KUALA LUMPUR: When Dr Mahathir Mohamad stepped down as prime minister in 2003, the iconic song ‘Warisan’ (legacy) was played in the background.
It was the same when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi retired as the fifth premier six years later.
The same tune was played over television when Najib Razak succeeded Abdullah.
The song and its expressive lyrics accompanied clips showing our fallen warriors during the Lahad Datu incursion in 2013.
In 2014, the first line of the song, ‘Di Sini Lahirnya Sebuah Cinta’ (here begins a love) was the refrain of the 57th Merdeka Day celebration, and also the title of the theme song, ‘Malaysia, Di Sini Lahirnya Sebuah Cinta’.
‘Warisan’, written by the late patriot Syed Haron Syed Ahmad for another national torchbearer Sudirman Arshad, is part of the national palate.
Syed Haron famously said the song and its lyrics, which seeks to instil and express love for the country, were “a national treasure, a legacy in its own right”.
On Aug 20, award-winning soul-jazz singer Poovaa, made the patriotic staple the aural wallpaper of social media with her dreamy delivery of the late Sudirman’s hit song from his 1982 album ‘Abadi’.
Past, present and future pervades the song, said Poovaa, born Poovanesvary Sri Rama in Tanjong Karang, Selangor.
“The lyrics are close to my heart especially during these challenging times when love for our country is crucial,” she said.
The star of the Asian Dream talent show said her team conjured the new version of ‘Warisan’ in conjunction with Merdeka and Malaysia Day to further illustrate the importance of preserving love for the nation and societal relationships.
Johor Bahru-born composer/lyricist Syed Haron built the emotional depth of the song when he began writing it after Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965.
In an interview with a business daily in 2014, he said ‘Di Sini Lahirnya Sebuah Cinta’ meant that Johor Bahru was where he felt love for his land and how the separation of Singapore created a rift among families and relatives back then.
“For us, Singapore was a part of Johor Bahru, and then everything changed,” Syed Haron recalled.
In 1980, he made amendments to the lyrics to embody Malaysia rather than focus on the separation when Sudirman wanted to record a nationalistic album.
Syed Haron, drummer of The Wheels band that had the 1985 hit ‘Dalam Kenangan’, also wrote pop chartbusters for other artistes like Sharifah Aini, Noor Kumalasari, Hijaz and the group Freedom.
He stopped writing songs in 1990 and died in 2015 when he was registrar at Universiti Tun Abdul Razak Kuala Lumpur.
Sudirman’s masterful rendition of ‘Warisan’ and ‘Tanggal 31 Ogos’ – emotive songs with simple words – continue to embrace Malaysians every Merdeka Day, despite his passing 28 years ago.
The strong spirit of patriotism in this Temerloh-born lad, who went on to become a singer, lawyer, actor and cartoonist, was also reflected in his ‘Malaysian flag costumes’.
Both men would have been proud of Poovaa’s version of ‘Warisan’ that takes the song to another level to convey the love and passion Malaysians should have for the nation.
The cover version built almost entirely around Poovaa’s ice-cool voice by producer Rozhan Razman, and the silky video by Gbam, is deliciously on point.
It features a nostalgic, piano-driven opening by Sabahan Sharon Chong that transitions to Poovaa’s yearning vocals.
The whole production oozes class, suggestive of hard-won experience.
The stage is lit in refined softness as Poovaa, sharp in red kebaya loaned to her by fashion designer Syomir Izwa, sings with composure.
Sharon said the attire worn by both of them in the video reflects everything Malaysia. “The red kebaya represents the red stripes of the Jalur Gemilang while the all-white I wear represents the white in the flag.”
She said she wore the female head dress of the Orang Hulu of Sarawak that features yellow beadwork and fern-inspired motifs as it resembled her identity as an East Malaysian.
“I am of Kadazan descent and love wearing all kinds of traditional pieces from Borneo with my clothes because they are beautiful and I love the stories behind every one of them,” she said.
The production, including recording of the song, took a day. “I cried when I saw the video,” said Poovaa. “I hope we have done the song proud.”
Poovaa, 39, said she hoped her version would spur love for the nation among the people.
She looks set to break into the Malay market with the success of ‘Warisan, a prelude to her romantic ballad ‘Karya’ due for release in October.
Veteran artiste D J Dave, whose many songs resound national unity, described Poovaa’s effort as exemplary nationalism among the younger generation.
He said: “Every Malaysian should be aware of our legacy. What we collectively plant today is what our children will reap in the future.
“The differences in our background shouldn’t matter. We must take care of our country and protect it from all forms of threat, just as how we would love our children.”
Dave hoped Poovaa’s song would receive airplay to capture the hearts and minds of the masses and encourage other young musicians to sing patriotic songs in their style.
His latest composition, ‘Janji Merdeka’ (The promise of independence), which he sings together with Awie, Ella, Siti Nurdiana and Siti Sara will be released soon.