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A national anthem (also state anthem, national hymn, national song, etc.) is generally a patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions, and struggles of its people, recognized either by a nation's government as the official national song, or by convention through use by the people. The majority of national anthems are marches or hymns in style. The countries of Latin America, Central Asia, and Europe tend towards more ornate and operatic pieces, while those in the Middle East, Oceania, Africa, and the Caribbean use a more simplistic fanfare.
A national anthem is most often in the national or most common language of the country, whether de facto or official, there are notable exceptions. Most commonly, states with more than one national language may offer several versions of their anthem, for instance:
National anthems rose to prominence in Europe during the 19th century, but some originated much earlier. The presumed oldest national anthem belongs to the Netherlands and is called the "Wilhelmus". It was written between 1568 and 1572 during the Dutch Revolt and its current melody variant was composed shortly before 1626. It was a popular orangist march during the 17th century but it did not become the official Dutch national anthem until 1932.
The Philippine national anthem "Lupang Hinirang" was composed in 1898 as wordless incidental music for the ceremony declaring independence from the Spanish Empire. The Spanish poem "Filipinas" was written the following year to serve as the anthem's lyrics; the current Tagalog version dates to 1962.
"God Save the Queen", the national anthem of the United Kingdom and the royal anthem reserved for use in the presence of the Monarch in some Commonwealth realms, was first performed in 1619 under the title "God Save the King". It is not officially the national anthem of the UK, though it became such through custom and usage.
Spain's national anthem, the "Marcha Real" (The Royal March), written in 1761, was among the first to be adopted as such, in 1770. Denmark adopted the older of its two national anthems, "Kong Christian stod ved højen mast", in 1780; and "La Marseillaise", the French national anthem, was written in 1792 and adopted in 1795. Serbia became the first Eastern European nation to have a national anthem – "Rise up, Serbia!" – in 1804.
"Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu", the national anthem of Kenya, is one of the first national anthems to be specifically commissioned. It was written by the Kenyan Anthem Commission in 1963 to serve as the anthem after independence from the United Kingdom.
The Welsh regional anthem "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" was the first anthem to be sung at an international sporting event. The anthem was sung in a Rugby game against New Zealand in Llanelli. This was done to counter the famous New Zealand haka.
National anthems are used in a wide array of contexts. Certain etiquette may be involved in the playing of a country's anthem. These usually involve military honours, standing up/rising, removing headwear etc. In diplomatic situations the rules may be very formal. There may also be royal anthems, presidential anthems, state anthems etc. for special occasions.
They are played on national holidays and festivals, and have also come to be closely connected with sporting events. Wales was the first country to adopt this, during a rugby game against New Zealand in 1905. Since then during sporting competitions, such as the Olympic Games, the national anthem of the gold medal winner is played at each medal ceremony; also played before games in many sports leagues, since being adopted in baseball during World War II. When teams from two different nations play each other, the anthems of both nations are played, the host nation's anthem being played last.
In some countries, the national anthem is played to students each day at the start of school as an exercise in patriotism, such as in Tanzania. In other countries the anthem may be played in a theatre before a play or in a cinema before a movie. Many radio and television stations have adopted this and play the national anthem when they sign on in the morning and again when they sign off at night. For instance, the national anthem of China is played before the broadcast of evening news on Hong Kong's local television stations including TVB Jade and ATV Home. In Colombia, it is a law to play the National Anthem at 6:00 and 18:00 on every public radio and television station, while in Thailand, "Phleng Chat" is played at 08:00 and 18:00 nationwide (the Royal Anthem is used for sign-ons and closedowns instead).
The use of a national anthem outside of its country, however, is dependent on the international recognition of that country. For instance, Taiwan has not been recognized by the Olympics as a separate nation since 1979 and must compete as Chinese Taipei; its National Banner Song is used instead of its national anthem. In Taiwan, the country's national anthem is sung before instead of during flag-rising and flag-lowering, followed by the National Banner Song during the actual flag-rising and flag-lowering.
Most of the best-known national anthems were written by little-known or unknown composers such as Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, composer of "'La Marseillaise" and John Stafford Smith who wrote the tune for "The Anacreontic Song", which became the tune for the U.S. national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner". The author of "God Save the Queen", one of the oldest and well known anthems in the world, is unknown and disputed.
Very few countries have a national anthem written by a world-renowned composer. Exceptions include Germany, whose anthem "Das Lied der Deutschen" uses a melody written by Joseph Haydn, and Austria, whose national anthem "Land der Berge, Land am Strome" is sometimes credited to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The "Anthem of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic" was composed by Aram Khachaturian. The music of the "Pontifical Anthem", anthem of the Vatican City, was composed in 1869 by Charles Gounod, for the golden jubilee of Pope Pius IX's priestly ordination.
The committee charged with choosing a national anthem for Malaysia at independence decided to invite selected composers of international repute to submit compositions for consideration, including Benjamin Britten, William Walton, Gian Carlo Menotti and Zubir Said, who later composed "Majulah Singapura", the national anthem of Singapore. None were deemed suitable.
A few anthems have words by Nobel laureates in literature. The first Asian laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, wrote the words and music of "Jana Gana Mana" and "Amar Shonar Bangla", later adopted as the national anthems of India and Bangladesh respectively. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson wrote the lyrics for the Norwegian national anthem "Ja, vi elsker dette landet".
Other countries had their anthems composed by locally important people. This is the case for Colombia, whose anthem's lyrics were written by former president and poet Rafael Nuñez, who also wrote the country's first constitution. There are also Liberia, whose anthem was written by its 3rd president, Daniel Bashiel Warner.
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These anthems use pentatonic scales:
And these anthems have unique modes/modulations:
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