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Egypt’s Military Band and Bad Anthems

March 8th, 2017 · 1 Comment · France, UAE

What a cultural intersection this is for me! National anthems, the Middle East and military bands.

I lived in the United Arab Emirates for more than six years and I covered a lot of international soccer. So I was exposed to the UAE’s military band more than once, just ahead of a game pitting national teams.

The UAE band would march out, about 40 guys, looking as if they were well into middle age, some of them spilling out of their uniforms.

And then they would play, and not particularly well. I remember thinking “I hope this doesn’t get on TV” for the visiting country.

But it seems clear to me now that the UAE band was made up of skilled and drilled professionals, when compared to Egypt’s military band.

Have a look/listen.

Listening to it again … this is how our school band must have sounded — when we were in fifth grade.

Kudos to Vladimir Putin and Francois Hollande, heads of state of Russia and France, respectively, who manage to avoid turning up their noses as their anthems, two of the best-known in the world, are pummeled by Egypt’s military band.

The linked video starts with Putin and Egypt’s head of state, Abdul Fattah el Sisi, listening to the Russian anthem at some official visit to Egypt. (That’s when you bring out the band; at official visits. And soccer matches.)

Egypt’s band is loud. Give them that. They also are awful.

Out of tune. Oblivious to dynamics and phrasing. Apparently looking at the two anthems for the first time.

(It’s even more alarming to think that we might have been listening to a tune Egypt’s guys had practiced — for hours — the day before. Let’s be kind and say they did not.)

Bits of the anthem — being played well — are interspersed in the tooting and blatting of the Egyptian band, on the video, highlighting how wonderfully awful the Egyptian bandsmen are.

Next up, the Marseillaise, and Hollande takes his turn at pretending not to notice what Egypt’s men are doing to the tune. (And see this YouTube video to see a bar band playing the French anthem in a rousing success.)

(One bit of video, making the rounds on Facebook, also has Egypt’s band slaughtering the German national anthem.)

After the Egyptians are done, the video’s author has posted the whole of the Russian and French anthems. Played elegantly.

It does make you wonder, though, why the band and its leaders do not work at their craft. Presumably, individual members did tryouts to get the softest of military jobs. (When was the last time military bandsmen took casualties?)

So perhaps they can play their instruments. More or less.

How about listening to Russians play the Russian anthem? With that sort of inspiration, perhaps the Egyptian band could batter it into something recognizable.

Only after the whole of the band is correctly tuned, of course.




1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Heather // Sep 20, 2018 at 10:08 AM

    Paul, do you think Islam has anything to do with how bad these brass bands are? Strict Islam tokens ALL music as haraam… making any good Muslim boy a sinner if he picks up an instrument and learns and plays music… In strict Muslim education, Music is likely to be banned from the curriculum and experience of the (male) learners….

    Is this not perhaps why the Middle East brass bands are literally pitiful?

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