Tourism Jingle Has Indonesia, Malaysia at Odds

Indonesia and Malaysia share a language, a Muslim majority, and border on the island of Borneo. But Indonesians are upset that more-prosperous Malaysia is luring visitors with an Indonesian jingle.

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B: a language, a Muslim majority, and even a border on the island of Borneo.

What these two Southeast Asian nations are not sharing is the love. NPR's Michael Sullivan reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF "RASA SAYANG")

SULLIVAN: Malaysia works hard at promoting its self as a multiracial, multicultural melting pot, even in song.

(SOUNDBITE OF "RASA SAYANG")

SULLIVAN: The Malaysian Tourism Board's new jingle is an old Malay Folk song, "Rasa Sayang." But in keeping with Malaysia's image or self-image, anyway, the government has recorded the song in the languages of the country's main ethnic minorities as well.

(SOUNDBITE OF "RASA SAYANG")

SULLIVAN: That's the version to the country's ethnic Chinese minority. Here's another in Tamal, from Malaysia's sizeable ethnic South Indian community.

(SOUNDBITE OF "RASA SAYANG")

SULLIVAN: There's even a version in the language of Malaysia's former colonial occupiers, the British.

(SOUNDBITE OF "RASA SAYANG")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's invite the whole world to join in our 50th Golden Anniversary celebration. Set e-invite from www.rasasayang.com.my. Brought to you by Tourism Malaysia.

SULLIVAN: It's a pretty safe bet neighboring Indonesia won't be joining that celebration. In fact, many Indonesians are demanding Malaysia pull the song from its tourism campaign, claiming "Rasa Sayang" belongs to Indonesia. The country's tourism and cultural minister is considering suing Malaysian for copyright infringement. The governor of Indonesia's Maluku province says it's a matter for the International Court of Justice.

Malaysian officials seemed baffled and a bit bemused by the whole thing, but shouldn't be. Indonesian have long felt slighted by their smaller but more prosperous neighbor, which imports Indonesian laborers for construction a work many Malaysians won't do, and Indonesian maids to care for the children of Malaysia's middle and upper class; workers who are sometimes cheated or mistreated by the Malaysian employers.

All of these help explain the Indonesian anger and frustration sparked by a song "Rasa Sayang," whose title translates in both countries as: feeling of love. What we got instead, laments one's Malaysian columnist, is rasa benci, feeling of hate.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "YOU'VE LOST THAT LOVING FEELING")

RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS: (Singing) You've lost that loving feeling. Oh that loving feeling.

SULLIVAN: Michael Sullivan, NPR News.

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