Kazakhstan – home of the world’s most musical president

Khan Shatyr in Astana

There’s going to be an awful lot of national anthem news in the next week. On Sunday, it’s the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner, with a massive party planned in Baltimore.

And then on the 18th, Scotland might become independent, a move that would see it get its own anthem at long last (The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles, obviously).

So where am I, the world’s only anthem journalist, going to be when these momentous events take place? In Baltimore? In Edinburgh? Er, no. In Kazakhstan. In its capital, Astana. Looking at the world’s biggest tent (it’s the thing in the picture). Yes, my timing’s impeccable!

The reason I’m going is to research the country’s anthem – the only one in the world written (ok, co-written) by a ruling head of state.

The country’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, is a bit of a musician. He posts songs on his website, has written tunes for Kazakh boy bands and has even been known to use his dombra – the Kazakh guitar – as a diplomatic tool. Given that, maybe his authorship shouldn’t be a surprise, but I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks praying his minders allow me to ask him about it. Anyone know his mobile number?

I’ll post something about my travels when I’m back!

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