On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Don’t just listen to the anthem – sing it!

All the earlier talk of punishing Hattan under the National Anthem Act 1968 must have made Malaysia sound like an intolerant police state.

Malaysians who watched the football final, either at the stadium or at home, hardly noticed Hattan's purported jazzed-up version of the Negaraku.

Many of the VIPs who attended the game went on record to say the same. For them, it was a non-issue until it was brought up in Parliament.

What we noticed were football players and the fans in celebratory mood when the national anthem was played. Instead of standing still to attention, many were seen running and jumping in joy.

And certainly we saw plenty of Indonesian flags for a game between two Malaysian states vying for the Malaysia Cup. Hello, this is Malaysia.

No one, including the Yang Berhormat, seemed to have brought this up. Instead, he was more preoccupied with Hattan, whom many of us thought sang with great gusto and pride.

But Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim instilled some common sense when he said there was nothing offensive about Hattan's rendition of the Negaraku.

After watching the footage, he said, he found nothing degrading in the manner Hattan had sung the national anthem although the last modulation went a bit high. There was no jazzing up whatsoever and neither did he ridicule the national anthem.

Dr Rais correctly pointed out that some of the spectators were seen to be disrespectful.

Following the controversy created by one MP, Dr Rais has now suggested that the Negaraku should revert to the original tempo first introduced in 1956.

He said this was to ensure that the tempo of the national anthem would remain the same.

Dr Rais must have good reasons in wanting to protect the dignity of the national anthem, which is a national treasure.

But I do miss the faster, marching version of the Negaraku introduced a few years back. Younger Malaysians felt it was more inspiring and forthright, in comparison to the slower version.

It reminded us of the faster pace of development set by the country and our commitment to marching forward to a developed nation.

The point here is that even the official 1956 version has been changed before. It was set during the 50s.

Music is alive. There is no such thing as the national anthem must remain static, but as of now it appears that only the politicians can have a say in telling us what is right or wrong.

Surely Malaysians, too, would want to have their say. The Negaraku does not belong to just the MPs and Cabinet members.

Let's allow Malaysians, especially the younger generation, to have their say about the tempo of the Negaraku.

It should become a practice for all Malaysians to sing the national anthem and not just stand attentively whenever it is played.

We do this when we are overseas but we are seemingly shy to do so when the Negaraku is played at home.

We have seen how the Americans sing their national anthem, with one hand on the heart, when their national anthem is played before a boxing or football match.

Sometimes a black singer would sing the soul version, and even we non-Americans would find it a delight to the ears.

The point is that the Negaraku must be sung beautifully in a passionate way. The key word is "sing", not just listen – that will be music to the ear then to Malaysia.