31st August 1957. An important day. A historic day. The day when Freedom rang from the hills and echoed through the street. When “Merdeka” was the only song that could be heard in the air.
Our ancestors struggled and died, side by side to make reality the only thing Man desires above all else, Freedom. Allegiance to one self, to be unbound from the shackles of oppression, to be at liberty to raise ones family and die peace, it is what we have desired through history and will do so forever.
This sudden urge of patriotism came about only last night when my friend Karuna showed me “Tanggal 31 Ogos”- sang by the legendary singer, the late Dato Sudirman Arshad in 1982 . To older readers this song may be famous but I had never heard it before
First written and sung by Ahmad C.B from Medan, Indonesia, this version is truly a classic. The song basically talks about the day Malaysia received its independence from the British, the 31st of August 1957 and asks all Malaysians regardless of colour and race together to come together to shout, sing and celebrate Freedom with unrestrained passion and joy on this beautiful and joyous day, which is sure to have made an indelible mark on history.
It has everything from lively, upbeat rhythms that make you want to dance along (atleast it made Karuna and I want to) as well as sombre, serious tunes that reflect the gravity of the situation to sweet, beautiful melodies that embody the sweetness of Freedom. The song is sung with so much passion and love for the concept of “Merdeka” that it’s powerful enough to transcend borders and unite us as human beings seeking our basic right, that of Freedom.
Hearing it for the first time gave me goosebumps and every time I hear it, I am captured my a fierce love of my country, which I cannot adequately describe, but akin to falling in love. I know we have a beautiful anthem which I would not change, but I consider this song to be an alternative anthem and one that truly captures the essence of Independence that “Negaraku” cannot.
Its weird, because I am no patriot. I love my country and know about its oddly frustrating history just as any other Malaysian does but I am not blind towards the frustrating levels of ineptitude, inefficiency, high levels of corruption and strange government policies that characterize this country. The lack of transparency and freedom of speech, while still better than other countries, is nothing to shout about. I do not feel a deep sense of belonging to Malaysia, nor am I overly attached. I am in many ways, on the proverbial fence.
In many ways, I found that I rediscovered the love I have for Malaysia through this song. Long may it continue.
To my fellow Malaysians and to international visitors, what about your country do you love and why? Would love to hear your thoughts.