What should London’s anthem be?

If it goes independent, obviously. And who knows post-Brexit?!?

London Calling?

West End Girls?

Dizzee Rascal’s Fix Up, Look Sharp?

“Er… What?” I hear you say. Yes, Dizzee would be a strange choice. But he’s mine, and for a good reason, which you can learn by listening to Adrian Lacey’s great London Podcast at his site, via iTunes or here if you’re using Android.

I’ve never been asked the question before, which is surprising given so many cities, at least in the US, have anthems.

Adrian gave me one of the best podcast experiences I’ve had, taking me back to my childhood school in the London suburbs to stand in pouring rain (that wasn’t his fault) and explain where my love of music came from, doing a full, fascinating interview about the book, and even getting me to do a reading.

In the episode, he also goes out on London’s streets to ask people what their anthem would be. And he tells a brilliant story about his (white, lower-middle class, British) parents trying to write Nigeria’s anthem when it became independent.

It’s a real fun and interesting listen. And few podcast presenters go to such efforts, so, seriously, head here to hear it.

Adrian’s done some amazing other podcasts on everything from the Fire of London to Bob Marley’s London home, so check out other episodes if you can. Huge thanks to him if he’s reading.

The Paralympics – more anthems than the Olympics (including some words on Trinidad and Tobago’s)

Australia on their way to winning gold at the wheelchair rugby. Always an amazing sport to watch

Ouch! Australia on their way to winning gold at the wheelchair rugby

If you watched the Paralympics, you might have noticed something. No, not that wheelchair rugby is an incredibly violent sport. But that the countries that won gold are hugely different to the Olympics winners.

Some 63 countries took that medal, four more than at the Olympics, and 17 of those didn’t win one gold a month ago, and that includes such giants (in population terms) as India, Egypt and Nigeria. What does that mean? Well, it probably says a lot about the lack of money in the Paralympics meaning there’s a more equal playing field, but, in the context of this national anthem-obsessed blog, it means only one thing: that people got to hear 17 anthems for the first time this year!

Many of those anthems I’ve written about on here or in my book. They range from greats like Algeria’s (the only anthem to mention machine guns) to the controversial like Iraq’s, the much loved like Malaysia’s, to the plain naughty like Mexico’s (the only anthem written out of lust).

But there were a few that I haven’t written about, of which one sticks out: Trinidad and Tobago’s.

What’s interesting about Forged From the Love of Liberty that makes it worth choosing? Musically? Nothing. And lyrically? Nothing either!

But there are two reasons it’s interesting. Firstly, it was originally written as the anthem of the West Indies Federation, which lasted from 1958 to 1962, and was an attempt to almost create one country in the Caribbean. Its author Patrick Castagne made his song vague enough to appeal to everyone, with lines about all the islands “side by side…our hearts joined across the sea.” But when the federation collapsed he didn’t decide to just let it disappear to history, he tweaked it to make it work for Trinidad and Tobago instead. He was somehow awarded $5,000 for those three minutes of work.

It’s the only anthem I know of that’s been rewritten in that way (Russia’s used to the be the anthem of the Soviet Union, but I think this is more dramatic).

The second thing that’s interesting is Patrick himself. Patrick wasn’t just an anthem writer. He also wrote calypsos, including this great tune, Ice Man for someone called Lord Melody.

I wonder if Akeem Stewart – the Trinidadian Paralympian who won gold in the javelin at the Paralympics and silver in the discus – would have preferred to have heard some calypso on the podium instead of his anthem. If you know him, please ask.

There’s already been an anthem cock-up at the Olympics

Nigerian football team at Rio celebrating

The Olympics doesn’t officially start until tonight’s opening ceremony, but things are already going wrong – in anthem terms at least.

Last night, Nigeria beat Japan 5-4 in their opening match of the men’s football tournament (that’s them celebrating above). But beforehand they had the humiliation of being played Venezuela’s anthem rather than their own by mistake.

I’d love to show you a clip, but the IOC seems to have eliminated all traces of it from the internet so instead here are the two anthems. Decide for yourselves which is better.

Boko Haram’s using the Islamic State’s national anthem

Boko Haram video still

Last year, I wrote this article for The Guardian about the Islamic State’s apparent “national anthem” – the worryingly catchy My Ummah, Dawn Has Appeared.

Some doubted the Islamic State would do something as Western as pick a song to represent itself, but it seems the song’s only grown in stature since that piece was written. Last week, for instance, Boko Haram – the Nigerian terrorist group allied to ISIS – used it to open one of their propaganda videos for the first time, according to the excellent Jihadology website.

Expect it to appear in other parts of the self-styled caliphate soon. Yes, a song that sounds like it was made for yoga classes really has become the soundtrack to modern terrorism. Christ.

Nigeria’s anthem composer dies

Pa Benedict Odiase, composer of Nigeria's national anthem

Most of Africa’s national anthems are awful. They sound like church hymns written by amateur musicians.

Nigeria’s Arise O Compatriots is one of the few exceptions, and the main reason for that is its composer, Benedict Odiase. He decided that if there was one thing a Nigerian anthem needed, it was some African percussion thundering along beneath it. And his tune sounds great for that, like a troop of drummers interrupting a brass band rehearsal.

Odiase died on Tuesday night, aged 79. Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan said, “In passing, Odiase bequeathed an indelible legacy to the nation which will continue to inspire present and future generations of Nigerians to greater heights of accomplishment.”

It’s a nice message; it’s just a shame many Nigerians would say Goodluck’s one of the people who needs inspiring right now.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Odiase once – about how he taught some of the country’s best musicians as well as writing the anthem. Annoyingly, he wouldn’t gossip about any of the musicians or politicians he dealt with over the years, but I had to admire him for not dropping to my level.

You can read a bit of that interview here. Otherwise, join Nigeria’s 160 million people and give his song a listen.

Is Beyoncé really American?

I don’t mean to start the New Year like a Fox News presenter, but I am shocked – shocked! – at the news that President Obama has chosen Beyoncé to sing The Star-Spangled Banner at his second inauguration on 21 January.

Surely that role should only go to the most patriotic of Americans, someone whose blood isn’t just red, but white and blue as well; someone whose heart could never be shared with another country?

But what’s that clip above? It couldn’t possibly be Beyoncé singing Nigeria’s national anthem, Arise O Compatriots, could it? God, it’s bad enough that Obama’s Kenyan!

(To any regular readers, I promise I’ll go back to doing serious pieces of anthem-related journalism soon [crosses fingers behind back]!)