Unlike their Christian, Chinese and Hindu friends, the Malay Muslims in Malaysia and Singapore had no specific anthem for their Hari Raya (or Eid celebrations) until the mid-1950s, when composers and songwriters began working for it either for recordings or for the films produced by Shaw Brothers and Cathay Keris. Another significant characteristic found those days is that there had been no specific compilation albums of Eid songs being made until the early 1970s, where prior to the decade, the Eid songs were included into an individual singer’s record.
In 1953 release by Shaw Brothers’ Malay Film Production titled Siapa Salah (Who’s At Fault), a song called Manusia Miskin Kaya (The Rich & Poor Human) was included.
It was composed by P. Ramlee and sung by Asiah, The Nightingale of Malaya. The song relates to a poor person’s comparison on his/her Aidilfitri celebration with that of his/her rich neighbours. Another Eidulfitri song was also found in another film by Shaw called Doktor (Doctor).
Meanwhile, Asiah and her husband Ismail Mukassim had also recorded a duet song called Aidilfitri, composed by Zubir Said, who also wrote the national anthem of Singapore, Majulah Singapura. In early 1970s, with the permission by Zubir himself, this song was re-written with new lyrics by Yusnor Ef, to be re-recorded by Sanisah Huri. In 1974, Indra Shahrir, the son of both Asiah and Ismail, recorded an Eid song specially for children, and the song appeared in Studio Merdeka’s first colour film called Rahsia Hatiku (My Heart’s Secret) produced in the same year.
In 1955, a full-fledged Eidulfitri-themed film was produced by Cathay Keris called Selamat Hari Raya. A song of the same title was composed by Ahmad Jaafar, to be sung and recorded by Saloma. It has since become an official anthem for the joyous celebration and played until today. In 1973, the song was re-recorded by Saloma with a small edition to the lyrics.
Besides composing Eid songs for other singers, P. Ramlee had also composed, written, sung and recorded the same for himself. Suara Takbir (The Voice of a Takbeer) and Dendang Perantau (A Traveller’s Song) were two of his famous Eid songs in the 1950s.
The latter was re-recorded in the following decade with different musical arrangements. In 1969, Ramlee composed another Selamat Hari Raya with completely different tune, to be recorded by Ahmad Jais in his EP called Azizah, with accompaniment of Orkes Dendang Perindu led by Ramlee’s pupil, Kassim Masdor.
In 1960s, many singers recorded their own new Eid songs. Among them include M. Rahmat & The Teruna (Fitri Bahgia/ A Happy Fitri)....
...and S. Jibeng & Sri Arjuna (Musafir Di Aidilfitri/A Traveller in Aidilfitri).
Nevertheless, Jibeng’s rendition remained popular till the present day, as it suits him, reflecting his own life as a poor blind boy during his childhood days, before moving into stardom.
Beginning early 1970s onwards, recording companies in both sides of the Causeway had begun producing Eid songs, after realizing the potential of such albums in the entertainment industry. Among the companies involved in this project were EMI, MMI, Senada and Philips. Nevertheless, EMI’s first Eid compilation released in 1973 is the most sought after, as those Eid songs by veterans such as P. Ramlee, Saloma, Ahmad Jais, Fazidah Joned, Rafeah Buang, Sanisah Huri and Junainah were listed in it. The EMI’s Eid compilation has since been re-printed every year, with new or current artistes’ rendition being recorded to add more variety to the list of songs.