Malaysia vs Indonesia: Malaysian Anthem Actually Indonesian, Says Record Company

Hear the songs
Terang Bulan:

Neighbors do not always live in harmony or dance to the beat of the same drum. In this case, however, the fact that Malaysia does seem to be dancing to Indonesian beats has taken a brotherly tiff between the neighboring countries to an entirely new level. Indonesian animosity toward Malaysia has not only been fueled by cases of abuse of Indonesian migrant workers or disputes over territory, but also by the country’s use — or alleged use — of several Indonesian cultural traditions to promote itself. Now, a long-known fact has been dragged out of the closet and thrown into the fray. An executive of Lokananta, a state recording company based in Solo has drawn attention to Malaysia’s national anthem, “Negaraku,” claiming that it is suspiciously similar in tune to “Terang Bulan,” a song written by the Bandung Ensemble and first recorded by Lokananta in March 1956 — a year before Malaysia’s independence was announced on Aug. 31, 1957. “Terang Bulan is a keroncong song, meant for entertainment. Why did they take it for their anthem?” asked Ruktiningsih, head of Lokananta. “Does Malaysia really have no dignity at all?” Keroncong is a melodious musical genre that has its roots in Portuguese music and is usually played on violins, flutes and a small, ukelele-like guitar. Ruktiningsih said that “Terang Bulan” was one of 49 Indonesian songs recorded in Jakarta by national radio station RRI on the orders of then President Sukarno in 1956. The songs were later made into a record by Lokananta. “Copying the song is a violation of intellectual property rights according to the law. We demand that the government take strong action, not just send a note of protest. “We have to unite against Malaysia, as they keep on stealing Indonesia’s assets,” Ruktiningsih said. Lokananta lawyer Jaka Irwanta said “Terang Bulan” and “Negaraku” were 80 percent the same. “We will take the case to the International Court [of Justice] if the Indonesian government is incapable of taking no stronger action than a protest note,” Jaka said. A report in September 2007 that an Indonesian song, “Rasa Sayange,” originally from Maluku, had been used on a Malaysian Web site promoting tourism to the “Truly Asia” destination drew the ire of Indonesians. Just two months later, Malaysia featured a popular East Javanese performance, the reog ponorogo, on the Malaysian Ministry of Culture, Art and Heritage’s Web site, stoking more furor. It did not help that it called it “barongan,” despite exhibiting the trappings as the reog ponorogo, and claimed it as Malaysian heritage. This month, indignation rose a notch higher after the pendet, a Balinese dance, appeared in a television ad on Malaysia. Although it was later discovered that an independent television producer had made the ad for one of its programs, anger toward Malaysia continues to simmer.

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