National Anthems

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By Aldric Chuah:

National anthems have the ability to inspire and unite, to jubilate and invigorate. There are 200-plus countries of the world, 193 of which are members of the United Nations. All of these nations have their own national anthems, but the countries of Spain, Bosnia, San Marino and Kosovo are unique in the sense that their national anthems contain no lyrics. In the case of the latter it adopts the anthem of the European Union, the last movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.

Until 1948 South Koreans sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne until it was duly replaced with a new composition, but not before being beaten to the punch by its communist neighbour North Korea, which had written/composed its own national anthem in 1947.

There are also cases when national anthems have changed, be it the lyrics or music. From 1943-1992 Afghanistan had three different anthems. Of course after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, newly independent nations either chose to compose an entirely new anthem or to simply use the one which was in place prior to WWII. Interestingly enough a new anthem was adopted after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 but it failed to resonate with the Russian people and President of Russia at the time, Vladimir Putin, sought to restore the previous anthem, albeit with different lyrics. Sergey Mikhalkov was employed to write lyrics for the new anthem; apt given that he had written the previous Soviet anthem in 1943.

Austrian composer Joseph Haydn composed the music for the current national anthem of Germany in 1797. Lyrics were written by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben in 1841. It was adopted as the official anthem in 1922. In 1933 Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. Hitler decided to retain only the first stanza of the existing anthem. A co-anthem was created, Horst-Wessel-Lied. It espoused the virtues of the Nazi Party. It’s lyrics and music are banned in their entirety in contemporary Germany.

After the fall of Berlin in 1945 Germany divided into West and East Germany. In an attempt to secede itself from Nazi Germany, West Germany sought unsuccessfully to create a new anthem. Eventually Deutschlandlied was re-selected as the national anthem. East Germany, seeking to differentiate itself from its capitalist neighbour, coined a new anthem entitled Auferstanden aus Ruinen. It was used from 1949 to 1990. Today, reunified Germany uses only the third stanza of Deutschlandlied.

We now turn to the once arch nemesis of Germany; Britain. Adopted in 1745 God Save The Queen (or King) is the current national anthem of Great Britain.

Older readers will know of this, but until the 1970s the Australian national anthem was God Save The Queen – the national anthem of Great Britain. The current anthem of Advance Australia Fair became official in 1984. God Save The Queen is played in Australia out of deference to a visiting royal. Our neighbour across the seas, New Zealand, has the anthem of God Defend New Zealand. Common practice is for the first verse to be sung in English and M?ori. Much like Australia, God Save The Queen is only played on regal occasions.

The current anthem of the United States is The Star Spangled Banner. Prior to its official recognition in 1931 several songs/hymns served as de facto anthems. One of these is My Country, ‘Tis of Thee. Its lyrics differ greatly but perhaps paradoxically, share a melody with God Save The Queen. It is still played in contemporary America and was recently sung at President Obama’s inauguration in 2013. I still am contemplating the logic behind this !

Anthems have the ability to divide as well as unite. But regardless, they represent your country and all that it stands for. Be loud. Be proud and Advance Australia Fair.

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