After Muhammad Ali died, I tried desperately to find a clip of him singing the US anthem as an excuse to put him up here.
It’s taken me a bloody long time, but – finally! – I’ve got one (see above). He starts singing at 3:07, but watch the whole clip as it shows him at his funniest, most charismatic and potent in combating racism.
It’s about the time he won the Olympic gold medal and then tried to get served in a diner afterwards. “The lady said to me, ‘We don’t serve negroes.’ I said: ‘I don’t eat them either; just give me a cup of coffee and a hamburger.'”
Uruguay’s anthem is probably my favourite – it’s got a tune as rambunctious as the Marseillaise, but with all the blood replaced by a joy for life. I think that’s why everyone in the clip below’s smiling. Although, yes, that might also be because my filming was so incompetent!
I made this recently while in Montevideo researching the lives of the men who wrote the anthem – one of whom also happened to write a poem called Apology for the Penis, which I thoroughly recommend you look up.
My book includes the full story of the anthem. It’s surprisingly tragic, apart from the Apology for the Penis bit, obviously. It’s out next month. Pre-order it now! Please. I need to eat!
I recorded this back in 2012, while doing some research in Pokhara, Nepal’s second city.
From the ‘camera work’, I appear to either be drunk or so nervous I can’t stop my hands from shaking. I’m not sure what the problem actually was, but if the clip doesn’t make you sick, I hope you’ll at least enjoy the music!
Nepal’s anthem (called Made of Hundreds of Flowers) is one of the world’s weirdest, but I love it as it couldn’t sound more like the country – it doesn’t try to sound like God Save the Queen or la Marsellaise as so many other countries’ anthems do.
It was composed by an old Nepali musician, Amber Gurung, and the words are by the poet Byakul Maila. I’m pretty sure both survived the recent earthquakes unscathed, but obviously the country didn’t. Donate if you can.
I recently visited Paraguay to research its amazing, and amazingly named, national anthem, Republic or Death. While there, I also forced some poor people to sing it for me. The results are astounding, I’m sure you’ll agree.
That clip only features the anthem’s chorus as the full song lasts three minutes and I wasn’t going to make people sing for that long. I’m not a sadist! Fortunately, one of the country’s leading orchestras did play it in its entirety for me. The start and ending are brilliant.
Thanks to everyone involved, especially Maesto Haase’s National Congress Symphony Orchestra and the staff of the Santa Maria de Fe Hotel in Misiones (a place I recommend you all stay at).
To anyone from Uruguay reading, a clip of people singing your anthem’s coming soon, don’t worry (or do if you know you’re in it!).
I made this last month while travelling around Japan to research the country’s anthem, Kimigayo.
It features women in kimonos in Kyoto, people at a cherry blossom party in Osaka, and even a man at the Myokohji Temple in Yokohama – the place where the anthem was born.
I’ve made videos like this in France and the US before. It proved a little harder to get people to sing in Japan. I think that’s because everyone’s afraid of disturbing the peace (I got turned down by SO many people on Tokyo’s subway). But it may also be because no one wants to be mistaken for a member of a right-wing group.
Arigato to everyone who sung for me despite that!
If you’d like to find out what the song’s about, click through to YouTube. The words are in Japanese and English in the description box.
It’s now somehow past 1,000 views (at least 10 of those by people other than my mum). At current rates, it’ll hit a million views in 664 years, so if you haven’t watched it before, I suggest you do now. I mean, you wouldn’t want to miss out on cinematic history, would you?
Or maybe not, but it is without doubt the MOST AMAZING YOUTUBE CLIP EVER (to feature 40 Americans singing the Star-Spangled Banner)!
I filmed this on a recent trip to the US where I was doing research into America’s national anthem. Whenever I got chatting to someone, I’d ask them to sing a line of the song. It was surprising how many said yes.