Lyndon Hood - more worrier than warrior, Lower Hutt

Saturday, February 19, 2005

On reflection, maybe we shouldn't make 'Home, Land and Sea' by Trinity Roots the new national anthem.

There are, of course, several arguments in favour of the change.

Certainly, anything would be better than the combination of awful lyrics by an awful poet and music that is dull and plodding even by the standard of national anthems. While the line "in the bonds of love we meet" has no doubt provided seconds of mirth for many, its loss would be but a small price to pay.

The political climate is also right for this change. If ever there was a Prime Minister that would support making a song about the "queen bee" our national anthem, we have one now. Especially if she didn't listen to the lyrics too closely. And this is just the kind of quasi-constitutional reform she likes to put through with a simple majority under urgency, to the annoyance of the balance of the next Herald Digipoll.

Plus, it really is a fucking good song.

But, as with even the smallest, least urgent, most cosmetic changes to the state, we must allow for unintended consequences.

Notably, the idea of a stadium of football fans attempting to sing 'Home, Land and Sea' suggests a travesty of a far higher order than merely having a bad national anthem. Ultimately, any legislation would have to stipulate that the song could only be performed by Trinity Roots, with Warren's soulful vocals backed by Rio and Riki (did I mention that I went to primary school with the drummer from Trinity Roots?).

I'm counting this as a negative - it would certainly be unusual. However: it would limit the number of performances of the national anthem to the human capacity of one band. This, combined with the nature of the song, which while feelingly throughly grounded in our part of the world hardly nationalistic, will discourage jingoism of all kinds.

Also unusual in a national song, but no bad thing.

I realise that the group is considered to he disbanded. But questions of such vital national importance - whether their recent Wellington Tsunami benefit concert (which was rather a good night, by the way) was their last gig or should be considered their first reunion show - must be decided by the legislature rather than a handful of individuals.

The complications begin to multiply. If forced to play the one song at even a fraction of the frequency New Zealand's current jingle is used, the lads - with their irrepressible musicianship - would no doubt be tempted to devise various high energy genre-bending cover versions of their own track. Or so their past behaviour indicates.

This would perhaps be popular with 'the kids', but would undeniably detract from the atmosphere of formal investitures and military commemorations.

Underlying all these niggles is a greater worry: Is it really an appropriate national anthem? Is being a great little song that tastes like distilled essence of New Zealand what is actually required?

I have been increasingly under the apprehension that neither quality or lyric, nor of music, nor expression of a country's spirit are the relevant point in a national anthem. This leaves me at something of a loss.

If I do discover what the relevant point of a national anthem might be, I'll be sure and let you know.