How can I stop myself from singing hymns

Can you still sing that? - Dawn and pathos: the cross with the national anthems

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No musical genre sparked such heated discussions as the national anthems. Do they still fit in today?

the essentials in brief

  • National anthems from all over the world sound similar: after Western European marching music.
  • As a result, they convey colonial power relations and are outdated, argues a musicologist.
  • A political scientist replies: National anthems are contemporary because they reflect the values ​​of a society.

"The colonial spirit is planted in the national anthems," says the musicologist Anton Häfeli firmly. He is not a fan of national anthems - but is passionate about the context in which they were created.

So the colonial spirit shows in the melodies. Many national anthems from South America and Africa sound just as western as the national anthems from France or Great Britain.

This also applies if they arose after independence. The latest example is the march-like hymn, Link opens in a new window of the nation of South Sudan, founded in 2011.

Between praise and declaration of war

Because France and Great Britain played a pioneering role in the establishment of nation states, their national anthems have also become prototypes for this genre.

Most of the hymns are combative like the “Marseillaise” or praise God or a monarchical head with solemn sounds like “God Save the Queen”.

These prototypical national anthems were originally created to motivate and unite in war. “They were necessary then. Not today, ”says musicologist Anton Häfeli.

Symbol of belonging together

The political scientist Nenad Stojanovic sees it differently: "In order for a democracy to work, you need the feeling that you belong together." For that you need symbols. The national anthem is such a symbol: a cultural one with a political and social impact.

A national anthem is appropriate if it speaks to as many people as possible in a country. “Regardless of which linguistic region or denomination someone belongs to,” said the former Ticino Grand Councilor Stojanovic.

And regardless of whether with or without a migration background, he adds. A catchy melody is very suitable for this.

Balkan pop instead of hymns?

Anton Häfeli, on the other hand, finds: "Half of the population can no longer do anything with this hymn sound from the 19th century." He would therefore like Switzerland - if at all - to have a hymn with popular music.

With a smile in his voice, the musicologist speaks out in favor of the Balkan version of the Swiss Psalm by Šuma Čovjek and Ivica Petrušić: “That would make us cosmopolitan and open to the world”.

Šuma Čovjek feat. Ivica Petrušić - Swiss International Psalm (2011)

Texts are stumbling blocks

The melody is one thing, the text the other. For Nenad Stojanovic, national anthems are only up-to-date when they reflect the common values ​​of a nation.

The Mongolian national anthem falls into this category:

"With all honorable nations of the world / Let us strengthen our relationships"

Or the Ethiopian anthem:

«For peace, justice and freedom of the people / We are united in equality and love»

It sounds rather out of date when an Italian boys' choir sings:

«Italy has called / We are ready to die»

Also when Algerian girls sing:

«Oh France, the time of reckoning has come / So prepare yourself for our answer»

This anthem was written in 1962, shortly after Algeria gained independence from France.

"Passing on the Fire"

Since the 19th century, a new nation has immediately adopted a new national anthem, and that is a tradition. But as the composer Gustav Mahler said: "Tradition is not the worship of the ashes, but the passing on of the fire."

The national anthems of this world could therefore be adapted regularly. Even if it's just a single word - like the Austrians who rewrote their national anthem in 2011 according to gender: Aus «Home are you great sons» has been "Home of great daughters and sons".

Broadcasts:

The Swiss psalm

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"Step into the red of the morning ...": This is how Switzerland's national anthem began in 1961.

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