheppard’s 1960 article, he spoke to my great-grandaunt, YM raja aminah binti almarhum sultan abdullah (fondly known as tok minah, a keen pianist who spoke malay in a strange accent – she was born in mahé, what do you expect?), and my grandfather, YAM raja kamaralzaman raja mansur. tok minah, and her elder sister YM raja halijah (tok suri), clearly recalled hearing la rosalie as a child growing up in the seychelles. she described a french band which gave a public performance every tuesday near HRH sultan abdullah’s residence at the seafront. her brother, raja (sir) chulan, visited the exiled family regularly and took a liking to la rosalie, and even learnt to play it on his violin. my great grand-dad, raja mansur (raja chulan’s elder brother), had never been to the seychelles, and it was raja chulan who introduced la rosalie to raja mansur in 1883-5(ish), who was then a junior officer at the secretariat.

there are a few accounts on how this tune came about to be the perak anthem. in sheppard’s interview with granddad, tok kam described that raja mansur was HRH sultan sir idris murshidul azam shah’s aide-de-camp, who accompanied the sultan to england. there are two arguments (even in wikipedia – see here and here) about the exact occasion and date when this occurred. tok kam detailed the event to be in 1888 during which HRH sultan sir idris was invited to london by queen victoria, when raja mansur was 24 years old. some people argued that raja mansur couldn’t have been an ADC in 1888 as he would have been too young, and provided the alternative date of 1902, which was the coronation of edward VII. interestingly, according to the arkib negara photographic records, it was raja chulan who accompanied HRH sultan sir idris to london in 1902.

if tok kam’s story is correct, this makes raja mansur’s date of birth to be 1864. some accounts have described his year of birth to be 1867 or 1868, but either way, he wouldn’t have been too young to be an ADC to HRH sultan sir idris in 1888. besides, following sheppard’s interview of tok minah, raja mansur was already a secretariat officer in 1883.

and the story went of how raja mansur hummed the tune on the spot when asked for the perak anthem. he then told HRH sultan sir idris to stand to attention when the bandmaster plays the tune, as, lo and behold, perak has an anthem. and the first malay state to have one, too! years later, in a competition held in search of the national anthem in 1957, the late tunku abdul rahman al-haj chose the melody of the perak anthem, Allah lanjutkan usia Sultan, as our nation’s own.

therefore, it is hard to believe that negaraku originated from terang bulan. or mamula moon. the thing is, all three tunes have the same origin. and that ain’t the same thing as calling our national anthem a keronchong tune. as mentioned above, 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. tok 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 [click here for a description of a handbill of the bangsawan]. this would have been the origin of terang bulan, which had been sung in malay, dutch (terang boelan) and english (by felix mendelssohn & his hawaiian serenaders).

historical recollection of events can be distorted, especially when there are limitations of the historical sources themselves. as for whether or not la rosalie was ever popular in the seychelles in the late 18th century, a gramophone of terang bulan was sent by the late haji mubin 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. 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 (see above) to the song, which was still hummed at that time.

1. 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.
2. Ponnusamy DM. Perak royal brothers made trip to England. The New Straits Times. 1992 March 23.
3. Finestones J. Raja Chulan was the Sultan’s son. The New Straits Times. 1992 March 3.
4. Mooney Datuk P. National anthem based on Terang Bulan. The New Straits Times. 1992 February 24.
5. Raja Yusuf Izzudin, Raja Shahriman. Almarhum Sultan Idris I of Perak with Raja Chulan and Sir Hugh Clifford, London; 1902. Sembangkuala; 2009 June 25. Available from: http://sembangkuala.wordpress.com/2009/06/25/almarhum-sultan-idris-of-perak-with-raja-chulan-and-sir-hugh-clifford-london-1902/
6. Personal archives of YM Raja Kamariah Raja Kamaralzaman.
7. Sullivan P. Social relations of dependence in a Malay state: nineteenth century Perak. Monograph No: 10. Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.


this post has generated some interest, more so from my cousin, YM raja azaham adnan, previously curator of the taiping museum. apart from his opinion given in the comment section below, this is the follow-up which he gave on facebook:

How Negeri Perak got her State Anthem

There’re two versions as mentioned in your note of how the Perak state got her state anthem. The second one might be more to it, to detail out as follows.

As mentioned, HRH Sultan Idris Murshidul Azam Shah was the ruler of Perak from 1887 to 1916. He represented the rulers of the Federated Malay States at the installation of King Edward VII in 1901. When the ship carrying His Royal Highness docked at the port, protocol officers from colonial office boarded the ship to enquire about the Perak state anthem. It was the pratice in those day (until now) to play state anthem of the visiting Sultan on his arrival in England.

Ketika itu Negeri Perak tanpa lagu kebangsaannya. Seorang dari ADC Sultan, Raja Harun bin Sultan Abdullah, merupakan seorang ahli muzik. Walaupun Perak ketika itu tanpa lagu kebangsaannya, Raja Harun telah menyatakan mereka mempunyai lagunya, tetapi tertinggal nota-nota melodinya. Namun begitu beliau mengatakan boleh bermain lagu tersebut tanpa notanya.

Dengan izin DYMM Sultan, beberapa pemuzik colonial telah menyiapkan nota-notanya. Lagu tersebut merupakan lagu gubahan semula yang satu atau dua barisan kedengaran saperti lagu La Rosalie atau Terang Bulan. Lirik lagu enam baris telah dikarang oleh Raja Chulan dan Raja Mansur, semuanya anakanda-anakanda Sultan Abdullah.

Tetapi, sebagaimana saya nyatakan sebelum ini, lagu tersebut telah digubah semula, dengan mempunyai air lagu kemelayuan. Mungkin sebaris dua bunyi saperti lagu Terang Bulan atau La Rosalie. Itu tidak mengapa. Lagunya evergreen, simple dan sedap didengar sehingga sekarang. Kini kita patut berbangga dengan usaha yg di buat anakanda-anakanda Sultan Abdullah ketika itu. Siapa yang tahu?

Sekembali DYMM Sultan Idris di Perak pada awal 1902, lagu negeri Perak yang baru ini dinyanyikan di sekolah- sekolah seluruh negeri Perak sehingga sekarang dengan lirik yg asalnya. Saya juga pernah menyanyikan lagu tersebut sewaktu di sekolah di Perak dahulu.