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More than Majulah Singapura

7 things to discover about Zubir Said, and a quiz


Published: 30 Jul 2020

Time taken : >15mins

If you are a student in Singapore, you will hear Majulah Singapura (Onward Singapore), the national anthem of Singapore, playing over the public address system in your school to mark the start of your day. In fact, you may already be familiar with the name of the composer, Zubir Said. But, what else do you know about the music man?

Here are 7 things about Pak Zubir (as he was affectionately known) that you might not know!


A gifted composer and songwriter

Zubir Said was said to have composed more than 1, 000 songs in his lifetime. However, many of the songs he wrote were never recorded. If recorded, it can take a few days to listen to all the songs without stopping.


Singapore, his chosen home

While Zubir Said was born in a village in Bukittinggi in West Sumatra, Indonesia on July 22, 1907, Singapore became his home. He travelled to Singapore when he was 21 to work as a musician for a Bangsawan (Malay opera) troupe but he continued to live, work and raise five children and many grandchildren in Singapore before passing away in 1987.

Zubir Said (seated far right) and his family


The ideal Singaporean

Pak Zubir expressed his love and hopes and dreams for Singapore and its people by writing songs for the nation. One of these is Orang Singapura (Singaporean or Person from Singapore). In the song, he wrote about the ideal qualities a person from Singapore should uphold such as diligence, resilience and graciousness. What qualities do you aspire to uphold?

Listen to this upbeat version of Orang Singapura by the Singapore Police Force Band


A song for children in Singapore

Zubir Said did not just write songs for the nation. He also penned a song especially for primary school students. The song, Semoga Bahagia, was Zubir Said's advice to children like you to work hard to achieve success and happiness. This song then became the official song for Children’s Day in Singapore. Have you ever sung Semoga Bahagia to celebrate Children's Day in school?

Listen to Semoga Bahagia sung by Imran Ajmain


A birthday song for Singaporeans and Malaysians

Zubir Said noticed that that when people in Malaysia and Singapore celebrated their birthdays, they did not have a birthday song to call their own.  To counter this, he composed a song that they can sing to celebrate a birthday. 

The song was titled Selamat and in his notes, he also gave suggestions on how the lyrics can be changed to suit different occasions like a farewell or to celebrate someone's success. 


A devoted father and a doting grandfather

As a father, he placed a lot of importance on education. When one of his daughters was in school, he sold part of a valuable book collection for $15 to pay for her education. 

When his grandson was born in United Kingdom in 1965, he gathered family members to take a photograph of them holding a sign to welcome the baby to the family. The photograph was sent to his daughter along with a gift. He also wrote a song for one of his granddaughters titled Suhanna, Cucu Kakek (Suhanna, my Granddaughter) for her fifth birthday.


A street named after Zubir Said

Zubir Said remains an important person in Singapore's history even after his death.  In 2009, the permanent address of Singapore’s School of the Arts (SOTA) was officially changed to 1 Zubir Said Drive. It is a fitting honour as Zubir Said loved teaching. He spent much of his time teaching music to the young at his home in Joo Chiat up till his passing. 


Think you know everything there is to know about Zubir Said? Try out the quiz!

Congrats! You've made it this far! Now, keep exploring to up your arts game.

Esplanade Presents | Free Performances: Red Dot August

Screening: A Zubir Said Tribute (2017)

Relive the moment from Red Dot August 2017 and join an ensemble of musicians who have come together specially to celebrate Zubir Said and his music.

Premiere on 9 Aug, Sun, 2pm
(Available online until 7 Sep, Mon, 12pm)
Find out more