When it comes to independence day celebrations back in the day, most Malaysians might recall performing Merdeka day songs while waving the national flag out on the school field. Because of the diversity of songs that we got to sing in school, I must say that we (’90s kids) probably got to experience some of the best independence day celebrations of all time! From the list of seven iconic Malaysian- and Merdeka-themed songs below, how many can you identify or sing to by heart?

1. Tanggal 31

Tanggal 31 is undoubtedly the most popular song for Merdeka day festivities and it has been passed down through the generations. This upbeat song is a must-play during independence day and is sung by the renowned Sudirman bin Arshad, although the original was composed and sung by Ahmad Chass Barra, also known as Ahmad C. B., from Medan, Indonesia. It commemorates Malaysia's independence day, 31st August 1957 and encourages people to remember it with pride. Thanks to its popularity, the song was included in Sudirman's 1982 album, Abadi.

2. Jalur Gemilang

In 1997, our then-Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad declared Jalur Gemilang (Stripes of Glory) as Malaysia's national flag. On 9th August 2003, to mark the nation’s upcoming 46th independence day, a song was officially released to commemorate the national flag, which quickly became one of the most memorable songs for those of us who grew up during that period. The late Datuk Suhaimi Mohd Zain (lovingly known as Pak Ngah) created and produced Jalur Gemilang which talks about our national flag and what it stands for: our national identity.

3. Keranamu Malaysia

My schooling days were filled with this tune that I’m sure many of my fellow ’90s kids would be able to relate to, especially since we sung it so often during assembly at our school's Merdeka day festivities! Furthermore, from 2000 to 2006, it was the official song for the longest-running Merdeka theme, Keranamu Malaysia. It was also a song that hailed Malaysia's successes as a Southeast Asian developing country. Produced by Pak Ngah and penned by Siso Kopratasa, Keranamu Malaysia is still a staple at Merdeka day festivities in many schools today.

4. Sejahtera Malaysia

Another popular song from the ’90s that most students then would remember is Sejahtera Malaysia, which was sung by Azlina Aziz, Desree, Elaine Kang, Fauziah Ahmad Daud and Rohana Jalil in the early 1980s. This song honours Malaysia's name by celebrating our unity and sacrifice as a nation, with various musicians having taken note of its lyrical composition and vocal range. Many have attempted to do covers of the original song, so you can find fresh variations of it on YouTube today.

5. Here In My Home

Malaysian Artistes for Unity produced this single in 2008 when the country was experiencing racial tensions as a result of the demolition of hundreds of Hindu temples. Pete Teo's composition and production, Here In My Home, was performed by Malaysian musicians of various ethnicities to honour our unity and revive optimism in the country. It's a feel-good, one-of-a-kind song with verses in Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin and Tamil, which was a game-changer in the way patriotic songs were composed. Some of the big names you’d recognise in the music video are Afdlin Shauki, Amber Chia, Atilia Haron, Awie, Harith Iskander, Jaclyn Victor, Jason Lo, Maya Karin, Ning Baizura, Reshmonu, Sharifah Amani, Shebby Singh, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and even the late Yasmin Ahmad.

6. Satu Malaysia

Satu Malaysia is likely the second most remembered independence day theme among Malaysians after Keranamu Malaysia, and it was backed by a song of the same title in 2009 that was created by Limkokwing University's Faculty of Sound & Music Design Academy students. Satu Malaysia was known for its melodious arrangement and memorable chorus, which featured vocals by Ernie and Ronnie. Under the ‘One Malaysia' theme, the song promotes national unity and the creation of a common identity for all Malaysians.

7. Warisan

Warisan has got to be one of the most touching patriotic songs that’s frequently played by students in school choirs and group performances. Syed Haron composed and wrote this gem of a song, which was sung by Sudirman and included in his 1982 album, Abadi. Warisan recalls the sacrifices made by our national heroes in achieving the country's independence. Its first line, Di sini lahirnya sebuah cinta, which translates to ‘Here is the birth of a love’ was chosen as the theme for Malaysia’s 57th independence day in 2014.

Featured image: Aaron Lee/Unsplash

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