HE WAS a
loving father but was also a strict disciplinarian
who wanted the best for his family.
daughter, now an associate professor in the
University of Malaya, recalled how he sold some of
his precious books in 1948 to pay for her English
Zubir (Said), who is believed to have written about
1,000 songs, is best known as the composer of Majulah
Singapura, the national anthem and Semoga Bahagia,
the theme song for Children's Day and the Singapore
Minangkabau in Sumatra in 1907, Mr Zubir, the eldest
surviving son of a village chieftain, ran away from
home in 1928 to join a bangsawan troupe here because
his father, a very religious man, believed music to
be against religion.
heard about Singapore from a sailor friend, who
described it as a place of "glittering lights,
kopi susu (coffee with milk) and butter".
daughter, Associate Professor Puan Sri Datin Dr
Rohana Zubir-Hamid, 50, who is with UM's Faculty of
Education, said: "He had very high expectations
of all of us. He wanted me to get the highest
education possible. He tried to keep us away from the
world of the arts, because he felt it was a hard
Mr Zubir married Tarminah Kario Wikromo, a keroncong
singer, and went back to Indonesia shortly after
World War II broke out. They returned to Singapore
with Dr Rohana in 1947.
Pak Zubir, as he was called in later years, was
short-tempered and impatient, he was also a loving
father, Dr Rohana recalled. He had five children --
four daughters and a son.
father had very little luxury himself, but he made a
lot of sacrifices for us. He spent a lot of his time
ekeing out a living," she said.
was nine when we came to Singapore. I didn't know a
word of English, and it was too late to enter school.
My father sold some of his precious books for $15 to
pay for my English tuition."
To earn a
living, Mr Zubir became a photographer, "going
from village to village to take IC-size photos for
the villagers", said Dr Rohana. Identity cards
had become a requirement by then.
Zubir was employed by Cathay Keris Film Productions
as a songwriter for their Malay films. He also gave
music lessons until his death.
terms of money and luxury, he didn't have much,"
she said. "Still, he was a happy man."
book, Dr Rohana said: "My father did not expect
any kind of public accolade. He was genuinely a man
of the arts.
a citizen, he would have been very happy to know he
has contributed to Singapore, and that he was leaving
something behind for posterity."
(Mr Zubir Said, who died in 1987, was honoured
in March 1990 with the launch of a two-week
exhibition of his life and works. A book, Zubir Said: His
Songs, was also
launched, the result of a three-year project
sponsored by Berita Harian.)
First published in the Straits
Times, March 9, 1990.
sing but don't what the words say. Others
think it's time we change the lyrics.
Singapura, our national anthem.
Copyright © 1998 Singapore Press
Holdings. All Rights Reserved.