...musings of a Malaysian in a foreign land.
I was reading about national anthems and patriotic songs in another blog when I remember having written something about it:
WHEN I left my country for these foreign shores, the tuneful notes of patriotism that clung to my mind were mostly in the gusto baritone of Jamaludin Alias, belting away lines that would have raised the spirits of even the most cynical of Malaysians abroad.
These were songs that would have pulled you up to your feet, and walk proudly with your head held high. Songs like "Malaysia kita sudah berjaya..." and Perajurit Tanah Air were practised in earnest in schools and colleges throughout the land days before Merdeka Day, sending a rush of patriotic feeling in all.
These same songs I heard years later filling the chilly, foreign air of the Birmingham National Indoor Arena when flag-waving Malaysians from near and far sang as they cheered on Rashid Sidek and other Malaysian players at the annual All England Badminton Championship. Never mind that they rarely got to bring the cup home. The spirit was there.
I remember one year when Malaysia was playing against Indonesia in the finals. Malaysian supporters, drapped in Malaysian flags filled half the NIA, while the Indonesian supporters, not even a quarter. Gosh, I could feel the rush of emotions as we all sang the lyrics, "Sebelum kita berjaya...jangan harap kami pulang..." The Indonesians had more faith in their players and were quiet. And we lost, and somewhere from the corner of the arena, as we were leaving, we heard a group singing sadly, "Pulang, marilah kita pulangggggg..."
Anyway, I never realised that there were so many new patriotic songs until I was given the task of training a choir group for one occassion here. There's the beautiful and melodious Sejahtera Malaysia sung by Siti Nurhaliza, the equally heartwrenching Setia and of course the future-to-behold Wawasan songs.
The response of the choir group was a heavy emotional overload. Perhaps I underestimated what it was like to be a Malaysian abroad, but the response from Malaysians here was totally unexpected. Everyone wanted to be involved.
I blinked back tears as I watched five to six-year-olds mime lines like "rela berkorban apa saja... and I wondered whether they understood the meaning of the lyrics penned with such strong emotions. Did they harbour the same strong feelings and awareness that we, as kids at school, once had when told that these songs were for Malaysia? Perhaps not. There was here something a bit more, that special ingredient that made all of us, being abroad, feel so close to home.
Amongst the youngsters were children of my own who were blissfully unaware of Malaysian patriotic songs until they turned up for that first practice session in Malaysia Hall. We had played our old songs for them just to give them an inkling of what music was like in the old home but indifference was the order of the day. Our quaint lilting keroncong was no contest for The Corrs or the Boyzones of the day.
Undoubtedly, parents of children born and brought up in a foreign land have this extra task of educating their offspring in their culture, language and values. What more patriotism. It's no easy task. I once taught them the National Anthem. The first line was as easy as pie. It was the second that proved tricky, in fact downright difficult. How do you translate tanah tumpahnya darahku to someone untutored in the hyperbolic inclinations of the Malay language? Don't get me wrong. This wasn't a rejection of their motherland. I still treasure the memory of my eldest son, now in his twenties, who was so proud of being Malaysian that he would rush upstairs to put on his batik shirt whenever we had visitors from the home country.
Sure, being Malaysian is more than being kitted out in a batik shirt. We are still working hard on it. As for the values, there's no problem there. We defend vigorously our traditional and eastern values in the face of strong peer influence, especially when dealing with our two older ones who were educated in a Saudi school. They may have strong Arabic accents and mannerisms but they are Malaysians by far.
H is speaking more Malay, thanks partly to his early infatuation with Siti Nurhaliza and her songs which he heard during one visit home. We say this proudly even if he thinks berbicara di satu ketika (in a Nurhaliza song) means holding an amorous conversation on a mat, having mistaken tika for tikar!
And while Malaysians are flocking to the Soccer Mania shop in London to buy Manchester United shirts, my sons are proud to wear the Malaysian football stripes. But, as they grow older, because of the acceptance of the Malaysian community, especially the expat community in London, they are becoming more involved in activities organised for Malaysians in London, even seeking them out in Hyde Park on Wednesday afternoons for a bout of rambunctious football.
I remember how proud our youngest was to be able to carry the bunga manggar at a Malaysian wedding. The third was pleased as punch when she was asked to distribute the bunga telor. Our second child, whose only other traditional dance she knew was the belly dance, is now actively involved in traditional Malay dances since her first performance at a shopping centre in north London. She did Ulit Mayang beautifully - a legend from Terengganu, her father's birthplace and which he proudly claims is the only country in the world. He he!
Coming back to patriotic songs, there have been questions raised as to whether we still need them as we have acquired our independence and achieved what was once pronounced unachievable by the west. We no longer have the threats of enemies, internal or external, but the answer must remain yes because they have been testing times. And it was during this times that we need that stir of emotions again.
Being 12,800km away, it is always a treat to sometimes watch and even participate in Malaysian cultural events. It reminds us of who we are and where our hearts lie.