Malaysian songwriter Habsah Hassan is responsible for many hits songs over the years, including the late Sudirman’s Salam Terakhir and Zaiton Sameon’s Menaruh Harapan. Here she shares the background stories of four of her biggest hits.
Salam Terakhir (Sudirman)
“Sudirman was competing at the ABU song contest in the mid 1980s. After the competition, we all sat in his room and talked. Suddenly, during that happy moment, he told me, ‘Sometimes I feel like I’m going to die young.’
“I said, ‘Come on. Don’t talk nonsense.’ He was very healthy then. He said, ‘I just have that feeling.’ But I said, ‘You’re not sick, you are young and strong, you shouldn’t think of death.’
“He said, ‘It’s not that I want to die young but I think I will die young, but I don’t mind dying young because at least people will remember me forever as a young person.’
“Then when we came back to KL, he was preparing for his next album. I got a good melody from (composer) Manan Ngah and I recalled that moment.”
Legenda (Datuk Sheila Majid)
“(Composer) Fauzi Marzuki came to me with the melody. We discussed and he suggested if I can write something as an appreciation for P. Ramlee. Sheila also agreed.
“But the song doesn’t just apply to P. Ramlee, it’s for all those who have contributed to our country. Besides P. Ramlee, I also had other people in mind like (prime minister) Tun Abdul Razak and (national laureate) Usman Awang.”
Setia (patriotic song)
“I was working at RTM and they asked me to write this song. But there was no melody given, I had to come up with the lyrics first.
“I was thinking about unifying the people and I thought the most important thing is being loyal to our country no matter who we are.
“The first time I heard the song, I thought it was very slow. I was expecting something more uptempo that will get listeners fired up, but as I listened to it more, it started to grow on me.”
Menaruh Harapan (Zaiton Sameon)
“At first, a lot of people thought this is a love song. It’s not at all a love song. It’s about life.
“When we are born into this world, we are alone; along the way, we are alone; and at the end, we will be alone. But how can we survive this loneliness? We can because God has created hope for us.
“When you put your hope in people, you will be let down. You have to depend on yourself and believe in God.”