WATCH: Stirring 'Sejahtera Malaysia' by National Symphony Orchestra wind quintet

National arts institution Istana Budaya - which remains shut due to pandemic restrictions - is rolling out a daily online programme to get the celebratory mood going for Merdeka Day on Aug 31.

The Semarak Merdeka Istana Budaya 2021 programme gathers the Istana Budaya community in a spontaneous setting, with musicians/performers recording works remotely. The series features spirited online performances from members of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) and Orkestra Tradisional Malaysia, while archival shows remind us of how much on-site performances are missed.

As Merdeka Day approaches, it is also important not to forget small gestures leading the path toward national healing. This can be seen in a recent NSO wind quintet performance of the beloved song Sejahtera Malaysia.

The heartfelt performance, presented by NSO musicians Foo Chie Haur on the flute, Lawrence Fong on clarinet, Vyacheslav Kim on French horn, Midori Suzuki on bassoon and Nelson Wong on oboe, can be viewed on Istana Budaya’s YouTube Channel.

This version was arranged by Wong, NSO oboe principal.

In accordance with the SOP for Phase 1 of the National Recovery Plan, the individual tracks were recorded separately at the musicians’ respective homes.

“We had an agreed-upon tempo beforehand. After the tracks were recorded, they were put together and edited by Foo Chie Haur, our flautist in the video,” says NSO senior principal (woodwinds) Raymond Kong.

He adds that they decided to feature Sejahtera Malaysia in this video as it is a familiar song to most Malaysians and it has a beautiful and instantly recognisable melody.

“The song was very popular back in the 1990s due to its beautiful melody. Even after almost 30 years since it was written, it is still very well-known today, with new and wonderful arrangements and renditions by younger artists and composers.

"But most importantly, the song carries the message of unity and sacrifice and love for Malaysia. This is a message that will always ring true no matter when, and especially during our fight against Covid-19. It is a message that is important and essential to our recovery from this pandemic that has engulfed our nation and the world,” he says.

The iconic Sejahtera Malaysia song that was played regularly on national TV and radio in the early 1990s. With its soaring chorus and the singers decked out in fine traditional costumes, it was one of the more memorable RTM-era songs Malaysians grew up with.

Written by former information minister Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat, this lilting melody has inspired many different versions of the song.

In conjunction with Merdeka month, more performances and videos will be released on the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac)’s social media channels, under its Semarak Merdeka programme.

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