National anthems have a way of reminding us of our glory and pride, of feeling a sense of belonging to that country. It is that one chorus we have learned to sing since childhood and every time we sing it, it carries a certain emotion we resonate in unison.
Most national anthems have a march-like or a hymn-like composition and the lyrics have to do with the struggles of freedom movements and independence, its citizens, beautiful landscapes, and diverse cultures. But every anthem has a story behind/about it – from Spain having a wordless anthem to Czechoslovakia splitting its anthem into two when the country split, here are some (really, really, AND really) crazy stories behind how some anthems came to be.
1. The composer of Mexico’s national anthem was locked in a room by his girlfriend till he came up with the lyrics of the national anthem
When Mexico held a national anthem writing contest, poet Francicso González Bocanegra’s girlfriend asked him to participate in the contest and he refused. So, she locked in him a room filled with images of Mexico history let him out only after he slipped a ten-verse poem from under the door. It became the national anthem of Mexico, thanks to (the extremely patriotic, confident, far-sighted) girlfriend.
So, when the Sultan visited London on the Queen’s invitation, his aide was asked for the tune of the Malaysian Anthem so it could be played in the Sultan’s welcome ceremony. Feeling embarrassed of not having a national anthem and ashamed to admit it, he just decided to croon a popular Seychelles melody, which, (no prizes for guessing) went on to become the national anthem of Malaysia. (Wow and how!)
3. The Czech Republic and Slovakia split Czechoslovakia’s anthem amongst themselves
When Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918, the anthem was composed by putting together verses from a Czech opera and a Slovak folk song. But when Czechoslovakia split into two, the album also split into two, with the first verse going to the Czech Republic and the second going to Slovakia. (They know their math well)
4. The Ugandan anthem is one of the shortest in the world
With just eight bars of music, (yes, ONLY eight), the Ugandan national anthem is one of the shortest anthems in the world. It is occasionally performed twice in a row to lengthen it. (Smart, very smart).
5. The composer of Costa Rica’s national anthem was thrown into prison
Under the orders of the President, Captain Manuel Maria Gutierrez, the composer of Costa Rica’s national anthem, was thrown into prison in 1853 because he refused to compose the national anthem of Costa Rica, on the grounds of not being able to undertake such a big responsibility.
6. Greece has the longest national anthem in the world
Greece REALLY lives up to it when it comes to owning the longest album. Written by the poet Dionysios SolomosImagine, it is not usually sung but when it is, imagine those poor kids having to memorize 158 stanzas. PHEW!
7. Japan’s anthem has the oldest words
Japan’s national anthem, ‘Kimi Ga Yo’, was written by an anonymous author in the Heian period (794-1185). The lyrics are based on a Waka poem and it is sung to a melody written in the later Meiji period in the ninth century. Yes, THAT old.
8. The Democratic Republic of Congo’s national anthem asks, “And if we have to die, does it really matter?”
Declaring the motto of unity, work and progress, The Democratic Republic of Congo’s National Album asks its citizen to lay their lives without blinking an eyelid.
9. Spain’s national anthem has no words
It was originally a military marching tune and played on fifes or trumpets. There have been sets of lyrics adopted, and replaced but since 1970, Spain has a wordless national anthem. Humm away to the nation’s glory!
10. Ukraine’s anthem starts with “Ukraine is not yet dead”
True, not yet dead and we wish you it never is. It goes on to say, “Our enemies will die, as the dew does in the sunshine, and we, too, brothers, we’ll live happily in our land.”
11. Cyprus has no national anthem of its own
When it comes to Cyprus, it does not own a national anthem. However, it uses the national anthem of Greece and Turkey. (Borrowing from the neighbours is never a bad idea).
12. The person who wrote the national anthem of St. Helena saw the island only through postcards
The anthem of St. Helena, called ‘My Saint Helena Island’ was written by an American named David Mitchell who had never been to St. Helena. He drew inspiration by looking at some postcards from the island.
13. The national anthem of Netherlands is acrostic – the first letter of each verse spells out the name of a Dutch hero
The lyrics to the national anthem of Netherlands consist of 15 verses and makes up an acrostic for Willem Van Nassov, a revolutionary hero of the Dutch revolt against Spain. The first letter of each verse spells out his name.
14. Andorra’s national anthem tells its story in the first person
While every country focuses on representing the country collectively, only Andorra’s anthem tells its story in the first-person narrative. The nation is referred to as “I.” An excerpt from it reads, “I was born a Princess, a Maiden, neutral between two nations. I am the only remaining daughter, of the Carolingian empire.”
15. The national anthem of South Africa has five languages in it
South Africa’s national anthem starts with two lines of Xhosa, Zulu, Sethotho, Afrikaans and ends with English.
16. The national anthems Of Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa are inspired by the same hymn
Zambia, Tanzania, and South Africa’s national anthem are based on the hymn Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, written by Enoch Sontonga in 1897.
17. The national anthems of Estonia and Finland have the same tune
The national anthems of Estonia and Finland are musically identical but have different lyrics.
18. Liechtenstein and the United Kingdom’s national anthem are musically identical
The national anthems of Liechtenstein and the United Kingdom shares the same melody but have different lyrics.
19. The national anthem of France has incredibly blood-thirsty lyrics
“May your dying enemies see your triumph and our glory!” Yes, the national anthem of France focuses on being pretty dark and violent.
20. The national anthems of India and Bangladesh were written by Rabindranath Tagore
‘Amar Shonar Bangla’, written by Rabindranath Tagore to protest the Partition of Bengal in 1905, was adopted by Bangladesh later in 1971 as their national anthem. Some sources state that Sri Lanka’s National Anthem was also written by Tagore while some others state that it was inspired by the work of Tagore.