The Republic of Cyprus recently went through an extensive period of revisionist history, the latest revision being the national anthem. For the last so many years,1 Cyprus has shared the national anthem of Greece, Hymn to Liberty. But lately, Cypriots voted to switch to Happy Birthday as their new national anthem.
Hymn to Liberty is an old favourite, ’tis true. But it is also the Longest National Anthem In The World, and even Cypriot kings have been known to fall asleep about halfway through. The theory that it was too long has also been reinforced by studies of arm fatigue in the string section of orchestras which play it routinely. String players have complained of muscle straining, and doctors confirmed that their tendons seemed to be slightly, to use the technical term, “discombobulated.”
Adding to this, Cypriots have long complained that their former national anthem wasn’t “original” enough, according to the definition proposed in 1971 by the Self-Attested Expert Association of Modern Art (SAEAMA). According to one Cyprus of Cyprus, “Every time I sang the national anthem of Cyprus for my foreign friends, they’d say, ‘Ah, what a wonderfully exquisite rendition of the Greek National Anthem!’ I got tired of explaining that it wasn’t just the Greek national anthem, and some of them had the gall to ask if Cyprus was still a separate country.”
No longer. The Republic of Cyprus now has its very own national anthem, one not shared by any other country, easy to learn, yet already well-known and loved by people of many nationalities—especially English-speaking ones, which is considered a bonus in international politics. Cypriots take pride in the fact that every English monarch and every president of the United States for the last half-century is sure to have sung their national anthem many times, a boast few other countries can make.
There is one complication, however, which is that Warner/Chappell Music has claimed the copyright of Happy Birthday since 1988. Although a United States federal judge has declared that Happy Birthday is in the public domain, some still hold that Cyprus will owe royalties, since it does not fall under American legal rules. The Republic of Cyprus has simply decided to create a new National Anthem Tax, which will be used to build up a legal fund in case Warner/Chappell tries to sue them. Of course, some legal experts say that the population of Cyprus is small enough that any singing of the national anthem is likely to fall below the threshold of the number considered a “public performance,” and thus would be exempt from copyright rules anyway.
For now, let us all rise, and please join in singing the New National Anthem of The Republic of Cyprus, the One and Only!
- Since 1966, to be precise. ↩