As many Malaysians face the prospect of a second straight Hari Raya Aidilfitri with limited travel, classic songs are an essential part of the festivities that everyone can still enjoy to the fullest. These Raya songs will conjure up nostalgic scenes of ‘balik kampung’, with family coming from far and wide, all dressed up to the nines and ready to chow down on mouth-watering home-cooked delicacies.
From upbeat celebratory music to tunes tinged with sadness, Malaysians are spoilt for choice when it comes to their favourite Raya anthems, but the failsafe choice remains P. Ramlee. Rapper Altimet’s selection is the legendary crooner’s “Dendang Perantau”, featuring the evergreen voice singing of a man unable to return to celebrate Aidilfitri with loved ones.
“The song simply resonates with many of us, and that creates emotional engagement which gets transferred to subsequent generations,” Altimet said to redbull.com.
Written in the 1960s, while P. Ramlee was working in Singapore away from his hometown of Penang, the song gives voice to the nomadic experiences of many Malays, who travelled to bigger cities to find their fortunes. Filled with reminiscences of an abandoned hometown intertwined with laments at being stuck far away in a foreign place, the song’s bittersweet effect takes on new meaning today since many are separated from family due to the pandemic.
“Suasana Hari Raya” is TV3 newscaster Nik Munirah’s choice. In the song, renowned singer Sharifah Aini plays host, welcoming guests into her home to celebrate in typical Malaysian style – with good food and good company.
“I love that song because it talks about food!” says Nik Munirah, like a true Malaysian.
“When I hear it, I can imagine all the tasty goodies and the unique atmosphere of Hari Raya,” she adds.
The beloved up-tempo song was written by the prolific songwriter, Ahmad Nawab, and showcases Sharifah Aini’s impressive vocal range. It was featured in a special Raya song compilation album in 1977, which brought together other greats, such as Saloma, DJ Dave and Ahmad Jais.
This seminal compilation also included Hail Amir and Uji Rashid’s “Seloka Hari Raya”. Filled with wise advice and a diverse cast of guests reflecting multicultural Malaysia, this endearing joget-style duet has been re-recorded many times through the years, including by local celebrity couple, Fazura and Fattah Amin, but no version has rivalled the original.
Speaking of duets, then-teenagers Anuar Zain and Ellina Razak’s “Suasana Hari Raya” from 1984 is another ubiquitous choice, blaring out of speakers throughout the country during the Raya period. The charming video, shot in Anuar’s family home in Shah Alam, shows an authentic Raya celebration, complete with family, friends, delicious cuisine, fireworks and ‘duit raya’ money packets for the little ones.
“Never in a million years that we thought that the song would become a hit and become the most played Raya song for so long, till now,” now superstar Anuar shared with msn.com.
From the eclectic to the modern
Mohamed Fakharudin Bahar, better known as Kadak, bassist for popular 90s rock band, Butterfingers, went for a more left-field choice.
“Sweet Charity’s “Seri Hari Raya” has a mellow and relaxed vibe that fits the rock and roll soul,” Kadak says.
Described as the Malay version of Deep Purple, Singapore’s Sweet Charity was an iconic Malay rock band from the ‘70s and ‘80s. “Seri Hari Raya” starts off with guitar riffs that are then joined by the unforgettable voice of legendary vocalist Ramli Sarip. Storytelling is key to this song of a young couple celebrating Eid; the young woman, dressed in purple and blue, forgives her man’s past transgressions and they later enjoy the day in each other’s company.
Nostalgia tends to win out when Raya songs are played during the festive period, but contemporary efforts have also yielded some musical gems. 2015’s “My Raya!” brought together Joe Flizzow, SonaOne, Ila Damiaa, and Zamaera of Kartel Records in a melodic hip hop number complete with sultry vocals, courtesy of Zamaera.
The track paints an updated picture from the normal Raya classic because it shows the festive experiences of young, modern adults in an urban setting, but still complete with traditional rites passed down through the generations. The song also includes Joe Flizzow chanting “Budak Subang Jaya, hari hari hari raya” (Subang Jaya kids, every day is Hari Raya), long a catchphrase among Gen Z kids based in the trendy area.
There are simply too many epic Raya songs to list them all, but some notable mentions are “Bila Hari Raya Menjelma” by Siti Nurhaliza, “Satu Hari Di Hari Raya” by M Nasir, a wonderful mix of slow and upbeat tempos, and Sudirman’s “Balik Kampung”, which wasn’t even meant to be a Raya song! Initially, it was written for students returning home for the holidays.
Regardless of which song you choose for your Hari Raya this year, the music is sure to contribute to the merriment and the Raya spirit.