Hate Ukraine? Then write Donetsk’s national anthem!


What do you do if you’ve blown up a plane and need some good publicity? If you’re the Donetsk People’s Republic you, er, launch a contest for a national anthem.

God knows what the rebels hope getting an anthem will achieve, but the call’s serious: anyone who wants to submit words has until midnight Wednesday to do so. Just email legstutis@mail.ru with your entry.

Given the fighting’s intensifying around the city, I’m not sure the republic will last until Wednesday, but still, I imagine there’s a lot of Dutch people who will want to enter.

I have contacted the republic’s government to ask why they’re doing this, why they’ve only given a few days for entries, and why they’re not just using Russia’s anthem since they want to become part of that country, but they haven’t got back to me. I’ll update this if they ever do.

I did also try calling their “hotline for complaints about cases of armed looting and possible terrorist acts and provocations”, but no one picked up. Probably for the best!

As an aside, if you’re interested in a) what’s happening in Ukraine, and b) music, I thoroughly recommend this Foreign Policy piece from last month on ”the Ukraine crisis as told through rap videos”. Fascinating, disturbing and bizarre, in that order.

Dumbwalking in Tokyo


Dumbwalking is what you do when you’re staring at a smartphone and end up falling over someone’s bag and knocking your teeth out. It’s also the number one threat to Japanese society as we know it!

Here’s a piece about it I recently recorded for the BBC’s excellent From Our Own Correspondent programme.

You can also read about it on the BBC’s website.

I basically spent a night trying to trip people up at the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. Yes, I’m surprised I got paid for it too.

Sorry this has got nothing to do with national anthems - the point of this blog - but I made this on a recent trip to Japan to research the country’s anthem so it’s, sort of, relevant!

One fact I forgot to mention in the piece is that Japanese newspapers publish “death by smartphone” statistics giving running counts of how many people have been run over while updating their Facebook status. Seriously. I’m sure newspapers in other countries will be doing the same soon.

The woman in the photo is NOT a dumbwalker, by the way. She’s just a very nice person I met at Shibuya and was happy to pretend to be one for me!

Bad ways to learn you need a haircut, part one

Watching yourself on the news! 

I was on the BBC’s World News Today programme yesterday talking about Switzerland’s ongoing national anthem contest, among other things (over 200 entries received, one oddly in Portuguese, winner to be announced next year).

You can watch it again here if the above photo isn’t enough for you.

Thanks to Philippa for the nice chat, although I wish the hair and make-up department had offered me a restyle as well as putting a lot of foundation on my face!

And the winner of the Anthem World Cup is…

I wanted to pick an underdog - someone who is going to get knocked out next week with just a point to their name (Hello, Iran!).

Failing that, I wanted to pick Bosnia, this being the first time its anthem has been heard at a World Cup - a landmark moment and one the team’s coach, Safet Sušić, found so emotional he was still crying five minutes into the Argentina game.

But instead I’ve got to go with Brazil. Yes, the favourites. Yes, the hosts.

I know it’s a cop out. But anyone who has seen the crowds singing it will agree. When they carry on after the music’s stopped, finishing off the first verse, it gives you goosebumps. 

It doesn’t matter that they’re singing some of the most appalling love poetry you’ve ever come across - “You are beautiful, strong, an intrepid colossus” - it’s enough to make you want to be Brazilian. The two times I’ve heard it now, I’ve had to stop myself from grabbing a Molotov cocktail and going out to protest about bus prices.

It’s even made me warm to David Luiz. Now THAT’S power.

Here’s an MP3 of the singing before the Croatia game ripped off a dodgy Korean TV station. So good it’s worth downloading.

Here’s hoping it starts a trend. Except here in England. No one needs two verses of God Save the Queen.

Finally, a video of a cat standing for its national anthem!

Update: Someone deleted the video! Sorry about that. It’s a cruel world, I know!

For months, I’ve been wanting to post something cat-related on here - it is, after all, what the Internet wants.

So I’m very grateful to this topless Russian for teaching his cat to stand for its national hymn.

Although, really, he should have taught it to salute too!

The most amazing bunch of Japanese people singing their national anthem

Here is – I promise – THE GREATEST YOUTUBE CLIP YOU’LL EVER SEE… of a man awkwardly singing his national anthem on a bullet train!

I made this last month while travelling around Japan to research the country’s anthem, Kimigayo.

The clip features women in kimonos in Kyoto, people at a cherry blossom party in Osaka, and even a man at the Myokohji Temple in Yokohama – the place where the anthem was written.

I’ve made videos like this before in France and the US. It proved a little harder to get people to sing in Japan. I think that’s because everyone’s afraid of disturbing the peace (I got turned down by SO many people on Tokyo’s subway). But it may also be because no one wants to be mistaken for a member of a right-wing group.

Arigato to everyone who sung for me despite that!

If you’d like to find out what the song’s about, click through to YouTube. The words are in Japanese and English in the description box.