Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Saudi Anthems and Orchestras

National anthems from 20 countries are being sung with pride and tears most days here in London, just before kick off for rugby games at the Rugby World Cup 2015.  I've even learned a couple of the ones with catchy tunes.  After belting out the Kiwi anthem prior to an All Blacks game it occurred to me that I have never heard the Saudi Arabian National anthem, not in the entire six years I've lived here.

Does Saudi Have A National Anthem?
I had to turn to Google to find out if there was a Saudi National Anthem and was surprised to find there was.  When the religious peeps go around telling folks that music is forbidden this expat finds it a little contradictory for the country to have a national anthem, largely because anthems need music and they are usually played publicly.

Perhaps if I watched soccer (aka football) I might hear the Saudi anthem more often as it's boomed over loud speakers prior to the international football matches that national team participates in.  I made that discovery while trawling YouTube looking for the lyrics to the Saudi anthem.  The mass of male spectators at football matches are enthusiastic in their rendition of the anthem.  It's quite heartening to see as I have always found Saudi's quite a fun loving bunch although the Saudi's public face is supposed to be so emotionally reserved.

But I don't watch Saudi football, not because the Saudi hierarchy, in their wisdom, won't let ladies in to stadiums to watch the games (which makes me wonder how many Saudi women know the words to their national anthem? ) No, it is simply that rugby and rugby league are my spectator sport of preference and if there is a Saudi national team for either of these codes, I haven't seen it, or their anthem singing, in action yet.

North Queensland Cowboys NRL Premiers 2015...that's my team.
The Lilting Royal Salute
Yes, Saudi has a national anthem and the instrumental version, called the Royal Salute, doesn't sound the least bit Arabic (to my very uneducated musical ear).  In fact it sounds quite fan farish and, well, lilting.  But more surprisingly, it is orchestral!  Why be surprised?  Because I have no idea if Saudi Arabia has an orchestra capable of playing the song!  If there is a National Saudi Symphonic Orchestra, or anything vaguely similar, they don't seem to make many public appearances.  There's no advertising for Season Tickets or a monthly event Calendar that I'm aware of.  Heck, I don't even know if there's a concert hall in which the orchestra could play if they do exist.

Apparently the Royal Salute is only played at very formal kingly type of occasions, presumably using a recording given the apparent lack of orchestra, though I'll never know because, being a mere femme expat, invitations to Saudi formal functions don't often come my way.  (If a Kingly type is reading this a royal invite would be gratefully accepted.  Just saying.)

Anthem Origins
According to Wikipedia Saudi officially adopted their National Anthem, called Aash al Malak, in 1950 although it was first composed in 1947 by an Egyptian composer, Abdul Rahman Al Khatib, at the request of King Saud when he was visiting Egypt.  It has been adapted three times since that original composition.  Once in 1958 when lyrics were written by Muhammad Talat though, for reasons I can't find on Google, apparently they were rarely heard.  Again by Seraj Omar who arranged the brass instrumental version.  And finally in 1984 when new lyrics written by Ibrahim Khafaji were added.

Saudi National Day has recently come and gone and there were loads of festivities planned, but I am wondering whether or not the Saudi National Anthem was ever played publicly for people to sing loud and heartily on the day.  (Unfortunately I was out of the country for this Saudi National Day but on previous days I don't recall hearing an anthem, though to be honest, I may not have recognized it if I did hear it.).

So here it is, the Saudi National Anthem with lyrics and including transliteration, so you can sing along, and translation, so you know what it is you're saying.

Now I have no excuse not to know the Saudi National Anthem though, as I still have problems getting into soccer games or receiving invites to fancy receptions where I could sing it loudly with gusto, it makes me wonder whether it's worth learning it.

Ka Kite,

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