How to write a national anthem

National anthems and Olympic glory go hand in hand, but what’s it like to write one? This piece of mine published in The Independent (a UK newspaper) will hopefully tell you.

It features the stories of a calypso singer, a chemical engineer, and one of the world’s leading anaesthesiologists, who just happen to have written the anthems of Barbados, St Kitts & Nevis and Nigeria.

For some reason, they all now live in the US so it should even be of interest to the Americans among you!

Unfortunately, none of those countries have yet to win gold, so I’ve had to use a picture of happy Chinese weightlifter Li Xueying to illustrate this post.

Hope everyone’s enjoying the Games. London feels pretty special right now.

2 thoughts on “How to write a national anthem

  1. I read your wonderful article on anthems, published by the BBC and would like to add a curious fact: the music of Venezuela’s National Anthem (Gloria al bravo pueblo) is from a Lullaby (Duérmete mi niño), the composers (a poet and a musician who made the arrangements) simply put new lyrics to it, inspired by the newborn nation. The musician, according to the traditions, was executed during the war for the patriotic song.

    It is sad that many anthems with wonderful stories and origins have lost their “personality” after being fitted in the “western military march” model. Some 15 years ago there was a huge scandal because a TV network made and was regularly using a version closer to the original Lullaby structure (a 4/4 measure instead of the martial 2/4, a slower tempo, sung quietly and legatissimo, with a very simple piano accompaniment)… The military was particularly furious, saying the version was effeminate and the TV network forced to take the version out of air.

    • Thanks for the comment, Carlos – I didn’t know the story, so really appreciate hearing about it.
      Couldn’t agree more about it being a shame so many anthems have lost their personality. I wish every one sounded like the country it came from. It’s why I love Nepal’s so much.
      Do you have a link to the TV company’s version?

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