[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 28 April 2006, 21:41 GMT 22:41 UK
Spanish US anthem raises hackles
By Matt Frei
BBC News, Washington

Jimi Hendrix stretched it on his electric guitar to make it sound like a cat giving birth.

Jimi Hendrix
The Star Spangled Banner survived Jimi Hendrix...
Marvin Gaye crooned it like a love song with a stutter.

And millions of fans butcher it at any given sports occasion.

But no-one has ever translated The Star Spangled Banner - the US national anthem - into Spanish, done a digital recording and released it as a hit.

Now has been turned into Nuestro Himno by Adam Kidron, the British-born president of Urban Box Office, a New York-based entertainment company.

Which flag?

Kidron enlisted the vocals and instruments of dozens of Latino musicians, including the hip-hop star Pitbull and the singer Carlos Ponce, to turn the theme song of the American soul into something which everyone from south of the Rio Grande can sing - especially if their patriotic fervour isn't matched by their ability to speak English.

Protesters in Denver Colorado
There has been debate among protesters about which flag to carry
Apparently Kidron was vexed by the sight of tens of thousands of illegal and legal migrants demonstrating on the streets of LA, New York and Washington, waving the Mexican flag, when they should have been unfurling - and singing - the Star Spangled Banner.

Call it an aural aid then, in the service of patriotism.

That is not, unfortunately, how the descendants of the man who originally penned the lyrics in English see it.

The poet Francis Scott Key celebrated the Yankee victory over the British when he penned "Oh, say can you see, by the dawn's early light" not "a la luz de la aurora".

Charles Key, whose great-great-grandfather wrote the words of the Star Spangled Banner
The poet's great-great-grandson is not pleased
Fondling a copy of the original manuscript, his great-great-grandson Charles Key vents his anger: "I think it's despicable that somebody would go into our society from another country and change our national anthem!"

The poet himself may well be spinning in his grave.

The anti-(illegal) immigration lobby have decried the Spanish version as another onslaught on the sanctity of the American soul.

Bush weighs in

The conservative columnist Michelle Malkin has called the song "the Illegal Alien Anthem" and now even the commander-in-chief, who once prided himself on his command of Spanish, has joined the fray.

Between weightier matters like Iran's nuclear threat and prices at the pump, the beleaguered president stood in the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday, looking very earnest.

He tried to nip this part of the immigration debate in the bud by declaring flatly that the anthem should be sung in English and that anyone coming to live in this country should learn English.

Pitbull recording Nuestro Himno
Not all Latinos have welcomed the recording
He stumbled on the word English but the point was taken.

Even the migrant community is divided.

Several radio show hosts were disinclined to play Nuestro Himno because they felt it sent the wrong message.

"We should be trying to assimilate, not aggravate," Pedro Biaggi, the morning host of El Zol radio station in the Washington area told reporters on Friday.

All of this is a distraction of course from the meat of the issue, which is that Congress has still failed to come up with comprehensive immigration reform, tempers are rising and 1 May will be another day of demonstrations and walk-outs from a community that now represents the biggest minority in the United States.

Nuestro Himno might have been dismissed as a gimmick had it not been for the fact that this country is already bitterly divided about immigration reform and that tampering with the sacred symbols of American nationhood is never taken lightly.

Just ask Jimi Hendrix.

He was hauled over the coals for mocking the anthem at the height of the Vietnam War.

According to his biographer he said: "We play it the way the air is in America these days!"

That was 1969. The same might be said again in 2006.

See the new version of the anthem being recorded

US musicians rally round the flag
02 Apr 03 |  Entertainment
Prom anthem 'too jingoistic'
12 Oct 01 |  Education

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific