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Singing the National Anthem in their Own Language

If you tuned into the 2011 Rugby World Cup, you may have noticed some of the players from the host nation New Zealand and their fans singing their national anthem in two languages. It was not until 1999 at a match against England, when one of the two official national anthems, “God Defend New Zealand” was presented in a new format with the first verse sung in the Māori language and the second verse in English. Both are official languages of New Zealand, but English is more widely spoken and more widely understood. Yet, the history of the Māori language dates back at least to the 13th century, long before European settlers arrived.

However, due to the passion for the sport of rugby, of which New Zealand is the defending World Champions, it has led to many more citizens taking an active interest in learning the lyrics to the anthem.

Video from a 2005 match:

According to Ashley Mackenzie-White from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, thousands have been visiting the Ministry's website to listen to or study the words to the bilingual anthem. Karaitiana Taiuru, a Māori language and technology activist, provides the lyrics to the anthem on his blog:

E Ihowa Atua
O ngā iwi mātou rā,
āta whakarongo na;
Me aroha noa.
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Manaakitia mai
Aotearoa.

God of nations at thy feet
in the bonds of love we meet.
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific’s triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

Another country with a multi-lingual anthem is South Africa. With eleven official languages, the national anthem contains five of the most widely spoken languages including Xhosa, Zula, Sesotho, Afrikaans, and English.

However, there are other countries around the world that may have several official languages, the primary anthem is most commonly sung in the majority language. For example, Bolivia is a pluri-national country with 36 recognized official languages by the Constitution and its National Anthem is sung primarily in Spanish. However, that has not stopped others to compose translated alternate versions into one of more than 30 indigenous languages.

One place where you can find these versions is through citizen media videos uploaded to YouTube. Judging from the comments on many of these videos, the videos are a sense of pride for native speakers of these languages to be able to honor their country in their own language.

Here is a version in Bésiro (Chiquitano) filmed by Carla Guzmán, as sung by schoolchildren in the community of San Antonio de Lomerio.

In Peru, the National Andean, Amazonian, and Afro-Peruvian Community Development Institute (INDEPA), a government agency recently completed a project to present the national anthem in four indigenous languages: Aymara, Awajun, Asháninka, and Quechua. All four of the videos can be found on the INDEPA YouTube channel.

Here is the anthem sung in Asháninka, which is a language spoken by approximately 30,000 in the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon region:

And in Venezuela, one can find even more examples of citizen media videos of versions of the National Anthem sung in indigenous languages. For example, here are videos sung in the languages of Warao, Wayúu, and this one in the Pemon language by schoolchildren from the Ciudad Bolívar Orchestra and Choir “FRANSOL”.

There are many more examples of citizen media videos found on YouTube, not just from Latin America, but from around the world. We'll bring you more examples from these countries in future posts.

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