What to do when locked out of a polling booth? Sing about murdering Castilians

Catalonia’s independence referendum hasn’t gone to plan, with people prevented from voting, riot police storming polling booths and injuries reported all over Catalunya.

I’ve written about the region’s “national anthem”, El Segadors – The Reapers, before. It’s a dark, sludge of a tune, all about murdering Castilians (it was written in the 1640s when Catalunya was fighting an uprising against the rest of Spain).

“Drive away these people who are so conceited and so contemptful,” it goes at one point. “Strike with your sickle!”

But it’s worth mentioning it again today, especially since it’s getting a lot of airings outside closed polling booths:

There are even bands playing it in full on the streets:

Given what’s happened – the contempt towards the vote – it’s unsurprising the anthems’s everywhere, although it really isn’t the most rousing song for a moment like this, is it?

Here’s the anthem in full with some English sub-titles for anyone who feels suitably stirred:

Should Cataluña become independent? Let its anthem decide!

Cataluña – the nice part of Spain that includes Barcelona – is once again making a fuss about becoming independent, partly because of Spain’s economic crisis.

It actually can’t; Spain’s constitution doesn’t allow regions to split off.

But ignoring that little stumbling block, should it be allowed to? Let’s decide by having a look at the most important of issues: its proposed national anthem, Els Segadors!

The music: If Cataluña were a place where the sun only shone once a year, and where there was little hope of even weeds growing – Siberia, perhaps – Els Segadors (The Reapers) would be perfect.

My God it’s depressing, full of minor chords tumbling downwards as if the orchestra’s been made to play while trudging through mud.

It was written in the 1640s when Cataluña began fighting an uprising against the rest of Spain. Most of the Catalans involved were actually peasants armed with little more than the sickles they used to cut fields. Perhaps the person who wrote it realised there was little chance of them winning, so wrote an anthem to soundtrack their doom.

The lyrics: You only need the briefest scan of Els Segadors’ lyrics to see why Catalans love it. It basically gives the rest of Spain, and especially the Castilians of Madrid, a mighty kicking.

“Drive away these people who are so conceited and so contemptful,” it says. “Strike with your sickle!”

It certainly beats Spain’s anthem, la Marcha Real. Although as that doesn’t have any words, it’s at a bit of a disadvantage.

Is the song good enough to allow Catalonia independence? Clearly no! A new country needs optimism and hope in an anthem, not a song that makes you want to lock yourself indoors with a bottle of pills and several bottles of gin. Someone tell Artur Mas – Cataluña’s president – to commission something new!