Singapore’s national anthem



The Singapore national anthem, Majulah Singapura, was composed in 1958 by Zubir Said, a prolific songwriter, as the official song of the City Council of Singapore.1 After Singapore became a self-governing state under British rule on 3 June 1959, the song was shortened and refined before it was adopted as the state national anthem.2 When Singapore attained independence on 9 August 1965, Majulah Singapura then became the national anthem of the Republic of Singapore.3 Regulations on the performance of the national anthem first took effect on 30 November 1959 under the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Ordinance.4 To encourage the singing and playing of the national anthem at all events of national significance, rules on the performance of the anthem were relaxed on 1 January 2004.5

Official song of the City Council of Singapore
Before Singapore gained self-governing status from the British in 1959, God Save the Queen, which is the British national anthem, was also Singapore’s national anthem.


Majulah Singapura, the song which subsequently became Singapore’s national anthem, was originally commissioned by the City Council of Singapore in 1958.
7 Ong Eng Guan, who was then mayor of the city council, decided to have an official song for the council’s functions.8 He wanted it to be a stirring patriotic song based on the theme Majulah Singapura, which is Malay for “Onward Singapore”.9 Yap Yan Hong, then superintendent of the Victoria Theatre, was tasked to look for the song. Having encountered Zubir in the course of his work, Yap approached the songwriter who was known for his music compositions for Cathay-Keris’s Malay films.10

The city council officially invited Zubir to compose the song on 10 July 1958.
11 He had less than two months to compose the music and lyrics, as the song was to be performed on 6 September that same year to mark the reopening of the newly renovated Victoria Theatre.12 

Moved by the social and political awakening of the people at that time, Zubir felt that the song would have to capture that mood, embody the spirit of challenge and heighten the feelings of the people towards Singapore.
13 He composed the music first and wrote the lyrics thereafter with advice from Muhammad Ariff Ahmad, a Malay language teacher.14 Zubir chose simple and meaningful words for the lyrics so that the song could be easily understood and sung by all races in Singapore.15

Zubir’s composition was approved by a city council committee that was specially formed to select the song.16 Majulah Singapura made its debut on 6 September 1958 at a concert to celebrate the reopening of the Victoria Theatre. It was performed by the Singapore Chamber Ensemble.17

National anthem

After Singapore attained self-government on 3 June 1959, the Legislative Assembly felt that the new State of Singapore should have its own symbols of authority and loyalty.
18 A high level government committee, led by then Deputy Prime Minister Toh Chin Chye, was tasked to develop three state symbols – state national anthem, state crest and state flag (national flag of Singapore from 1965 onwards) – to give the people of Singapore a sense of identity and allow their hopes and ideals to be expressed symbolically.19

Although the City Council of Singapore was dissolved when Singapore became a self-governing state, the song Majulah Singapura was not forgotten.
20 After Ong reminded Toh about Zubir and his composition for the city council, the latter agreed that Majulah Singapura was a suitable choice as the state national anthem in view of the patriotic lyrics that expressed the aspirations of the people of Singapore.21 He also felt that since not many people spoke English in Singapore at that time, a song with Malay lyrics could be easily understood and remembered, and would appeal to all races in the multi-racial society. In addition, the song had already been made popular by the city council since 1958.22

Toh, however, wanted some changes made to the song as he felt that the original version was too long and the tempo too slow.
23 Zubir successfully shortened the song to half its original length.24 A number of musicians and orchestras were also involved in its refinement, including Paul Abisheganaden, conductor of the Singapore Chamber Ensemble; Dick Abel, a Filipino conductor with the Radio Singapore Orchestra; the Military Forces Band as well as the visiting Berlin Chamber Orchestra.25

By October 1959, schools were instructed by the Ministry of Education to teach Majulah Singapura to students, in anticipation of the song becoming the state national anthem.
26 On 11 November, the following month, the anthem was unanimously accepted by the Legislative Assembly as a symbol of the new State of Singapore, together with the other two state symbols – the state crest and state flag.27 The three symbols were formally presented to the people of Singapore on 3 December 1959 during the launch of National Loyalty Week, following the inauguration of Singapore’s first Malayan-born Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Malay for “Head of State”), Yusof bin Ishak, earlier in the day.28 

During National Loyalty Week, a telephone service that enabled the public to dial in to listen to the anthem was made available. The service was so popular that it had to be halted temporarily at certain hours to avoid overloading the phone system.
29 

When Singapore became an independent nation on 9 August 1965, Majulah Singapura was then adopted as the national anthem of the Republic of Singapore.
30


New version
On 19 January 2001, a new official version of the national anthem was launched to replace the earlier version arranged by English composer Michael Hurd.
31 A primary objective of the new arrangement was to make the anthem easier for Singaporeans to sing as many could not reach the high notes in the original version.32 In May 2000, several local composers were invited to rearrange the national anthem in F major, a lower key than the original version in G major.33 Cultural Medallion recipient Phoon Yew Tien’s version, which has a grander and more inspiring arrangement, was eventually chosen.34 Recording of the new arrangement, which was performed by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, took place at the Victoria Concert Hall on 20 November 2000.35


Rules on performing the national anthem
On 30 November 1959, the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Ordinance took effect to regulate the performance of the national anthem.
36 The objective of the regulations is to ensure that the national symbol is accorded the respect it deserves.37


How the national anthem may be used
There are a number of rules pertaining to the performance of the national anthem, including the occasions when it can be sung or played as well as the permitted versions.
38 

Before 1 January 2004, the national anthem could only be broadcasted on television and radio and played during local school assemblies, official state ceremonies,
National Day celebrations and when the President of Singapore received the general salute.39 To encourage the singing of the anthem at all significant celebratory or national events, rules on the performance of the anthem were relaxed on 1 January 2004.40 Since then, both public and private organisations can perform the national anthem on appropriate occasions and either the instrumental or vocal versions may be played. Besides the versions produced by the government, other rearranged versions may also be used.41 Every rearranged version, however, has to accurately reflect the complete tune and complete official lyrics of the national anthem.42 

As a mark of respect, everyone must stand at attention whenever the national anthem is played or sung.43


How the national anthem cannot be used or treated
While rearranged versions of the national anthem are permitted, the anthem cannot be incorporated into any other song, composition or medley.
44 

In addition, the anthem must be sung with the official Malay lyrics and not any translation of those lyrics.
45


Lyrics
Official Malay lyrics of the national anthem:
46


Majulah Singapura
Mari kita rakyat Singapura
Sama-sama menuju bahagia
Cita-cita kita yang mulia
Berjaya Singapura
Marilah kita bersatu
Dengan semangat yang baru
Semua kita berseru
Majulah Singapura
Majulah Singapura


The English translation of the national anthem:
47


Onward Singapore
Come, fellow Singaporeans
Let us progress towards happiness together
May our noble aspiration bring
Singapore success
Come, let us unite
In a new spirit
Let our voices soar as one
Onward Singapore
Onward Singapore



Author
Cheryl Sim  



References
1. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 368. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB)
2. Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, pp. 26–27. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB); Singapore. Legislative Assembly. Debates: Official Report. (1959, November 11). State arms and flag and state national anthem (Vol. 11). Singapore: Legislative Assembly, col. 750. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN); National Heritage Board. (1998). Singapore: Journey into nationhood. Singapore: Author: Landmark Books, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
3. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National anthem. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem; Ministry of Communications and Information. (2013, April 12). Towards independence. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/history/towards-independence
4. Attorney-General’s Chambers. (2013, August 31). Legislative history. Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act (Chapter 296). Retrieved from Attorney-General’s Chambers’s website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=2699d67e-5c24-4b40-9cfa-a32884e875e7;page=0;query=DocId%3A45c4d722-79df-418c-a0d0-5ff4863e0938%20%20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0;rec=0; Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 370. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
5. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National anthem. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem; Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (2004, January 3). Singaporeans are encouraged to use the national symbols more often [Press release]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
6. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 368. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
7. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 368. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB)
8. Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB)
9. Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB); Rohana Zubir. (2012). Zubir Said: The composer of Majulah Singapura. Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ROH)
10. Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB); Low, Z. B. (2012). Biography of Zubir Said. In Majulah!: The film music of Zubir Said (pp. 22–27). Singapore: National Museum of Singapore, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 MAJ)
11. Rohana Zubuir. (2012). Zubir Said: The composer of Majulah Singapura. Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ROH)
12. Rohana Zubir. (2012). Zubir Said: The composer of Majulah Singapura. Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ROH); Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 368. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
13. Mardiana, Abu Bakar. (1990). Zubir Said, the man. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 10–17). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB); Tan, S. L. (1980, August 9). The man and his anthem. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Chia, H. (1987, November 17). Mr Marikita: Shy, humble and well-loved. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB); Rohana Zubir. (2012). Zubir Said: The composer of Majulah Singapura. Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ROH
15. Chia, H. (1987, November 17). Mr Marikita: Shy, humble and well-loved. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB)
16. Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB)
17. Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB); Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National anthem. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem
18. Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB); Singapore. Legislative Assembly. Debates: Official Report. (1959, November 11). State arms and flag and state national anthem (Vol. 11). Singapore: Legislative Assembly, col. 739. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
19. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 368. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB); Singapore. Legislative Assembly. Debates: Official Report. (1959, November 11). State arms and flag and state national anthem (Vol. 11). Singapore: Legislative Assembly, col. 739. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
20. Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB)
21. Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB); Rohana Zubir. (2012). Zubir Said: The composer of Majulah Singapura. Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ROH)
22. Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB)
23. Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB)
24. Rohana Zubir. (2012). Zubir Said: The composer of Majulah Singapura. Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ROH); Tan, S. L. (1980, August 9). The man and his anthem. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 368. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, pp. 24, 26. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB)
26. 'Majulah Singapura' being taught in schools. (1959, October 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Singapore. Legislative Assembly. Debates: Official Report. (1959, November 11). State arms and flag and state national anthem (Vol. 11). Singapore: Legislative Assembly, col. 750. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
28. Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Cultural Foundation by Times Books International, p. 27. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB); National Heritage Board. (1998). Singapore: Journey into nationhood. Singapore: Author: Landmark Books, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS]); 'Majulah Singapura' being taught in schools. (1959, October 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Lim, P. H. L. (Ed.). (2009). Chronicle of Singapore: Fifty years of headline news 1959–2009. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with National Library Board, p. 37. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 CHR-[HIS])
30. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National anthem. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem; Ministry of Communications and Information. (2013, April 12). Towards independence. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/history/towards-independence
31. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National anthem. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem; Tan, S. E. (2001, January 22). It's easier to sing now. The Straits Times, p. L6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Tan, S. E. (2001, January 22). It's easier to sing now. The Straits Times, p. L6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Gee, J. (2001, January 20). Grander, more inspiring anthem. The Business Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). About Singapore: National anthem. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem; Gee, J. (2001, January 20). Grander, more inspiring anthem. The Business Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National anthem. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem; GRC Management Office. (2008). Singapore today commemorative magazine. Singapore: Author. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 STCM-[HIS])
35. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National anthem. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem
36. Attorney-General’s Chambers. (2013, August 31). Legislative history. Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act (Chapter 296). Retrieved from Attorney-General’s Chambers’s website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=2699d67e-5c24-4b40-9cfa-a32884e875e7;page=0;query=DocId%3A45c4d722-79df-418c-a0d0-5ff4863e0938%20%20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0;rec=0; Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 370. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
37. Singapore. Legislative Assembly. Debates: Official Report. (1959, November 11). Singapore State Arms and Flag and National Anthem Bill (Vol. 11). Singapore: Legislative Assembly, col. 729. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN); Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National anthem. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem
38. Attorney-General’s Chambers. (2004, December 31). National anthem. Singapore arms and flag and national anthem rules. Retrieved from Attorney-General’s Chambers’s website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=61a455b1-e337-47fe-9bba-5d48817d7464;page=0;query=DocId%3A%223100849d-3555-4b06-ba59-bf4998ae34f2%22%20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0%20ValidTime%3A20041231000000%20TransactionTime%3A20140806000000;rec=0
39. Ministry of Information and the Arts. (1999). The national symbols kit. Singapore: Author. (Call no.: RSING 320.54095957027 NAT); Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (2004, January 3). Singaporeans are encouraged to use the national symbols more often [Press release]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Tan, S. E. (2001, January 22). It's easier to sing now. The Straits Times, p. L6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National anthem. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem; Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (2004, January 3). Singaporeans are encouraged to use the national symbols more often [Press release]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
41. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National anthem. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem
42. Attorney-General’s Chambers. (2004, December 31). National anthem. Singapore arms and flag and national anthem rules. Retrieved from Attorney-General’s Chambers’s website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=61a455b1-e337-47fe-9bba-5d48817d7464;page=0;query=DocId%3A%223100849d-3555-4b06-ba59-bf4998ae34f2%22%20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0%20ValidTime%3A20041231000000%20TransactionTime%3A20140806000000;rec=0
43. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National anthem. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem
44. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National anthem. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem
45. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National anthem. Retrieved from Sinapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem
46. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National anthem. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem
47. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National anthem. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-anthem



Further resources
Chee, J. (Producer). (1997). Anthems of our land (English)
[Videorecording]. Singapore: Ministry of Information and the Arts. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ANT-[HIS])

Ministry of Information and the Arts. (1999). The national symbols kit
. Singapore: Ministry of Information and the Arts. (Call no.: YRSING 320.54095957027 NAT)

Phuah, M. (Producer), & Choy, R. (Director). (2001). The soul of the nation: The story of Majulah Singapura
[Videorecording]. Singapore: Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (Call no.: RSING 782.421599095957 SOU)

Singapore Broadcasting Corporation. (1986). Majulah Singapura: Count down Singapore songs 1958–1986
[Videorecording]. Singapore: Author. (Call no.: RSING 784.7195957 MAJ)

Singapore. Legislative Assembly. (1959). State arms and flag and national anthem of Singapore. Singapore: Government Printing Office. (Call no.: RSING 929.8 SIN) 



The information in this article is valid as at 2 September 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Law and government>>National development
Singapore--History--1945-1963
Politics and Government>>National Symbols
National songs--Singapore
Arts>>Music>>Songwriting
National symbols

All Rights Reserved. National Library Board Singapore 2014.