I'm not familiar with the singing style of the singer Hattan, but he has my deepest sympathies for allegedly not singing the Negaraku according to 'the official version' at the Malaysia Cup final recently.
According to reports, Arts, Cultural and Heritage Minister Dr Rais Yatim has promised to check with Information Minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir following an allegation by Mohamed Aziz (BN-Sri Gading) that Hattan had sung the anthem in a manner that was 'treacherous to the country and race'.
Strong words, indeed. And it made me curious as to what exactly it was that incensed the BN MP. The singer did not change any of the lyrics. So, was it sung in a different key? Did it have a dangdut beat? Did he sing with too much passion? Or did he hold on to a note a bit too long?
Unfortunately, there's no indication that Hatta did any of these things, except that he deviated from 'the official version'.
Which begs an even bigger question. Malaysia is pitched as a modern democracy which tolerates differences and embraces diversity. So why is there a need for an 'official way' to sing the Negaraku?
Its hallowed status as our national anthem notwithstanding, Negaraku is, to me, one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard.
How can it be wrong if each of us chooses to sing it in our own way, however differently? And what does it say about a government that's so uptight when someone actually does? Does the government fear that if people are given the freedom to feel and sing the national anthem as they please they might be emboldened to do something worse like starting a commune and building giant sculptures of teapots, umbrellas and what-have-you?
But one shouldn't speculate. Fact is, if the government is so bent on conformity, they should just make sure that a taped 'official' version of Negaraku is played at all official events.
Even so, any of us who choose to sing the national anthem in public should be free to do so in our own way. Sung un-inspiringly, badly or off-key, the important thing is that, at least, it is rendered with sincerity.