Shortest anthems in the world

Share this:

The shortest national anthem in the world, by text length, is the Japanese anthem, Kimigayo, which is comprised of 32 kanji (Japanese alphabetical characters), and is only 11 bars of music in length (Kimigayo is also famous for being one of the oldest national anthems in the world). Musically, the shortest anthem is Oh Uganda, Land of Beauty, the national anthem of Uganda, which is eight bars long. However, this musical score is the basis for three verses, so the anthem as performed is often longer. Both of these anthems are commonly extended when performed in public, usually by simply repeating them.

Other countries have anthems which are noted for their brevity, but the lengths of these anthems inevitably vary from one performance to the next. Among them are the anthems of Qatar, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand.

Many anthems are also performed in shortened versions in particular situations – most often as a form of salute referred to as Honours Music. These salutes can be quite precise, and often dependent on the rank or prestige of the honouree. For example, the President of Ireland is usually acknowledged with a presidential salute consisting of the first four bars and the last five bars of Amhrán na bhFiann, the Irish national anthem.

In Australia, the head of state (Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom) is honoured with a full rendition of God Save the Queen. Lesser royalty only get the first six bars of the same song, and the Australian Governor-General only gets the first and last four bars of Advance Australia Fair. There is a similar protocol in Canada, where the Governor-General is saluted with the first six bars of God Save The Queen, followed by the first four and last four bars of O Canada. The United States has six levels of official salute, starting with Hail to the Chief for the president, and finishing with the Flag Officer’s March, for military officials above the rank of brigadier general.