Fri, 11 Jun 2004

Nation mourns passing of patriotic composer H. Mutahar

A. Junaidi, Jakarta

The nation is mourning the death of noted patriotic song composer Husein Mutahar, who was buried on Thursday.

Mutahar, who passed away at the age of 88 on Wednesday, was said by many to have contributed to the development of nationalism and patriotism through his songs.

Born on Aug. 5, 1916, Mutahar was deeply involved in the independence movement and was instrumental in keeping the country's first national flag from falling into the hands of Dutch troops who attempted to restore colonial rule in the country after World War II.

A self-taught musician, Mutahar served as an adjutant to the country's founding President Sukarno, who often asked him to lead the audience in singing the national anthem at state events.

Of the 199 songs he composed, Syukur (Thank God) and Hari Merdeka (Independence Day) are the most popular.

Syukur was written on Sept. 7, 1944, when Mutahar saw many local residents in his hometown, Semarang, eat snails to survive.

"I burst into tears when composing the song but I thanked God and believed He would enable the nation to survive," he was quoted by Tempo magazine as saying during an interview in 2002.

Many students of all ages have memorized and will find themselves moved by his lyrics, such as these lines from Hari Merdeka:

Once free, stay free/ As long as the soul is still in the body.

Apart from his keen interest in music, Mutahar, who never married and who is survived by his nine adopted children, was active in the National Scout Movement.

He also once served as Indonesian Ambassador to the Vatican and held high-ranking posts at the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Mutahar died in the home of his adopted son, Sunyoto, in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta. He had asked not to be buried in the National Heroes' cemetery, even though he was a recipient of the state medal of honor.

Then minister of education and culture Juwono Sudarsono conferred the medal on Mutahar in 1999, along with other recipients, including education expert the late Drijarkara, musician the late Mochtar Embut, violinist Idris Sardi and singer Titiek Puspa.

Mutahar joined W.R. Supratman, Cornel Simandjuntak, Ismail Marzuki, Sudharnoto, Alfred Simandjuntak and others in the hall of fame of patriotic song composers, most of whom have already passed away.

Mutahar moved to his adopted son's house after his own house on Jl. Dharmawangsa, South Jakarta, was razed by fire on July 16, 2000, due to an electrical short circuit in the house next door.

Almost all of his belongings were destroyed, except his song manuscripts.

He was buried at Jeruk Purut public cemetery, South Jakarta, on Thursday.

Several former government officials paid their last respects to him, including former state minister/state secretary Moerdiono and former Supreme Court justice Benyamin Mangkudilaga.