and the gold medal for national anthem goes to…

August 12, 2008

Some 205 countries are competing in the Olympics as I write for medals in all manner of sports to be presented to the country’s national anthem. But based on music alone, whose anthem is the best? Alex Marshall went on a hilarious month-long quest to listen to every single one, from Guinea’s 10 second polka break tune to Burundi’s Bruce Lee film soundtrack. Here are the top 10!

Be Upstanding: The ten best national anthems

Uruguay: National anthem

One of the most euphoric pieces of classical music I’ve ever heard. Banks of trumpets play crescendos to false endings – for five minutes. But somehow it works.

Bangladesh: My Golden Bengal

A wonderful anthem that sounds like it was written for a stroll along the Seine. It really needs Jacques Brel. Which is probably not what the Bangladeshi composer had in mind.

Tajikistan: National anthem

Written when the country was part of the USSR, it sounds like the music that plays in James Bond films when a Russian spy is about to cut off Bond’s manhood. It doesn’t try to soar, but frighten, and it’s all the better for it.

Mauritania: National anthem

A trip into the heart of the souk, albeit a menacing one. The melody is so unusual that most Mauritanian’s can’t sing along to it, so pretend it doesn’t have any words.

Dominica: Isle of Beauty, Isle of Splendour

A simple, spiralling melody stuck on repeat for 47 seconds, but there’s such movement and elegance to it. Don’t confuse with the Dominican Republic’s, which is wretched.

US Virgin Isles: Virgin Islands March

It’s Mary Poppins! One of the few anthems to literally pull out all the bells and whistles. This should be a soundtrack to a kid’s film.

Senegal: Strum Your Koras, Strike Your Balafons

How can an anthem that name checks two local instruments in its title – a harp and a xylophone – be any less than brilliant? It’s really two tunes – the first twinkles, the second strolls. But both are amazing.

Nigeria: Arise O Compatriots, Nigeria’s Call Obey

Written in 1978 by the Nigerian Police Band, this should be an awful march. Fortunately it features relentless afrobeat percussion, which makes any tune outstanding.

Nepal: Hundreds of Flowers

Adopted last year, when Nepal’s House of Representatives threw out the old, western-style anthem. This folk melody on strings and hand drums sounds like slowed-down bhangra. Shame it’s probably unplayable by brass, so unlikely to be heard outside Nepal.

Japan: May Your Reign Last Forever

Solemn. So much so, it’ll have you thinking of everyone you’ve lost for its duration. Rarely does an anthem carry such weight.

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4 Responses to “and the gold medal for national anthem goes to…”

  1. Tulipgirl Says:

    Listened to all of them and I can’t say I share your reviewers enthusiasm for all. By the way, have you noticed how with each of these videos seems to come an endless stream of nationalistic ranting in the comment section?!

  2. manu Says:

    one of the problems of having no telly is that you READ about Bejing…I do miss the national anthems 😉

  3. Irv Says:

    The link on the Dominica National Anthem does not refelct out Anthem. It’s most likely the anthem of the Dominica Republic. Please put in our correct Anthem

  4. sunburn Says:

    i do beg your pardon! it’s fixed now. i have to say i didn’t check the links individually. love the blue parrot on your flag by the way!

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