(Update: Unspun, uncharacteristically, did not go through the papers this morning. It appears that the problem is even more serious as the matter has been brought before parliament. This is an excerpt of a report from The Jakarta Post:
The House on Monday urged an immediate response from the government to Malaysia’s use of the traditional Indonesian song Rasa Sayange in its “Truly Asia” tourism campaign.
House of Representatives member Hakam Naja of the National Mandate Party (PAN) said if the government could prove the song belonged to Indonesia, Indonesia should sue the Malaysian government.
“The government needs to check on its origins, whether it’s from Indonesia or not,” the deputy chairman of House Commission X overseeing education and tourism was quoted as saying by detik.com newsportal.
Rasa Sayange is believed to have originated in Maluku, where it has been sung for generations by people to express their love for the environment. (rst of story here)
Is a cultural flap between serumpun countries Malaysia and Indonesia in the works?
Unspun‘s business partner today told me of a radio broadcast talking about the Rasa Sayang Malaysia site, which is Malaysia’s answer to e-marketing itself to the world.
According to the radio program, the site’s comments section has been closed down because many Indonesians have been writing in to complain of Malaysia’s appropriation of the Rasa Sayang tune to boost its own image.
Ever the skeptic Unspun went to the site and clicked on the “comments” hyperlinked. Nothing happened! This suggests that the radio announcer may be right.
This all set Unspun‘s head spinning about Malaysian culture and how sometimes Malaysia goes so hard to create a culture of its own that the results become ersatz. Consider, for instance, what sometimes happens when Malaysians get an invitation to attend a formal Malaysian occasion: The dress code is usually specified as “Malaysian Batik.” Not just any batik but “Malaysian Batik.
This may work well in other countries but not in Indonesia, home of the batik. The batik here, from Solo, and Pekalongan are exquisite, beautiful and full of history (for more information on Indonesian batik try my friend’s blogsite here. Compare it to the Malaysian batik, and you’d see the difference. Wavy lines that a five year old could have drawn over satiny fabric that’s good for showing off the spare tyres of middle aged men. Amoeba would have more culture.
And it is always an embarrassment when Malaysia culture shows are staged here. What can we show them that they do not have? Wayang Kulit? Satay? (OK, ganted Unspun likes Malaysian satay a lot over Indonesian ones but its hardly a Malaysian invention is it?) A Malaysian minister scolding bloggers goblok? Unspun’s written about it here and here.
But the point here is not to trash Malaysia; rather it is to suggest that it should perhaps find more creative ways of expressing its multi-racial culture that befits a nation 50 years in the making with lots of creative and smart people.
Back to the possible flap on Rasa Sayang. Is the tune Indonesian? Unspun is no authority on musicology and would like to hear from any authoritative persons out there.
This has the hallmarks of an issue that may escalate. If the radio announcer was right then the Malaysian authorities have a task on their hands to manage this issue before it snowballs into a public flap with nationalistic sentiments inflamed on both sides of the straits. Perhaps the Malaysian Tourist Board’s new PR consultant has good advice on how to handle the issue?
(Readers please note: This may shape up to be a emotive issue so let’s all work toward making this a discussion rather than a catfight. It’s OK to express opinions but try to refrain from name calling and emotive language. If you feel someone should o should not do something, say it and say why. Other than that, debate all you want!)