If Daft Punk had written la Marseillaise

Sort of.

France’s Ministry of Defence is – right now! – running a contest getting people to reinterpret the country’s national anthem. It’s had, at time of writing, an abysmal 46 entries, most of them by people who seem to need clinical help.

But the Daft Punk one above is pretty good. No, I have no idea why the person’s chosen to illustrate it with a Danish flag.

I also like this one where someone just got Google Translate to read out the lyrics, but that probably suggests I need clinical help too.

If you feel you can do a better job, you can enter here. You can win a camera, which seems a bit of a rubbish prize for the Ministry of Defence. How about a tank?

What rhymes with Toblerone? Switzerland seeks new national anthem

Swiss flag flying in the Alps

Switzerland – the home of time, chocolate and knives everyone owns but never uses – has decided it needs a new national anthem.

The Swiss Psalm, the current tune, is apparently “outdated and uninspiring” and sounds too much like a Biblical weather forecast to be kept any longer.

“When the morning skies grow red…thou O Lord appeareth in the sky,” it starts, before telling everyone to pray whenever the Alps “grow bright with splendour” – quite a burden for anyone living near them.

The Swiss Society for Public Utility, a body that aims to protect national identity, is behind the move and will accept entries from 1 January 2014.

You can enter in any of the country’s four languages: German, French, Italian or Romansch, a language spoken by 60,000 people who live in a few isolated valleys in the country.

Entries are meant to be written to the existing  tune, but they’ll accept new music if you’re particularly talented.

The good news is you don’t have to be Swiss to enter, so come on aspiring song writers, get thinking of a good rhyme for Toblerone, and get entering! You do have to live in Switzerland, but it’s not hard to buy a plane ticket to Zurich is it? And if you win, you’ll get 10,000 Swiss francs so you might even get the air fare back.

The website with all the details is here. It’s not in English, so I’ve  put it through Google Translate for you. Yes, I am amazing.

It’s Bastille Day! Grab the pétanque set and sing the Marseillaise!

It’s France’s national day today. I would suggest you all storm the nearest prison in tribute to what happened in Paris on 14 July 1789, but why not sing the country’s amazing national anthem instead with the help of this video?

Sorry to anyone who’s seen it before. I made it last year while travelling across France.

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?

The Marseillaise sung by the people of France!

What do you get when you convince 16 French people, four Belgian students and a bloke on a bike to sing the French national anthem?

The MOST AMAZING YOUTUBE CLIP EVER (to feature 16 French people, four Belgian students and a bloke on a bike singing the French national anthem)!

I recently made this last while cycling the historical route of the Marseillaise, from Marseille to Paris.

I was interviewing people about the song along the way, and it seemed fun to get them to sing too.

If you want to know the words, click through to the Youtube clip. They’re in English and French in the description box. And for a diary of my trip, including an explanation of why I did it, click here.

Merci, et désolé, à tous les participants!

Vive le vélo! Cycling the Marseillaise tour diary part I

A couple of weeks ago, I tried to cycle the route of the Marseillaise – 800 kilometres from Marseille to Paris.

In 1792, 600 soldiers marched the route to defend the French revolution. They bizarrely spent the whole, month-long journey singing the song that was to become the French national anthem, which is why it’s called the Marseillaise.

Cycling their route seemed like a good idea since I’m writing a book on anthems. It stayed a good idea for – gosh – about three days!

MARSEILLE!

This is what Marseille looks like when you walk out of the city’s train station, covered in oil having just tried to put a bike together. It’s pretty stunning.

But enough sights! My only real stop in Marseille was a trip to the Mémorial de la Marseillaise, a great museum dedicated to the anthem, slap bang on the road where the song was first sung.

There I met Frédéric Frank-David, the museum’s director, to learn about the marchers. They were recruited by the town’s mayor, who simply put a notice out for ‘men who can read, write and kill’, telling them they had to go north and stop the French king from taking power back from the people.

“Do you know they marched at night?” Frédéric said at one point. “I mean, you’d have to be an idiot to try it in the daytime, in this heat.” Ten minutes later, I left and cycled 40 kilometers up a hill. Frédéric was right.

AIX-EN-PROVENCE!

When the soldiers arrived in Aix at 7am on their second day of marching, they demanded all the food and drink the town had to offer, got drunk and started a massive fight. Because of that, most of France started praying they didn’t turn up in their town.

I didn’t manage to start a fight in Aix – it’d be hard to, it’s a pleasant university town filled with cheese markets – but I did manage to get some girls in a bakery to sing me the Marseillaise.

They had to read the words first.

AVIGNON!

The route from Aix-en-Provence to Avignon is like entering a Disneyland version of France: all vineyards and orchards and lonely houses sitting at the end of tree-lined driveways.

Cycling through it made me realise just how unsurprising it is the soldiers left a huge impression on France. Imagine what it would have been like for people sleeping in those houses when one night 600 men marched past shouting the Marseillaise, flaming torches in hand.

It’d have been terrifying, like a Napoleonic version of The Wicker Man.

Most people in Provence wouldn’t have spoken French at the time, so wouldn’t have even known what the soldiers were singing about. Although that was probably for the best given the bloodthirsty lyrics.

What else did I learn on the way to Avignon? That if a road looks too good to be true, chances are it is, it’s a motorway.

Avignon is a nice stop for a day, the former home of the Popes (they lived here after a Frenchman was elected Pope and refused to move to Rome). The picture above was taken in the papal palace.

Today, the town’s filled with German exchange students getting drunk in vodka bars. I’m sure the Catholic church would approve!

Part II of this diary, where everything goes wrong, is here!