The Marseillaise was written by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in 1792 as a war song for French soldiers fighting against Austria. Somehow it later ended up as the French national anthem. Many people, in France and in other countries, think it's bloody good. Well, the truth is that it really is simply bloody. If you take a look at its English Wikipedia article as it stands today, you will read in the first paragraph that it has been deemed the "greatest national anthem in the world, ever" by a British historian. He even puts it in the context of "the wake of the terrorist attacks on France in November 2015" (note: there's nothing like this in the French version of the Wikipedia article).

I've never been a fan of this song and the military propaganda it is made of. Even as a child I already liked to change the words in the first line from "la patrie" to "l'anarchie". Now I'm especially not happy with the last line:

Qu'un sang impur abreuve nos sillons

which translates into something like this in English:

Shall an impure blood fill the grooves of our fields

For a start, this is just what the terrorist attacks in Paris were claimed to have done. Then I don't think I need to convince anyone any further, but it's quite obvious that hatred starts by judging people for what they are (i.e. what's in their blood) instead of what they have done, and in some way any national anthem does that by arbitrarily declaring a group of people more worthy than the rest of the world.

I couldn't get rid of this song in my mind, and even if I did, someone would almost inevitably sing it and remind me of its horror again, sooner or later. So I eventually decided to finish what I had started as a child and make an antidote for this poison. The ingredients were: same sequence of notes as the original tune, rythm changed from a military march to a light waltz, revisited harmony, words that tend to rhyme with the original but talk about peace among all humans and respect for nature. Time will tell if this can cure me; at least I've tried.

To be fair, we have tried as I had the great pleasure to record this song with Garance, a fantastic French singer who also lives in Cambridge, UK. Merci! Having it sung by two people gives a dimension to the recording: it tends to make you think about how the imaginary world of peace where this song came from might one day find its way into reality...

Original hummingbird drawing by Matt Leyva.