25 November 2021

My curation of the best national anthems & patriotic songs

A celebration of music as the most powerful tool to bind a nation.

Hello to the World

main( ) {
        printf("hello, world\n");

This li’l script, first introduced by Brian Kernighan & Dennis Ritchie while writing the reference manual for the behemoth that is the C Programming Language, introduced generations before and after the internet to sheer power. The power that you could harness within (I don’t remember where I read this) a rock that we tricked into “thinking” with a little electricity. AKA, a computer.

Since then, these two words have been immortalised to introduce the world to any language or tool, and beyond too. Seeing that I am a techie at heart, but having my life revolve around way too many interests and not just coding day in and day out, I can’t think of a better way to kick open the doors to this site than with my own Hello World.

Except, I wanted to give it my own tadka. (tadka is a colloquial Hindi word derived from the tempering in some Indian cooking, which implies to give your own twist to something.)

What other thing do people or groups - from communities to whole nations - use to introduce the world to themselves, encapsulating the core that makes them who they are? (And is also a convenient excuse to just show off my idiosyncratic tastes in YouTube? Sorry, I am shameless.)

Yep, their song. Their anthem.

Hear a few bars, and you know who they are.

Understand the song they sing and you understand what they are.

Partake how they put the music and words together, and you find out the force that drives them from within.

To me, it’s a short example that introduces what a country aspires to be or how it wishes to be seen, all in a couple lyrics and some music.

So here it is: my own curated playlist of national anthems and patriotic songs on YouTube!

A screenshot of my Anthems playlist on YouTube.

(u mad about image bro? click here to directly open it in YouTube, or just scroll to the end for a taste.)

What motivated me to do this?

Or, in other words, why can’t you have a taste in music or videos like a normal person?

Actually, blame it on my own frustration around my anthem.

For generations, patriotism in the 75 years young Republic of India is figuratively beaten into us all homelanders starting with our school education. To stand in attention, to respect the flag, and to sing our anthem, Jana Gana Mana, with pride - a superior example to all those pesky westerner kids many of whom who can’t even remember a line of theirs. Unfortunately, while we have been pretty diligent about making patriots out of every little Indian, we focus on the how of the process but not how well.

Case in point, this dull rendition at the 2010 Commonwealth Games:

And for a while, India’s Supreme Court mandated that all screenings at cinemas must be compulsorily preceded by a recording of the national anthem. Even with movies you would preferably not associate the pious sacredness of atleast India’s national anthem with. Anyway, while the order got scrapped, the habit has very much stayed on.

Cinemas earlier used to play their own version of the anthem, so it was a treat to see what special rendition they would open their movie screenings with. And somewhere down the line, even these got replaced with a standardised drab version.

While some people buy in to the idea of the anthem matching the nation’s personification - for India it is the goddess Bharat Mata - for me, I don’t personally enjoy Jana Gana Mana being set to a somber prayer-like rendition.

Anthems should be stirring! Powerful! Evoke grandeur! And you don’t need to change anthems in case you thought I’d like to change Jana Gana Mana - no, just play it majestically!

And in one of those cinema theatres above trying to differentiate their anthem routine, I discovered a rendition that would bring me to goosebumps with every single watch. An instrumental one, somber, proud, dedicated to the permanent Indian Army battalions that protect the Siachen Glacier - the world’s highest battleground where temperatures can hit an inhumane -50 degrees Celsius.

This one right above got me into looking forward to any anthem, not just my own Indian one, being played - at sports events, concerts, wherever - for the gusto with which it was sang also reflected the gusto of the people that song represents. Thanks to YouTube, and channels that document the world’s anthems with painstakingly beautiful videos such as Ian Berwick & Duke Of Canada, I got treated to the sonic equivalent of a world tour.

End rant, the playlist itself for your consumption

I already had an impromptu playlist of the renditions that stirred my heart proper in my head. This blog and this article provided the push I needed to finally make it a playlist.

Each performance of an anthem has its beauty and hence you’ll find more than one rendition of the same across the playlist - in no particular order apart from preventing a repeat, or indicating any preference/endorsement - you won’t see me in North Korea anytime soon, lol.

I hope that many come to enjoy as they stumble upon it, and you do, too.