National anthem

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Instrumental performance of the Russian national anthem at the 2010 Moscow Victory Day Parade in Moscow's Red Square, resplendent with a 21 gun salute

A national anthem (also state anthem, national hymn, national song etc.) is a generally patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions and struggles of its people, recognized either by a nation's government as the official national song, or by convention through use by the people. The majority of national anthems are either marches or hymns in style. The countries of Latin America tend towards more operatic pieces, while a handful of countries use a simple fanfare.[1]


Although national anthems are usually in the most common language of the country, whether de facto' or official, there are notable exceptions-

India's anthem, Jana Gana Mana, is in a highly Sanskritized version of Bengali.

States with more than one national language may offer several versions of their anthem: for instance, Switzerland's anthem has different lyrics for each of the country's four official languages (French, German, Italian and Romansh). Canada's national anthem has different lyrics in each of the country's official languages (English and French), and on some occasions is sung with a mixture of stanzas taken from its French and English versions.

South Africa's national anthem is unique in that five of the country's eleven official languages are used in the same anthem (the first stanza is divided between two languages, with each of the remaining three stanzas in a different language).

Apart from God Save the Queen, the New Zealand national anthem is now traditionally sung with the first verse in Māori (Aotearoa) and the second in English (God Defend New Zealand). The tune is the same but the words are not a direct translation of each other. God Bless Fiji has lyrics in English and Fijian which are not translations of each other.

Another multilingual country, Spain, has no words in its anthem, La Marcha Real. In 2007 a national competition to write words was held, but no lyrics were chosen.[2] Inno Nazionale della Repubblica, the anthem of San Marino has no official lyrics. Europe, the anthem of the Republic of Kosovo has no lyrics.


Early version of the Wilhelmus as preserved in a manuscript of 1617 (Brussels, Royal Library, MS 15662, fol. 37v-38r)[3]

National anthems rose to prominence in Europe during the 19th century, but some originated much earlier. The oldest national anthem, the Wilhelmus, the Dutch anthem, written between 1568 and 1572 during the Dutch Revolt, became the official anthem in 1932.

The Japanese anthem, Kimigayo, has its lyrics taken from a Heian period (794–1185) poem, yet it was not set to music until 1880.[4]

On the other hand, the music of Pakistan's national anthem, composed in 1949, preceded its lyrics, written in 1952.[5][6] The Philippine anthem Lupang Hinirang was composed in 1898 as wordless incidental music for the ceremony declaring independence from the Spanish Empire. The Spanish poem Filipinas was written the following year to serve as the anthem's lyrics; the current Tagalog version dates to 1962.

God Save the Queen, the national anthem of the United Kingdom and the 'royal anthem' reserved for use in the presence of the Monarch in some Commonwealth Realms, was first performed in 1745 under the title God Save the King.

Spain's national anthem, the Marcha Real (The Royal March), written in 1761, was adopted in 1770.

Denmark adopted the older of its two national anthems, Kong Christian stod ved højen mast, in 1780; and La Marseillaise, the French anthem, was written in 1792 and adopted in 1795. Serbia became the first Eastern European nation to have a national anthem – Rise up, Serbia! – in 1804.[citation needed]

Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu, national anthem of Kenya, is one of the first national anthems to be specifically commissioned. It was written by the Kenyan Anthem Commission in 1963 to serve as the anthem after independence from the United Kingdom.[7]


Schoolroom in Turkey with the words of the İstiklâl Marşı

National anthems are used in a wide array of contexts. Certain etiquette may be involved in the playing of a country's anthem. These usually involve military honours, standing up, removing headwear etc. In diplomatic situations the rules may be very formal. There may also be royal anthems, presidential anthems, state anthems etc. for special occasions.

They are played on national holidays and festivals, and have also come to be closely connected with sporting events. During sporting competitions, such as the Olympic Games, the national anthem of the gold medal winner is played at each medal ceremony; also played before games in many sports leagues, since being adopted in baseball during World War II.[8] When teams from two different nations play each other, the anthems of both nations are played, the host nation's anthem being played last.

In some countries, the national anthem is played to students each day at the start of school as an exercise in patriotism. In other countries the anthem may be played in a theatre before a play or in a cinema before a movie. Many radio and television stations have adopted this and play the national anthem when they sign on in the morning and again when they sign off at night. For instance, the national anthem of the People's Republic of China is played before the broadcast of evening news on Hong Kong's local television stations including TVB Jade and ATV Home.[9] In Colombia, it is a law to play the National Anthem at 6:00 and 18:00 on every public radio and television station, while in Thailand, Phleng Chat is played at 08:00 and 18:00 nationwide (the Royal Anthem is used for sign-ons and closedowns instead).

The words of the National Anthem of the Republic of China written by Dr. Sun Yat-sen

The use of a national anthem outside of its country, however, is dependent on the international recognition of that country. For instance, the Republic of China (commonly known as Taiwan) has not been recognized by the Olympics as a separate nation since 1979 and must compete as Chinese Taipei; its National Banner Song is used instead of its national anthem.[10] In the Republic of China, the National Anthem is sung before instead of during flag-rising and flag-lowering, followed by the National Banner Song during the actual flag-rising and flag-lowering.

Shared anthems

Although anthems are used to distinguish states and territories, there are instances of shared anthems. Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika became a pan-African liberation anthem and was later adopted as the national anthem of five countries in Africa including Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia and Zimbabwe after independence. Zimbabwe and Namibia have since adopted new national anthems. Since 1997, the South African national anthem has been a hybrid song combining new English lyrics with extracts of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika and the former anthem Die Stem van Suid-Afrika.

Hymn to Liberty is the longest national anthem in the world by length of text.[11] In 1865, the first three stanzas and later the first two officially became the national anthem of Greece and later also that of the Republic of Cyprus.

Forged from the Love of Liberty was composed as the national anthem for the short-lived West Indies Federation (1958–1962) and was adopted by Trinidad and Tobago when it became independent in 1962.[12]

Esta É a Nossa Pátria Bem Amada is the national anthem of Guinea-Bissau and was also the national anthem of Cape Verde until 1996.

Oben am jungen Rhein, national anthem of Liechtenstein is set to the tune of God Save the Queen. Other anthems that have used the same melody include Heil dir im Siegerkranz, Kongesangen, My Country, 'Tis of Thee, Rufst du, mein Vaterland, E Ola Ke Alii Ke Akua and The Prayer of Russians.

The Estonian anthem Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm is set to a melody composed in 1848 by Fredrik (Friedrich) Pacius which is also that of the national anthem of Finland: Maamme ("Vårt Land" in Swedish).[13] It is also considered to be national anthem for the Livonian people with lyrics Min izāmō, min sindimō, My Fatherland, my native land.

Hey, Slavs is dedicated to Slavic peoples. Its first lyrics were written in 1834 under the title Hey, Slovaks (Hej, Slováci) by Samuel Tomášik and it has since served as the anthem of the Pan-Slavic movement, the anthem of the Sokol physical education and political movement, the anthem of the SFR Yugoslavia and the transitional anthem of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. The song is also considered to be the second, unofficial anthem of the Slovaks. Its melody is based on Mazurek Dąbrowskiego, which has been also the anthem of Poland since 1926, but the Yugoslav variation is much slower and more accentuated.[14]

Between 1991 and 1994 Deșteaptă-te, române! was the anthem of both Romania and Moldova, but was replaced by the current Moldovan anthem, Limba noastră.

The modern national anthem of Germany, Das Lied der Deutschen,[15] uses the same tune as the 19th and early 20th-century Austro-Hungarian anthem Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser.[16]

The Hymn of the Soviet Union,[17] used until its dissolution in 1991, which was given new words and adopted by the Russian Federation in 2000 to replace the unpopular instrumental anthem it had introduced in 1993.[18][19]

Bro Gozh ma Zadoù, the anthem of Brittany and, Bro Goth Agan Tasow, the Cornish anthem, are sung to the same tune as that of Wales, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, with similar words.

For parts of states

The former Soviet Union, Spain and the United Kingdom, amongst others, are held to be unions of many nations by various definitions. Each of the different nations may have their own national anthem and these songs may be officially recognized.

Fourteen of the fifteen republics of the Soviet Union had their own official song which was used at events connected to that republic. The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic used the USSR's national anthem until 1990. Some republics retained the melodies of those songs after the dissolution of the USSR (see the article National anthems of the Soviet Union and Union Republics).

The United Kingdom's national anthem is God Save the Queen but its constituent countries also have their own anthems which have varying degrees of official recognition. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have a number of anthems which are played at occasions such as sports matches and official events. The song usually used as an anthem for England is God Save the Queen, though sometimes Jerusalem, I Vow To Thee, My Country and Land of Hope and Glory may be played instead. Scotland has adopted Flower of Scotland as its unofficial national anthem, while Wales has sung Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau since 1856 when it was written by father and son Evan and James James; the translation and music were adopted by Brittany as its national anthem. Hen Wlad fy Nhadau was sometimes accompanied by the hymn, Guide Me, O thou Great Redeemer, especially at rugby matches. Northern Ireland has used God Save the Queen though Londonderry Air is also used.

In Germany, many of the Länder have their own anthems, some of which predate the unification of Germany in 1871. A prominent example is the Hymn of Bavaria, which also has the status of an official anthem (and thus enjoys legal protection). There are also several regional, unofficial anthems, like the Badnerlied or the Niedersachsenlied.

In Austria, the situation is similar to that in Germany. The anthem of Upper Austria, the Hoamatgsang (chant of the homeland), is notable in the way that it is the only (official) German-language anthem written – and sung – entirely in dialect.

In the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, each of the republics (except the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina) had the right to its own national anthem, but only the Socialist Republic of Croatia had an anthem of its own, later joined by the Socialist Republic of Slovenia on the brink of the breakup of Yugoslavia. The Socialist Republic of Macedonia did not officially use an anthem, even though one was proclaimed during the World War II by ASNOM.

In Belgium, Wallonia uses Le Chant des Wallons and Flanders uses De Vlaamse Leeuw.

Czechoslovakia used to have an anthem composed of two parts, the Czech and the Slovak one. After the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic adopted the first part as its own anthem, Slovakia adopted the second part with slightly changed lyrics and an additional stanza.

Musicians from the U.S. Navy perform The Star-Spangled Banner prior to a baseball game in Boston

Although the United States has The Star-Spangled Banner as its official national anthem, each individual state also has its own state anthem and songs.

The Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, having been the independent Dominion of Newfoundland before 1949, also has its own anthem from its days as a dominion and British colony, the Ode to Newfoundland. It was the only Canadian province with its own anthem until 2010, when Prince Edward Island adopted the 1908 song The Island Hymn as its provincial anthem.

In Mexico, after the national anthem was established in 1854, most of the states of the federation adopted local anthems, which often emphasize heroes, virtues or particular landscapes.

All the individual states of Malaysia have local anthems.

International organizations

Larger entities also sometimes have anthems, in some cases known as 'international anthems'. Lullaby is the official anthem of UNICEF composed by Steve Barakatt.[20] The Internationale is the anthem of the socialist movement and the communist movement. Before March 1944, it was also the anthem of the Soviet Union and the Comintern. ASEAN Way is the official anthem of ASEAN. The tune of the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 is the official anthem of the European Union and of the Council of Europe. Let's All Unite and Celebrate is the official anthem of the African Union[21] (Let Us All Unite and Celebrate Together).

The Olympic Movement also has its own anthem. Esperanto speakers at meetings often use the song La Espero as their anthem. The first South Asian Anthem by poet-diplomat Abhay K may inspire SAARC to come up with an official SAARC Anthem.[22]

Ireland's Call was commissioned as the anthem of the Ireland national rugby union team, which comprises players from both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland, in response to dissatisfaction among Northern Ireland unionists with the use of the Republic of Ireland's anthem. Ireland's Call has since been used by some other all-island bodies.

Global Anthem

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Various artists have created "Earth Anthems" for the entire planet, typically extolling the ideas of planetary consciousness. Though UNESCO have praised the idea of a global anthem,[23] the UN has never adopted an official song.


Rouget de Lisle performing "La Marseillaise" for the first time

Most of the best-known national anthems were written by little-known or unknown composers such as Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, composer of La Marseillaise and John Stafford Smith who wrote the tune for The Anacreontic Song, which became the tune for The Star-Spangled Banner. The author of God Save the Queen, one of the oldest and best known anthems in the world, is unknown and disputed.

Very few countries have a national anthem written by a world-renowned composer. Exceptions include Germany, whose anthem Das Lied der Deutschen uses a melody written by Joseph Haydn, and Austria, whose national anthem Land der Berge, Land am Strome is sometimes credited to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Anthem of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic was composed by Aram Khachaturian. The music of the Pontifical Anthem, anthem of the Vatican City, was composed in 1869 by Charles Gounod, for the golden jubilee of Pope Pius IX's priestly ordination.

The committee charged with choosing a national anthem for Malaysia at independence decided to invite selected composers of international repute to submit compositions for consideration, including Benjamin Britten, William Walton, Gian Carlo Menotti and Zubir Said, who later composed Majulah Singapura, the anthem of Singapore. None were deemed suitable.

A few anthems have words by Nobel laureates in literature. The first Asian laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, wrote the words and music of Jana Gana Mana and Amar Shonar Bangla, later adopted as the anthems of India and Bangladesh respectively. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson wrote the lyrics for the Norwegian national anthem Ja, vi elsker dette landet.

Other countries had their anthems composed by locally important people. This is the case for Colombia, whose anthem's lyrics were written by former president and poet Rafael Nuñez, who also wrote the country's constitution.


While most national anthems are in the standard major scale, there are a number of notable exceptions. For example, these anthems are in the minor scale:

These anthems use pentatonic scales:

And these anthems have unique modes/modulations:

See also


  1. Joaquim Rabaseda Els himnes nacionals. Published February, 2012.
  2. "Spain: Lost for words - The Economist". The Economist. Retrieved 20 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. M. de Bruin, "Het Wilhelmus tijdens de Republiek", in: L.P. Grijp (ed.), Nationale hymnen. Het Wilhelmus en zijn buren. Volkskundig bulletin 24 (1998), p. 16-42, 199–200; esp. p. 28 n. 65.
  4. Japan Policy Research Institute JPRI Working Paper No. 79. The Indian National anthem Jana Gana Mana was transcribed from a poem by Rabindranath Tagore. Published July 2001. Retrieved July 7, 2007
  5. "Pakistan". Retrieved 20 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Nadeem F. Paracha. "Saghar Siddiqui: A man, his demons and his dog". Retrieved 20 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Kenya". Retrieved 20 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Musical traditions in sports". CNN.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Identity: Nationalism confronts a desire to be different". Financial Times. Retrieved 20 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Yomiuri Shimbun Foul cried over Taiwan anthem at hoop tourney. Published August 6, 2007
  11. "Greece – Hymn to Liberty". Retrieved 2011-11-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Understanding our national anthem, FIRST Magazine, 2012<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Estonia – Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm". Retrieved 2011-11-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Mazurek Dąbrowskiego & Hej Slaveni. YouTube. 2 March 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Translates from German as The Song of the Germans
  16. Translates from German as God save Emperor Francis
  17. Russian: Государственный гимн СССР; transliterated as Gosudarstvenniy Gimn SSSR
  18. "National Anthem". Russia's State Symbols. RIA Novosti. 2007-06-07. Retrieved 2009-12-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Zolotov, Andrei (2000-12-01). "Russian Orthodox Church Approves as Putin Decides to Sing to a Soviet Tune". Christianity Today Magazine. Christianity Today International. Retrieved 2009-12-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. , A musical call to action: ‘Lullaby: The UNICEF Anthem’ UNICEF Website, 19 November 2009
  21. AU Symbols.
  22. Indian poet-diplomat pens S.Asian anthem after Earth anthem success ANI, 27 Nov 2013
  23. UNESCO finds Indian poet-diplomat's idea of an Earth Anthem inspiring Business Standard, 27 February 2014

External links