Five Fairly Obscure National Anthems
As someone who’s fascinated by the amazing diversity of languages on this planet, I’ve often wondered what a particular language sounds like, and as such I’ve ended up listening to countless national – or regional – anthems for that one reason. So here are some of the best, be it for their musical value or for the interesting stories they tell:
This anthem is not that obscure – the tune is the same as the Welsh national anthem, and the meaning of the lyrics is close as well. This was done on purpose, to celebrate the close ties between the Celtic peoples. However, because of France’s strict policy against minority languages, the Breton language is now endangered, and this song is a powerful symbol of national identity and defiance as a result.
Here is a rough translation of the first verse and the chorus, based on a French one I found:
We Bretons at heart love our true country
The Armor (poetic name for Brittany) is renowned across the world
Unafraid of battle, our brave ancestors
Shed their blood for her.
Oh Brittany, my country, how I love my country,
As long as the sea will form a wall around her
Be free, my country!
In a nation ravaged by decades of war and tyranny, and divided between countless tribes often at odds with each other, this anthem, celebrating the ethnic diversity of the country, offers some hope for the future of a land with such an amazing past.
Translated lyrics here:
Yes, the one with the big stone faces. Easter Island’s history is so tragic yet fascinating – I recommend Collapse by Jared Diamond if you want to read more about it. Their unofficial anthem is deep and haunting, fittingly for what used to be the most isolated people in the world and the hardships they suffered. Here it is:
Galicia is a region in northwestern Spain – just above Portugal – with its own language, closely related to Portuguese, and Celtic-influenced culture, brought in by Briton refugees driven away by the Saxons. As such, their anthem, whose lyrics are a love letter to the land and its heritage, combines the melodic Galician language with freaking bagpipes. Just listen:
Translated lyrics here:
Sardinia is an island in the middle of the western Mediterranean, belonging to Italy, with a very ancient past, and a very old language – the closest surviving language to Latin, in fact. Its people are famous for stubbornly resisting foreign occupation, and in 1794, when their Piedmontese overlords were occupied by the French, they joined the Revolution and this was the result – an anthem warning nobles and similar tyrants of their impending downfall, possibly even more scathing than the Marseillaise, and the unofficial anthem of Sardinia to this day.
Here is a translation of this version’s lyrics (the full lyrics are much, much longer):
Make sure to limit, Barons, your tyranny
Otherwise, I swear it on my life, you’ll end up underground
The war on oppression is already declared
And the people’s patience is wearing thin.
Don’t you see that you are lighting a fire against yourselves
That it’s not a game, but a serious matter
Beware the brewing storm
Misguided people, listen to my voice!
The people buried in a deep slumber
Finally awoken, see that they are in chains
Paying the price of their past indifference:
Feudalism, immoral law!
Ten or twelve families have divided up Sardinia
Unjustly stealing our lands
In those dark years
But now we are here to set things right!
They (the Piedmontese) stole millions from this land
Coming without trousers and leaving with gold braid
If only they hadn’t come to devastate everything
Damn the land that gave birth to such people!
I hope you enjoyed my – admittedly quite Eurocentric – list.
P.S.I might update this with translated lyrics in the near future.
P.P.S. Most of the lyrics are here! I wasn’t able to find a translation for Easter Island’s anthem, the only information I found is that the title means “Hotu Matu’a’s Funeral Hymn”, Hotu Matu’a being the island’s legendary founder. Someday I might come across the full translation, who knows…