Friends Forever – Malaysia and Singapore

Alas, forget the quirky title. Search engines are dumb that way. I got the idea after seeing this huge ST pull out for “Friendship” in Singapore, as a National Day special in Singapore, and I thought it’s amusing that the most important friendship, that is of these two brother and sister countries are not mentioned enough (the page on foreigners don’t even mention Malaysia – maybe it’s too boring already), if not at all. This friendship is probably the most important friendship to keep for this nation to celebrate its 42nd birthday. Happy Birthday Singapore!

As I continue sadly to pack and get out of my place in Braddell View, I decided to take a break to reflect. I’m moving simply because my landlord from HK sold the place (exiting all investments in SG) and we’re moving to a more expensive, yet worse off place (from HUDC condo to older HDB not at lift level, squat toilets, minimal furniture, paid parking, further away from the city / work). Thanks to the property boom – which if the words of UOB chairman Wee Cho Yaw’s words are true, will end and devastate people again just like 1997 – we renters are now worse off, genuine first time home buyers are worse off, etc etc. No point lamenting anyway, just start learning how to time the market and profit as well.

But a more important reflection is in the recent spat on celebrity tuber namewee a.k.a. 明志 who, if you follow, topped the charts 🙂 Now that the powers that be at home started making a fuss, calling up his parents and all, people are starting to talk about it, which is the most important part (at least to me) of the whole production: get people to start thinking critically about these not so glamorous part of our country, and maybe also celebrate some of of quirks in our culture.

At half a million hits:
[kml_flashembed movie=”http://www.youtube.com/v/NczMNH0dbEQ” height=”300″ width=”425″ /]
Version with English Translation (heh, guess someone was more eager this time)
[kml_flashembed movie=”http://www.youtube.com/v/gyiBvJtJ5Z4″ height=”300″ width=”425″ /]
Imitation is the best form of flattery: See more related clips.

Sometime ago, I translated namewee’s first cult hit: Muar Mandarin (麻坡的华语). Actually, I still think this one is best, as later, when there was kawanku and negarakuku, I didn’t saw much value in translating it.

Turns out that I was wrong – Negarakuku touched the nerved of many people, especially the citizens of the country. At half a million hits on one single clip alone on youtube, namewee is appearing together with sensitive words like “Sedition Act” (Amen) on the papers / online. Discussions like these are found everywhere, e.g. Recom.

What I really want to repeat and hopefully will be echoed, saying this as a music arranger more than half my life, is that there is more than one way to express a “song”. The arbitrary mechanics of the melody and even the “standard” harmony should not be taken as the be all and end all simply because it’s popularized in that form. Creativity will be severely hampered and we the people will be walking robots, slaves to the mass media.

After you appreciate that fundamental point (you can further appreciate it by visiting negaraku.org – paiseh, still a bit run down currently), the next important point to understand is that a national anthem is symbol of the country. This is where I tend to diverge from the view of all the laymen: to express and celebrate the symbolism is to be able to freely express it in whatever form it means to you. The more expression, the more it becomes part of ourselves. This is a hard point, because most citizens are only exposed to one or two expression of the national anthem throughout our lives, speaking to how badly exposed we are. Compare this with the average American citizen who are exposed to one rendition of the Star Spangled Banner for every ball game they attend!!

To perhaps use some laymen analogy, consider the LYRICS of the national anthem. In the US, I often see billboards with a huge soaring eagle (symbol of US) with big words like “LAND OF THE BRAVE, HOME OF THE FREE CHECKING” used by banks to advertise their no charge checking accounts. Imagine a huge sign on Pudu saying, “TANAH TUMPAHNYA DARAHKU – DERMALAH DARAH!” ([on] The Land Where My Blood Is Spilt, Donate Blood Now!) or “RAHMAT BAHAGIA TUHAN KURNIAKAN XXX PREPAID” (God bestow His blessings and happiness on us with XXX Prepaid [mobile]) – what do you think the average citizens on the street will think? Simply because we are not exposed the various way of which our national anthem is expressed, the backlash can be extremely sour.

As to the rest of the allegations, it is not the first time our people complain. Many of the facts that are brought out are perhaps a bit too cliché already, like those of the police, of corruption, of education. Music is potent that way. Musicians have historically been used as massive weapons, think 7.7.7 Live Earth concert you’ve just watched.

Bottom line, we deserve the kind of government we vote – if you think scapegoating yet another musician is that way out of this mess, or destructing the messenger (i.e. ban youtube, just like how Thailand did it because it carries clips that defame the king), so be it. If you think something else is wrong, think harder and hope you find a resolution quick (do share here with me). The elections are around the corner.

p/s bring back the LSO recorded version of Negaraku that used to be played at the end of transmission on TV3 when I grew up – I still think that the one!

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2 Responses

  1. btw i have watched negarakuku clip many many many times and now i know your country’s anthem quite by heart, but only the rap version 😉

    majulah singapura dan malaysia

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