A national anthem sums up a country’s history, culture, and tradition. Despite only a few minutes long, national anthems have achieved a lot more than any other type of music you can think of. While most national anthems speak of fighting for independence, others sing praises for their leaders, while very few depict longing to return to their homeland.
People have sung them during wars and protests, military marches, during school ceremonies, during government events, sports events, festivals. National anthems serve them a resounding reminder about the struggles their forefathers went through to build a nation that they could finally call theirs.
In this article, we pick ten of the most beautiful national anthems from around the world:
It’s not a surprise if the land of Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov has one of the best (if not the best) national anthems in the world. When you’re talking about national anthems of sheer power, drama, and emotion, look no further than Russia’s! Just listen to that crescendo, close your eyes, and pretend you’re standing at the Olympic podium after winning a gold medal.
The French song of revolution, Le Marseillaise, is a heavy crowd favorite. A classic tune, it has been adapted in other musical works (most notably, The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love,” which uses Le Marseillaise‘s opening bars). It has the same militaristic and patriotic themes in other national anthems, only carried in a distinctly French flair.
The Polish national anthem, Mazurek Dąbrowskiego, has a cheerful and vigorous march in the style of mazurka, a lively Polish folk dance in triple time. It was written to boost the morale of the Polish soldiers who served under General Jan Henryk Mazurek Dąbrowski’s Polish Legions to help Napoleon conquer Italy at the end of the 18th century. Thanks to its uplifting music and lyrics, it proved to be an instant hit far beyond the military front lines.
4) United States
Sometimes, Americans forget (or take for granted) how good their national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” is. It was adapted from the anthem of a singing club and words by lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key in 1814. It was adopted as the United States’ national anthem by an act of Congress in 1931. Beyond its official use, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is most popularly played at the start of every major sporting event, which led to several diverse (and some controversial) renditions of it.
The national anthem of the People’s Republic of China, “March of the Volunteers,” has been played frequently at the Olympics. However, not a lot of people are aware of its rather unusual past. The song was originally written for the 1935 film Children of Troubled Times, which depicted the invasion of Manchuria by the Japanese troops. But the song became popular and was eventually adopted as the country’s national anthem. Hong Kong and Macau also adopted it upon their transfer to China in 1997 and 1999, respectively.
It’s not a question that the land of the great opera composers Verdi, Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini would come up with a rousing, boisterous national anthem that’s also worthy for the stage. Written in 1847, Il Canto Digli Italiani became popular during the unification of Italy. In 1931, it was adopted as the national anthem of Italy.
Composers from many countries believe that national anthems must sound lively, vigorous, and boisterous if they are to stir patriotism. But Israel’s composers prove them wrong.
The world’s only Jewish state’s national anthem, Hatikva (“The Hope”), eschews the traditional route of jovial national anthems in the usual marching style to make it patriotic. Instead, it is slow, forlorn, even funereal. But it is also hopeful, as it should be – and it really triggers one’s emotions! It was written in the 19th century, long before the existence of the State of Israel, so that makes sense. It is filled with longing for a Jewish homeland, both in lyrics and music. When you play this at the stadium, expect the athletes at the podium to tear up – and isn’t this what the TV audience wants?
Brazilians are generally enthusiastic people. They are so full of life, and that mood and energy are also reflected in their national anthem. It sounds like a miniature opera, and every time it’s been played at a big soccer game or any other sporting event, the entire crowd sings along, and that’s an exhilarating sight to see. The joy, passion and, enthusiasm that the Brazilians display as they proudly sing their national anthem are quite contagious that it spreads the entire stadium!
Uruguay’s national anthem, “Himno Nacional de Uruguay,” has the dubious distinction of being the longest national anthem in the world with 105 bars of music (around four and a half minutes). However, an abridged version is often performed on several public occasions, such as sports events. It was written in 1833 by Uruguayan poet and writer Francisco Acuña de Figueroa, who also wrote the Paraguayan national anthem (which happens to round out this list!).
But we don’t mind the length – it sounds like Rossini could have written it!
Also popularly known as “Republic or Death!” (¡República o Muerte!), the Paraguayan national anthem was written in 1846 by the same person who wrote Uruguay’s national anthem, Francisco Acuña de Figueroa. From its popular moniker alone, you’ll know that Paraguayans are dead serious (pardon the pun) about their national anthem, and it only gives you a fair idea about what the song is all about.
Paraguay’s national anthem is known for its long (about 40 seconds) wordless introduction in its original form. However, it is often omitted for brevity when it is sung for any big event, such as a major soccer game.