Rahmat bahagia, Tuhan kurniakan,
Raja kita, selamat bertakhta.
This translates into English roughly as:
Oh, my country,
At the time of independence, each of the eleven States of Malaya that made up the Federation had their own anthem, but there was no anthem for the Federation as a whole. Tunku Abdul Rahman, at the time the Chief Minister and Minister for Home Affairs, organized and presided over a committee for the purpose of choosing a suitable national anthem. On his suggestion, a worldwide competition was launched. 514 entries were received from all over the world. None were deemed suitable.
Next the committee decided to invite selected composers of international repute to submit compositions for consideration. The composers chosen were Benjamin Britten, Sir William Walton who had recently composed the march for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, the American opera composer Gian Carlo Menotti and Zubir Said, who later composed the National Anthem of Singapore. They were all turned down too.
The Committee then turned to the Perak State Anthem. On August 5 1957 it was selected on account of the "traditional flavour" of its melody. New lyrics for the National Anthem were written jointly by the Panel of Judges— with the Tunku himself playing the leading role.
At the time this melody was, while still the State Anthem of Perak, also a well-known and popular Malay song under the title, Terang Bulan ("Bright Moon").
The song had been very popular on the island of Mahé in the Seychelles. where the Sultan of Perak had formerly been living in exile. He heard it at a public band concert on the island, a song to a popular French melody, originally composed by the lyricist Pierre Jean de Beranger (1780-1857), who was born and died in Paris. When a member of the Perak royal family was invited to a reception in Europe, he was asked what his state anthem was. Realizing that his state did not in fact possess an anthem, he, in order not to appear backward in front of his hosts, proceeded to hum the aforementioned tune. Thus was an anthem born.
The tune was later introduced into an Indonesian Bangsawan (Opera), which was performing in Singapore. In no time at all, the melody became extremely popular and was given the name Terang Bulan. Aside from its dignity and prestige as the Perak State Anthem, the tune became a Malayan "evergreen", playing at parties, in cabarets and sung by almost everybody in the 1920s and 1930s. (Today, of course, since independence, it is not played as a popular melody, and any such use is proscribed by statute.)
Traditionally Negaraku was introduced with a short drum roll "which beckons the audience to attention, and heralds a stately pace, where the nation sings its pledges of loyalty to King and country. It continues serenely to express the unity of our multiethnic population and our gratitude to God for His blessings. And as the music repeats the coda section, praying for the safety of our enthroned King, there comes a stirring crescendo of drum rolls and cymbals, which culminates in a poignantly dignified ending."
The anthem was given a new quickmarch beat in 1992, which proved unpopular. Some Malaysians have gone as far as to say that the altered tempo resembled circus music, and was the subject of much derision. In July, 2003 it was reported in the Malaysian press that the anthem would be rearranged for the second time and the title and lyric would be changed from Negaraku to Malaysiaku. There was a public outcry of dismay and the change of name was scrapped, but the anthem was re-arranged and returned to the pre-1992 pace by composer Wah Idris.
The recent furore over the government's attempts to keep fiddling around with Negaraku as they please has annoyed most Malaysians to such an extent that it is considered by many to be unwise to make any further alterations without the support of a popular referendum.