Saturday, October 6, 2007

Lesson Learned from Rasa Sayange Case

Rasa Sayange is used as the theme song of Malaysian official tourism campaign. There, they modify the title as Rasa Sayang (without "e", cause -e suffix comes from Indonesia's Maluku/Moluccas dialect which doesn't exist in Malay culture) as well as the lyrics. Many Indonesians feel hurt because of this and some of them even threatened to sue Malaysia.

Malaysian Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor argues that Rasa Sayange is a folk song from the Nusantara (Malay archipelago) and Malaysia is part of the Nusantara. He claimed that they have been singing the song for ages. He even challenged back Indonesia to proof that Rasa Sayange is exclusively owned by Indonesia.

Although I never like this guy, but I think he's legally on the right position. As Malaysian politician, he's done the right thing as well to counter Indonesia's claim.

Even if we know that Indonesia is right, Rasa Sayange is originated from a Far East Indonesia's province of Maluku, I really don't think Indonesia is in the good position to sue Malaysia. The song is already in public domain. We don't know exactly who the original song writer is. However, lately Andre Hehanussa claimed that the song was written by Katje Hehanussa in 1940. Well, let's see whether he can do something about it.

In Indonesia, Rasa Sayange is already considered as national folk song. It's not sung exclusively by Ambonese or Moluccans. However, we still recognized that song to be originally from Maluku. So if the province of Jawa Tengah (where Javanese come from), or Sumatera Barat (where Minang come from), or Sulawesi Selatan (where Bugis come from) want to create a provincial tourism campaign using Rasa Sayange as the theme song, it would be completely ridiculous. Totally misplaced.

Now you see, why many Indonesians feel infuriated when that song is now used by some foreign country which has nothing to do with Maluku (well, although they claim to be serumpun and for that reason they feel they have the right to use the song).

From the other side, if we want to understand Malaysia, then I think many Indonesians will be surprised. Let's see the truth. Even their national anthem, Negaraku, was borrowed from a Hawaiian song, Mamula Moon.

Now you see, if they can do such thing easily to their national anthem, then using Maluku's Rasa Sayange as their official tourism theme song is nothing for them. Can't you see that it's in their blood? There's nothing you can do about it. Go ahead and ask Malaysian about this case. Many of them will answer: "Who cares?", "Why all this fuss?", "I don't understand Indonesians, why do they make a big deal about it?" and so on.

All this time Indonesia and Malaysia are frequently considered as serumpun but now you see that we indeed think differently.

My conclusion is Indonesians only react when there's an action from other countries. They don't proactively protect their own assets (be it cultural heritage, cuisine, islands, or whatsoever else). What a shame.

Well, if Indonesians are smart enough, then this must be a very good lesson learned for them. Be a good marketer. Tell the world about your cultural richness. I heard that Indonesia had planned to make 2008 as Visit Indonesia year, right? So, it's time to do some actions! I know Indonesia has many talented people such as Hermawan Kartajaya and many more.

For those who know the whole truth, I know you can conclude that Malaysians are either very flexible or very uncreative. That of course depends on your point of view. As a nation, undoubtedly they are good marketer though, at least compare to Indonesia. For the latter, I think Indonesia should learn from them but definitely not for the former.

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