Everyone in Singapore knows our National Anthem is called “Majulah Singapura” and we all know the anthem starts with the lyrics “Mari Kita Rakyat Singapura……..”, but not many of us know the history of how the national anthem was created and the man behind the creation, Zubir Said. That explains the cheeky title in the musical, that we should not call him “Mr. Mari Kita”.
This amazing musical pays tribute to the man, Zubir Said and is led by the multi-talented music director, Julian Wong. The 1 hour 10 minutes show brings the audience back to the history of Singapore where Singapore in the 50s then, was well known for many popular Malay movies productions and songs. The musical also includes stellar performances by vocalists Hannah Nordin, Malcolm Lim and Rohaniah Sa’id and musicians Din Safari, Leonard Mikhail, Riduan Zalani, and Ryan Sim.
Zubir Said was born in Bukittinggi, Indonesia, he dreamt on becoming a musician, after he defied his father’s wishes, he sailed to Singapore in his early 20s to pursue his interest and career in the music industry in Singapore. He worked hard and subsequently had a successful career at Shaw Brothers and Cathay cinema groups. In 1959, when Singapore attained self-governance from the British, he was asked to produce the earlier version of “Majulah Singapura” which was first sang officially in 1959. Subsequently, after Singapore gained independence on 9 August 1965, the song, with some modification to the lyrics, is now the official national anthem for Singapore, the iconic song that we are all familiar with.
The star of the night, Julian Wong, did an excellent narrative of the life of Zubir Said, and together with his students, performed several catchy songs and dance on stage. They managed to capture the audience’s imagination of the evolution of Singapore through the 60s with the costumes, glamour and music.
This musical is special to Julian because it is a tribute to both his teacher and his teacher’s teacher. The late Iskandar Ismail, who was Julian’s music teacher and he was also a student of Zubir Said. Julian, although he is a Chinese Singaporean, he speaks fluent Malay and sang the Malay songs as well as any Malay native singers, this has demonstrated that culture can transcend race and friendship.
Some of the songs performed in the musical, the audience would be familiar with and the songs evoke a sense of nostalgia from our school days, like Semoga Bahagia, Sayang Disayang and Orang Singapura. These songs, our Ministry of Education (MOE) has used them for racial harmony days and other special events during our school days.
Just like any of the Wild Rice’s productions, the show is guaranteed to have a lot of colours, flair, and excitement, thanks to the leadership and passion of Ivan Heng, their Founding Artistic Director. Ivan shared with the audience on the gala night when he first heard of the performance by Julian Wong in 2019, he invited Julian to produce this wonderful musical for Wild Rice. After three long years, including the pandemic period, this long-awaited musical is now open to the public.
As our society progresses, we must continue to know our history and our roots. While many of the younger generation today who are educated in English may wonder why our national anthem is sung in Malay, this is an entertaining and educational musical to understand our nation’s history. For those who are born in the era of the 60s and 70s, this is also a mesmerising musical to look back at the nostalgia of the old Singapore. We are thrilled to be able to catch this stunningly moving performance that touches our heart and don’t miss the opportunity to catch this highly-anticipated musical that is not to be missed!
Don’t Call Him Mr. Mari Kita at the Wild Rice Theatre @ Funan till 26 July 2022. Get your tickets here!