Spanish national anthem: Composer Victor Lago offers solution to wordless ‘Marcha Royal’ without fascist overtones

Musician pens ‘politically neutral’ lyrics to country’s national anthem, after the traditional lyrics, with strong fascist overtones, were scrapped in 1978

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The Independent Online

Whenever Spain’s football team lines up before a big international match it is always tinged with a little embarrassment. The opposition players belt out their national anthem, tears sometimes rolling down their cheeks with emotion, but the Spanish stars have to hum theirs, or sing “la la la,” as the television camera sweeps past. That is because the Spanish national anthem, the “Marcha Real”, or “Royal March”, is one of only four in the world to have no words, or at least no words that are acceptable to everyone.

The traditional lyrics, which had strong fascist overtones, were scrapped in 1978 as Spain embraced democracy after nearly four decades of Franco’s dictatorship. So far nobody has managed to write a song to replace the original version that does not offend somebody.

Victor Lago, a songwriter and composer from Madrid, believes he has finally come up with a version that will placate everyone, and is now seeking the signatures of 500,000 Spaniards to force a debate in Spain’s lower house of parliament. According to the Spanish press agency, the Europa Press, the lyrics have already been passed on to  the country’s constitutional commission.

“When I wrote the lyrics, I tried to stay as politically neutral as possible and attempted to imbue them with higher values that are above any movement or political orientation,” Mr Lago said.

The singer said his version of the anthem could be “sung with pride by all across the length and breadth of our geography”.

He is not the first to try and find a solution to Spain’s lyricless national song. After visiting Liverpool football club in 2007, and hearing a stirring rendition of the club’s famous anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, Alejandro Blanco, the head of Spain’s Olympic Committee, devised a competition to find lyrics as part of Madrid’s ultimately unsuccessful bid for the 2016 summer games. The competition attracted some 7,000 entries, but none were deemed suitable.

Mr Lago’s version, which is set to the music of “Marcha Real” begins “Glory, Homeland!” and is designed to stir passions among all Spaniards, regardless of the political beliefs and backgrounds. It is not just the lack of words that have caused embarrassment in the past. Earlier this year, Spain’s all-conquering badminton champion, Carolina Marin, was forced to stand stoically on the top of the podium after winning gold at the world championships in Indonesia as the old fascist lyrics  were played.

Since the death of Franco in 1975 and Spain’s return to democracy, issues relating to the civil war have continually caused problems, but while most have been ironed out over time, the problem of the national anthem remains.

Along with Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and San Marino are the other countries whose  anthems are bereft of lyrics. 

The “Marcha Real” dates back to 1761, and Mr Lago is hoping that he will go down in history as the person who finally gave Spaniards a song to sing on national occasions.