The Olympic medal ceremonies have proved a parade ground for the national anthems of lots of different countries. And what a lamentable bunch these anthems are, from a musical point of view. I’ve been struck by how most of them fail to give the slightest flavour of the country concerned.
Almost every national anthem appears to have been put together by a committee, or at least to have undergone a rigorous process of elminating anything that might offend someone. Many of the anthems have a dreary colonial flavour and are played by a symphony orchestra, not by instruments native to the country concerned. As a musician, I’m quite good at remembering tunes after one hearing, but I find it hard to remember these anthems because they’re musically so anonymous.
I’ve also found it striking how un-singable most of them are. Many of the winning athletes have visibly struggled to fit words to their anthems. This is especially so with the horribly jaunty marches which skip by with military fervour, snatching their angular phrases out of reach of all but the most determined singers.
I can’t help thinking how much nicer it would be if each country were represented by a folk song, praising some local flower or landscape, and played on traditional instruments.