Although Sudirman’s ‘Balik Kampung’ is not on this year’s Raya playlist, the classic ‘Selamat Hari Raya’ by Saloma will forever be the go-to Raya theme song.
So, who would’ve thought that the harmless cover song recorded by the diva (that was originally composed by Ahmad Jaafar and sang by Nona Asiah) was banned in mainstream media when it first came out in 1972?
In the lyrics, Saloma sings, “Dam dam dum bunyi mercun, kanak-kanak segera datang berduyun / Dam dam dum mercun berdentum, semaraklah Hari Raya ini tahun” (“Dam dam dum the sounds of firecrackers, children come running / Dam dam dum the firecrackers go, celebrate this year’s Hari Raya”) and apparently, that made someone mad.
According to FMT, the track was banned after a radio listener sent a complaint letter to newspaper Berita Harian about how the song encouraged illegal activities – in this case, playing with fireworks.
The anonymous letter was written and signed by a “Pendengar Tetap” (“Loyal Listener”) from “Teachers Garden”, who wrote, “To my knowledge, the Singapore government has already banned firecrackers – those who do so will be fined and imprisoned, or both. But why do Singaporean radio stations not seem to care at all over the government’s orders?
Are the officers at the radio stations that naive that they’re unaware of policies and authorities?” the letter asked.
The Director of the Department of Broadcasting at that time, Hisham Yusof responded by saying that although the song depicts the Raya mood well and that the firecrackers were only mentioned in two lines, the opinion of this listener was valid. After considering its impact on young listeners, the song was then banned.
There was a point where they only played the track instrumentally without the singer’s voice too. Thankfully, many were upset over the ban and the debate over the song lasted until 1975.
Luckily for us, 50 years later – we still get to enjoy Saloma’s rendition of ‘Selamat Hari Raya’.
Speaking of which, many Malaysians are slowly coming to terms that this year, our Raya celebration will be very different.
While we aren’t allowed to balik kampung, our spirits are still there to count our blessings and have a little fun in these trying times. The least we can do is dress up in our Raya clothes and liven up the mood with iconic Raya songs or even new ones!
We at JUICE wish everyone a safe Raya!
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