National plagiarism

If you’re visiting here due to today’s BBC piece on plagiarised anthems, then first, buy my book! But with that out of the way, here is the music you’ve come for.

This is Bosnia’s anthem followed by the music from Animal House:

Yes, they do sound remarkably similar.

Is it coincidence? I clearly think so and not just for the reason of wanting to avoid a lawsuit. But could someone have heard that in a film and remembered it 20 years on? Here’s Animal House’s opening scene where the ‘anthem’ is prominent, although so is another melody someone could equally have taken for an anthem. I’ll leave you to decide what actually happened here.

As the BBC piece makes clear, lots of anthems have similar problems. This is Uruguay’s followed by Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia.

Uruguay’s is also similar to one of Beethoven’s sonatas, and the other day I heard a similarity in one of Mozart’s piano concertos, so make of that what you will.

For all the other comparisons, please trawl through my book’s audio guide although I’ll happily put more up here if there’s a clamour. Yes, some anthems I did leave out (hello everyone in South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe!), but I had to save something for people to discover in the book.

Anyway, to finish, this is South Korea’s anthem played in the style of Auld Lang Syne just because it’s fun.

Update: The Daily Telegraph has also published a fun piece of mine today on the world’s strangest anthems. It features Nepal’s and Kazakhstan’s, which have chapters in the book. The stories surrounding those songs – one’s linked to a Maoist revolution, the other exemplifies the madness of a dictatorship – should really be more widely known. Enjoy!

Bosnia’s athletes take four national anthems to the Olympics

The Bosnian war, between the country’s Muslim, Croat and Serb populations, ended in 1995. That’s 17 years ago.

If you’ve ever visited the country, you’ll know just how much most people there want to forget that past and move on. Meet anyone under 30 and chances are all they’ll tell you about is their hope Bosnia can become a proud, united nation again.

Unfortunately, the country’s parliament has just shown its utter disdain for those hopes. It has rejected proposed lyrics for the country’s national anthem.

Bosnia has actually had an anthem since 1999: Dušan Šestić’s slow and nostalgic Intermecco.

And in 2009, a committee did choose words for it, again written by Šestić.

Those words are the most innocuous you could ever come across in an anthem. They start with the line, “You’re the light of the soul, eternal fire’s flame,” and finish with, “We go into the future together.”

They don’t mention Serbs, Croats or Muslims. They don’t mention any town or city. They don’t mention any historical events, any past heroes. And they definitely don’t mention the war.

But after three years of debate, and apparently spending €50,000 on the process, Bosnia’s politicians have decided they simply can’t stomach them.

A new committee will be set up shortly, they say, and that will somehow find the right lyrics.

The absurdity of the situation is shown in this quote from Slavko Jovicic, a Bosnian Serb politician and one of the people on the original anthem committee:

The truth is we could never find words that would suit everyone. If we sung about the grass, and how green it is, the Serbs would immediately object because green is a Muslim colour

What does this mean for any Bosnian athlete at the Olympics who miraculously happens to win gold? Well, they’ll just have to do what every other Bosnian does and make up their own words to the anthem.

If they’re a Bosnia Muslim, that means they’ll sing the country’s old anthem Jedna si Jedina over the top. If they’re a Bosnian Serb, they’ll sing Serbia’s, and if they’re a Bosnian Croat, they’ll sing Croatia’s.

Yes, it will sound like a mess, it will sound like they’re literally singing one song to the tune of another, but what else can they do?

Bosnia has four national anthems, and it’s unlikely to ever change until its politicians stop living in the past.