... Unless of course, you live in one of these countries and/or you are an anthem-addict like me.
Most people know such famous melodies like Britain’s “God Save The Queen”, Germany’s “Das Lied der Deutschen” or the USA’s “The Star-Spangled Banner”, even if they’re not British, German or American. But how many people know the national anthem of countries playing a supporting role on the global stage? Surely they can take as much pride in their national anthem as the so-called ‘Great Powers’. Perhaps even more, because let’s face it, the ‘Great Powers’ are responsible for just about everything that goes wrong on this planet. So without further ado, I present you with 10 national anthems of countries known to be unknown, small, irrelevant or ahem
... crazy. In order to let the music speak for itself, I have put the countries in alphabetical order and without any real political/historical background. Each anthem is accompanied only by my 99.9% politics-free thoughts and a YouTube-link to the instrumental version played at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, arranged and conducted by professor Philip Sheppard of the Royal Academy of Music and performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It doesn’t get better than that, right?
Here we go!1.) BELGIUM
What better anthem to begin with than that of my own country? Speaking from experience, Belgium is consistently received with a mix of affection and confusion abroad. “Belgium, you say?”
*pulls up a chair* “Tell me everything!”
^^ It’s always great to hear foreigners praise our excellent beers, chocolates and waffles and express interest in our rich history and culture. At the same time, they typically don’t know what to think of a country with the world record for having no government, political arguments over panda bears and a national anthem sung in three different languages at the same time. And let’s not even talk about the fact that our national symbols include statues of an oversized atom and a kid pissing in a pond. Belgium excels in much, but perhaps most of all in confusing both itself and the world by making every simple thing as complicated as possible while actually being able to function as an advanced country. These are the things that run through my mind when I hear our national anthem and I can’t help but smile while deciding in what language I’ll sing it. Leve België, vive la Belgique, es lebe Belgien...www.youtube.com/watch?v=kt3o7g…2.) GREECE
For some mysterious reason, I have long had a thing for Greece, ever since the 2004 UEFA European Championship in Portugal more than ten years ago. When Belgium didn’t qualify, I chose Greece as ‘my country’, put up a Greek flag in my bedroom (I still have it) and was thrilled when the Greeks actually won the tournament (defeating the likes of France and Portugal), to the surprise of all. And of course, I can’t ignore my admiration for Greek culture –
the cradle of all European civilisation –
and my long-time friendship with someone from Greece (you know who you are, if you happen to read this), so Greece no doubt has a special place in my heart. Its anthem brings all these elements together: a joyous harmony of melodies reminding me of a bunch of great memories.www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SyoA3…3.) ISRAEL
The Israeli anthem always makes me think of the movie “Schindler’s List” and my travel to Kraków (Poland) a few years back. I remember I saw “Schindler’s List” long ago during a Holocaust Memorial Day at school. A concentration camp survivor of Breendonk and Auschwitz-Birkenau told us about what he’d been through and then we were shown “Schindler’s List”. Needless to say, we were all quite affected and I remember some kids ended up crying and couldn’t watch the whole movie. When I visited Kraków with my brother in August 2011, we walked all across the city to visit Oskar Schindler’s factory and we visited Auschwitz-Birkenau the day after. While walking down the train rails there, I passed a group of Jewish children. Many of them were crying and then they started singing a song, which I’m fairly certain was the anthem of Israel. That really went into my heart. No matter what I may think of Israel as a country, I believe its anthem perfectly captures the indescribable sorrow and sadness suffered by the Jewish people in what can only be described as the most horrible years in European and world history. If only lessons were learned by all...www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6n55d…4.) KAZAKHSTAN
To be honest, I know very little about the nation of Kazakhstan besides a few random facts: it was part of the Soviet Union, it’s home to Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, its president is a guy named Nazarbayev, its capital is Astana, its largest city is Almaty and it has a beautiful flag and anthem. I used to think Rolf from “Ed Edd ’n Eddy” is from Kazakhstan (which he isn’t ^^) and I’ve never seen that Borat-movie, but that’s probably for the best. Anyway, the Kazakh anthem is very pleasant to listen to. I’ve had it stuck in my head several times and even caught myself whistling it out in the street. I can only imagine what some Kazakh tourists crossing me in Ghent, Brussels or Antwerp would say if they hear me whistling their national anthem. That would be... interesting?www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2a0WB…5.) MEXICO
I first discovered the Mexican anthem while browsing YouTube for anthems of the countries participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. What can I say? Mexico’s tune really lingered. It’s one of those anthems I liked after a mere ten seconds. That’s what a great anthem must do: capture your attention and dazzle you into playing it again and again. I think I will always associate this anthem with the June days of 2014, which consisted mostly of watching football nearly everyday. The two default reasons for watching Mexico’s games were no doubt its national anthem and the behaviour of its coach Miguel Herrera. Both can only be described as passionate, I believe. I also can’t help but think of the movie “The Mask of Zorro” (with Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins) when I hear this anthem, so what’s not to like?www.youtube.com/watch?v=AonRHe…6.) MONTENEGRO
Although I like to listen to national anthems, I haven’t heard them all (yet). Some days ago, I did a final browsing session on YouTube before deciding which anthems would be featured in the overview you’re reading now. While wondering “have I heard this one yet?”, I clicked the Montenegrin anthem and wow... Thank Apollo I did! This is one of those anthems that blew me away immediately. I actually kicked out another anthem to be able to include Montenegro, despite knowing very little about the country itself: I know the name means ‘Black Mountain’, where it is, what the flag looks like, that it was part of Yugoslavia and that it declared independence from Serbia in 2006 (leaving poor Serbia to pretend the Danube also counts for a coastline). Come to think of it, I don’t even know the Montenegrin capital... *looks it up* ... Podgorica! See, you learn something new everyday, if you’re up for it.www.youtube.com/watch?v=Khijd5…7.) NEPAL
Landlocked and hidden in the Himalaya Mountains though it is, I doubt Nepal is unknown to anyone who’s a little into the world of Polandball (Nepalrawr ^^). Nevertheless, I assume most people know Nepal for being home to Mount Everest and having the world’s only non-quadrilateral flag. But what’s a great flag without an anthem to complement it? Fortunately, Nepal evades this question brilliantly: its anthem is truly one of the most magnificent I have ever heard. Adding to the magic, at least for me, is the mention of “Mahakali” in the lyrics, which immediately reminds me of Black Metal band Dissection’s signature song “Maha Kali”. However, it should be noted that the Nepalese anthem refers to the country’s westernmost regions, while Dissection’s song refers to a Hindu goddess.www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxxXct…8.) NORTH KOREA (DPRK)
I have no qualms admitting I’ve been a DPRK watcher for years, learning about the country on an almost daily basis. Whether its books, articles, news reports, YouTube videos, I don’t think there’s much DPRK stuff out there that escapes my attention. Truly, there is much more to the DPRK than the Kim dynasty, military parades, nuclear threats and rocket launches, although these are the things most often shown in the West. Granted, the DPRK doesn’t make it very easy to report on other things, and what Western media outlet would take the time to make the effort these days? Anyway, I first heard the North Korean anthem in 2010, when the DPRK participated in the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. I even learned the words. During the DPRK’s first game (against Brazil, no less), Belgian TV invited a North Korean citizen to come talk about his country in the studio, aided by a South Korean translator. How great is that? The North Korean anthem itself is as epic as they get, really, perhaps in part because of the obvious Soviet inspiration in the music. The guitar players among us may be interested to know that the North Korean and Soviet anthems can be played with exactly the same chords.www.youtube.com/watch?v=5B9pfY…9.) POLAND
“Poland cannot into space”, according to one popular phrase, but Poland can definitely into an epic national anthem! I think it’s undeniable that the Polish people have had their dignity and liberty taken away once too often throughout the last two hundred-something years. The Polish maiden has been beaten, tortured, raped and torn apart by the likes of Sweden, Prussia, Austria, Tsarist Russia, Nazi Germany and the USSR. But Poland’s spirit never perished: she persisted, healed and now lives to see the day when she stands stronger than ever. The Polish people’s unbreakable resilience seems to me the most present element in their anthem. For that alone, one can only admire this country, its people, its history and its national melodies. And of course, I absolutely love the acknowledgement of Napoleon Bonaparte, the great liberator of Poland from foreign tyranny! VIVE L’EMPEREUR! (That was political, I’ll grant you, but I’d make an exception for the Sun of Europe any day of the week, really).www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgotDq…10.) URUGUAY
Somewhat like Belgium in Europe, the República Oriental del Uruguay
(I love that name) is a small country pinched in between two giants. However, despite being the second smallest country in South America (before Suriname), Uruguay is undoubtedly at the helm of the continent. Indeed, which country is at the top of the South American ranking in democracy, political stability, tolerance, living quality, press freedom, income equality and lack of corruption? Uruguay... “Libertad o Muerte”
, indeed! But let’s not forget to rank the Uruguayan national anthem among these impressive achievements: a thunderous harmony which is best described as a combination of a military march and an opera overture. Most epic anthem in South America? Uruguay, hands down. And did I happen to mention... Coolest flag in South America? Brazi- Uruguay again! ^^ www.youtube.com/watch?v=bT09o8…
I hope some of you found this journal interesting or enjoyable. Feel free to share which of these anthems you already knew (or didn’t), which ones were new to you, which ones you liked the most and why... All that kind of jazz.