As far as songs about Malaysia goes, Russell Curtis & The Rowdy Gentlemen’s Anak Malaysia covers pretty much everything we love about our country.
With enough mentions about food (from nasi lemak and chicken rice to sambal belacan and ais kacang) to make you hungry, and even sly digs at our good neighbour down South, any Malaysian listening to Anak Malaysia will automatically be drawn to its, well, Malaysian-ness.
As for the melody and the overall tone of the song, it couldn’t be further from that OTHER patriotic song with the words “Anak Malaysia” in the title, Saya Anak Malaysia.
Opening with a funky, foot-tapping beat and a vibrant horn section, the first verse immediately declares, “We hail from the land Kuala Lumpur/where every guy you meet in the street is your bro (eh macha!!)”.
It is a line that instantly appeals to the Malaysian in you, and something that we can all relate to in a fun and personal way.
“When we decided to do this song, we didn’t want one of those patriotic songs you always hear. We wanted something fun and catchy,” said Curtis during an interview at his studio in Kuala Lumpur.
Russell Curtis and The Rowdy Gentlemen (RCRG) is a band comprising seven accomplished musicians – Curtis on vocals, Jude Bensing on guitars, Gideon Yogan on bass guitar, Derrick Siow on drums, Yow Weng Wai on saxophone and Khairul Anwar on trumpets, with acclaimed Malaysian music director Tok Khon (otherwise known as TK) on keyboards, and in charge of bringing Curtis’ songs to life.
RCRG performs a mix of originals and reworked covers, strongly influenced by the blues, funk, soul and hip-hop genres.
According to Curtis, the fact that RCRG’s members come from very different cultural backgrounds (Curtis is Eurasian, TK, Siow and Yow are Chinese, Jude is Kadazan, Gideon is Indian/Filipino, and Khairul is Malay/Portuguese) was one of the catalysts for Anak Malaysia.
“We are the product of Malaysia, which is a melting pot of races and culture. And we wanted to share that story,” he said. “How the song came about is also very Malaysian – we were just sitting at a mamak stall one day and TK asked me to write something about our country.
“The first thought that came to my mind was a song about the current social or political issues that are going on now. But I didn’t want to do that because I think there’s enough of that out there.”
Instead, Curtis wanted to write a song about how awesome it actually is to live in Malaysia.
“No one really talks about how cool our country really is! We take it for granted sometimes, and it’s only when you travel overseas that you truly realise how much you miss the simple things here. Like being able to get a hot plate of nasi lemak at 3am in the morning!”
The song itself took about a week to write. “Our songs are usually a collaborative effort which starts with me writing the music and lyrics. I then send it to TK, who basically puts the whole song together and does the arrangement. Then we get together and jam to complete the song,” Curtis said.
According to Curtis, the goal of Anak Malaysia is simply to make people aware of how great our little country is.
“The real message (of the song) is the part where we sing, ‘Melayu, Cina, India (who cares?)/Everyone’s a superstar’. Because to me, that is what being Malaysian is all about,” he concluded.