Spaniards often bemoan their national anthem being wordless, and try to set this situation right. But since the Spanish believe that debates add spice to life, consensus on the lyrics is elusive. But now, there is a competition, sponsored by the Spanish Olympic Committee, for people to submit lyrics. The enthusiasm is great, and several hundred entries are expected.
Their Himno Nacional, traditionally known as the ‘March of the Grenadiers’ or the ‘Royal March of Spain’, is a military beat by an unknown author. It first appeared in 1761 and became the national anthem by popular choice. Most agree that the ‘Marcha Real’ needs to be sung, and that it gnaws deeply to see their sports champions remain mute at the high moments of national glory. Since Spaniards strum and sing at the slightest excuse, and given their national passion for the game, they would like their soccer team to sing joyously along with the anthem. Alejandro Blanco, president of Committee said that it gave him a very odd feeling that people should be forced to sing ‘La, la, la,’ or ‘Chunda, chunda, chunda,’ when the Spanish anthem was being played in international stadia.
Jorge Esteban, a professor of constitutional law in Madrid’s Complutense University says, “a national anthem without lyrics is an aberration. Not only because in today’s world some 200 countries have lyrics to sing, but because a hymn without lyrics is like a car without petrol: there is no point in it”.
But embarking on finding acceptable lyrics is not without peril. Spaniards speak in many regional languages, and a bunch of other dialects. Would the anthem then have a verse in each language, and honour every dialect with at least a phrase? What about the country’s 17 autonomous communities and its archipelagos? With their strong regional identities, not one of them would want to remain unnamed. So there is a lot to fit in, even in the longer version that is just 52-seconds long. Till then, the Spaniards will have to ‘la-la-la’ along with their royal march, or move their lips to other syllables of their choosing.
Kanthi Tripathi is India’s Ambassador to Spain