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We assume that bagpipes come from Scotland, don't we? However, archaeological findings suggest that the Hittites were playing bagpipes as early as 1000 BC. | Photo: Wallpaper Flare
We assume that bagpipes come from Scotland, don't we? However, archaeological findings suggest that the Hittites were playing bagpipes as early as 1000 BC. | Photo: Wallpaper Flare
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TOP 5 Musical Curiosities from All Around the World

Thanks to globalisation, the world is shrinking into one big village. If you're a globetrotter, you may wonder for a while which airport you landed at because you see the same brands of luxury cosmetics, cafes and fast food everywhere. K-pop is dominating the US charts, Spanish artists are rocking YouTube and Taylor Swift is probably being listened to on Mars right now. However, we still have good old-fashioned cultural diversity, and with it, unique and sometimes curious facts from its long history.

1. The oldest preserved musical composition in the world is the "Seikilos Epitaph" 

The so-called "Song of Seikilos" dates back to the 1st or 2nd century AD when it was placed on a column marking a grave in Turkey. The epitaph contains both a musical score and a short text that reads: "While you live, shine, have no grief at all, life exists only for a short while and Time demands his due." Oh, how we love the simple ancient wisdom of our beloved Greeks. And a curiosity for gamers. The tune has appeared on the soundtracks of the video games Civilization VI and Minecraft.

2. Japan has the shortest anthem in the world

The Japanese national anthem "Kimigayo" has only four lines. This makes it the record holder for the shortest anthem in the world. Many Japanese students, who have to sing the song during entrance and graduation ceremonies, say they do not understand the outdated language of the lyrics and do not know what it actually means.

The controversy surrounding the use of the anthem at school events persists, and considering the time and circumstances of its creation, it is no wonder. The lyrics come from a waka poem written by an unnamed author in the Heian period (794-1185). The current tune was then chosen in 1880 to replace an unpopular tune composed eleven years earlier by John William Fenton (Irish musician, first bandmaster and founder of band music in Japan).

Although the name "Kimigayo" is usually translated as "His Imperial Majesty's Reign", no official translation of the title or lyrics has been legally established. It is probably better to leave students groping in the fog over an archaic text than to vex them with a reference to a problematic imperial past.

3.  Bagpipes come from Rome

Apart from the local men's tendency to wear plaid "skirts" without underwear, jokes about Scottish traditions often target their passion for playing bagpipes. Therefore, we would assume that the Scottish national instrument originated in Scotland, wouldn't we? Surprisingly, archaeological findings suggest that the Hittites were playing bagpipes as early as 1000 BC. Greek writers describe instruments that resemble bagpipes, and from there, it's only a hop, skip and jump to Rome, where the mad emperor Nero played them. If this is indeed the case, as scholars claim, then it is possible that bagpipes came to Britain with the Romans during their more than three-hundred-year rule over the islands.

4. China has the oldest musical tradition

Archaeological findings show that the Chinese musical tradition probably dates back to almost 9000 BC. Chinese musical instruments, opera, and the typical melodic progressions in the pentatonic scale are a completely different galaxy from the one we are used to inhabit. Melody is hierarchically more important than rhythm, and music has clear rules and a fixed mission outlined by Confucius in the fifth century BC. He argued that the right form of music is important for the cultivation and refinement of the individual.

The Confucian system regards formal yayue music as morally uplifting and as a symbol of a good ruler and stable government. This division between right and wrong music, and especially its alignment with the interests of the state, has more or less survived in China to this day.

5. The oldest active musician was from India

Thanga Darlong was listed in the latest edition of the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest professional folk musician when he was 98 years and 319 days old. He played the traditional instrument rosem, a flute-like instrument made from a combination of wood, bamboo and a water pot. He was awarded several state orders for preserving the musical tradition of the Indian province of Tripura. Darlong passed away recently on December 3, 2023, at the ripe old age of 103.

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Marek Bero
Bass Gym 101 books, touring & session bass player, football tactics aficionado.