Pick Switzerland’s new national anthem, so they don’t pick the one that sounds like a stalker shouting through a letterbox!


Back in 2013, Switzerland announced it was seeking a new national anthem to replace the current Swiss Psalm, which sounds too much like a “Biblical weather forecast”.

I may have submitted an entry, and I may have been quickly rejected, but that isn’t a story for now! What is, is the fact they’ve just revealed the shortlist. It’s made up of six songs: four rewrites of the current lyrics and two new compositions.

But who should you vote for (anyone can by going here until May 15)? Here’s a handy cut out and keep guide:

The one everyone outside Switzerland will misinterpret


The phrase “un pour tous, et tous pour un” was being said all over Switzerland in 1868 as a way of uniting the country after devastating floods. It became so popular it was even carved into the roof of the Swiss parliament. It should be the perfect slogan, then, to make the centrepiece of the country’s national anthem, as entry C’s done. Unfortunately, the rest of the world knows that phrase as “All for one and one for all” and associates it with a cartoon dog so, er… Next!

The one that’s too clingy

“O my Switzerland, I love you so much”, starts the chorus to entry F, making the singer sound somewhat like a stalker shouting through a letterbox. They’re quite a weird stalker as then they start shouting about “my country of freedom, ideal of equality, true cradle of peace on earth” but they’re Swiss, they might be into such things!

The one that sounds like a child’s nightmare

The person behind Entry E deserves a lot of praise as they wrote an entirely new tune. It starts well enough too with a series of staccato phrases, as if mimicking a child skipping through some woods. Unfortunately, it then drops into a minor key as if the child’s skipped into a witch’s lair and is about to be murdered. But you can’t have everything can you?

The jazzy one

Entry D is an original tune too, and actually a very nice one until you start picturing a drunk uncle singing it at Christmas while winking at your mother, and that just isn’t right!

The one that sounds like a shopping list

“White cross on a red background,” opens Entry A before apparently deciding the best approach to writing an anthem is to just list every one of Switzerland’s values in a hope no one could possibility criticise it. “Freedom, independence, peace, open to the world in which we live,” it goes. I’d prefer something more emotional and less like a shopping list, but it’s certainly the most Swiss entry, which gives me a horrid feeling it might win.

The traditionalist 

For those who know a thing or two about national anthems, you may be wondering where the references to landscape are, well here they come, all two of them! “From the tops of our peaks to the heart of our cities,” this one goes, before proclaiming the singer’s love for this beautiful land. They may not be the most original words, but they are certainly the most traditionally anthemic. If I was going to go out on a limb, I’d say this entry – B – is the winner, but don’t be boring, Switzerland, go for the drunk uncle one!

More evidence Nepalis are the best people

Amber Gurung ill

Earlier this week, I learned the sad news that a musician called Amber Gurung was in hospital having suffered a fall (that’s him in the photo).

Amber’s the composer of Nepal’s national anthem – perhaps the world’s strangest, sounding more like the music you’d hear in a takeaway than a sports stadium.

If he were instead the composer of another country’s anthem, he’d right now be ignored and left quietly to die. But as he’s Nepal’s he’s not. Instead the government there have announced they’ll pay all his medical bills in the hope he can get back to health.

The government also recently announced they would give the poet behind their anthem, a man called Byakul Maila, an annual salary so he didn’t have to live in poverty anymore. Two bits of amazing news. Clearly Nepalis think a lot of their anthem!

Amber and Byakul’s stories will appear in my book once it’s eventually out. They involve some Maoists and a King and are far more interesting than this blog post makes them sound!

All I want for Christmas is a video of some Paraguayans singing their national anthem

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!).

Taylor Swift, the Chinese government and an Indian anarchist walk into a bar

Taylor Swift money

I unsurprisingly have a LOT of alerts set up to catch national anthem stories. Right now, you’d think those would be dominated by the news that China’s banning people from playing its national anthem at weddings, or even the fact an Indian anarchist’s just spent 35 days in jail after refusing to stand for his.

But they’re not. Instead they’re filled with 14-year-olds from Wisconsin posting the words “Heartbreak is the national anthem” as if they’ve just been dumped.

Heartbreak is the national anthem tweet

Which would be incredibly annoying if those words weren’t taken from one of the greatest pop tracks of the year: Taylor Swift’s New Romantics.

It’s a song about trying to be strong in the face of arseholes – something we can all identify with I’m sure you agree, and far more than we can with people playing national anthems at weddings. WHY ON EARTH WOULD ANYONE PLAY AN ANTHEM AT A WEDDING WHEN THEY COULD PLAY TAYLOR SWIFT? HAVEN’T THEY HEARD SHAKE IT OFF?

Unfortunately, I can’t post New Romantics as Taylor’s banned herself from the Internet, so go and listen to it on iTunes or, y’know, at least head off and watch that clip of her rapping along to Kendrick Lamar.

(The photo at the top of this post is stolen from Billboard. Yes, I’m a very bad man.)

The Islamic State’s national anthem – and why you’ll worryingly like it

I recently wrote this article for the Guardian on the Islamic State’s national anthem and how the body’s changing the music of jihad. It was the most interesting article I’ve researched in a while, so hopefully it’s a moderately interesting read.

For those without the time to read 1,500 words, here’s the actual anthem. It’s great… until 2’53 in.

Update: If you want even more on ISIS’ music, I recently spoke to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s brilliant Q radio programme about it. Listen here. They amazingly gave me 15 minutes to prattle on. You have been warned!

How Turkey’s anthem decided its election

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu's anthem grave gaffe action shot

Things not to do in an election campaign:

1) Visit the grave of the composer of your country’s national anthem, a song displayed in every classroom
2) Announce to dozens of cameramen that your father and him were best mates
3) Wistfully read aloud the words to that anthem
4) Get its name wrong

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a 70-year-old politician running in Turkey’s presidential election, somehow managed to do exactly that last week, mistaking a poem called Martyrs of Galipoli for the country’s anthem, the Independence March (that’s him getting ready to make the gaffe in the photo).

He admittedly only had a slim chance of beating Tayyip Erdogan in the 10 August vote before saying it. But now… Yes, he’s screwed, isn’t he?

It’s a big shame, as the election’s important, especially if you’re a fan of women laughing in public. Ihsanoglu was Erdogan’s only serious opposition. But, if you can’t recognise the words to your country’s anthem, should you be allowed to be in charge of it? (“Yes!” I hear you shout, but that’s not what a 50-year-old builder in Istanbul’s going to think now is it?)

Ihsanoglu’s been trying to defend himself ever since, saying things like, “I learnt the anthem while sucking my mother’s milk.” It hasn’t helped – no one needs that image in their heads!

The BBC’s got a great primer on the election here. Go and have a read like and see an awful photo of Erdogan shamelessly clambering for votes by playing football.