British music producer Adam Kidron says he just wanted to honor the millions of immigrants seeking a better life in the U.S. when he came up with the idea of a Spanish-language version of the national anthem.
The initial version of “Nuestro Himno,” or “Our Anthem,” which came out Friday, features artists such as Wyclef Jean, hip-hop star Pitbull and Puerto Rican singers Carlos Ponce and Olga Tanon.
Some Internet bloggers and others are infuriated by the thought of “The Star-Spangled Banner” sung in a language other than English, and the version of the song has already been the target of a fierce backlash.
“Would the French accept people singing the La Marseillaise in English as a sign of French patriotism? Of course not,” said Mark Krikorian, head of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that supports tighter immigration controls.
President Bush said Friday that the anthem ought to be sung in English.
“I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English,” he said at a Rose Garden question-and-answer session.
Kidron said the president should listen to the song and “embrace the opportunity to teach a wider audience about the American Dream.”
“The intention of recording ’Nuestro Himno’ (’Our Anthem’) has never been to discourage immigrants from learning English and embracing American culture,” Kidron said. “We instead view ’Nuestro Himno’ as a song that affords those immigrants that have not yet learned the English language, the opportunity to fully understand the character of ’The Star Spangled Banner,’ the American flag and the ideals of freedom that they represent.”
“Nuestro Himno” uses lyrics based closely on the English-language original, said Kidron, who heads the record label Urban Box Office.
The song was released just ahead of pro-immigration protests planned around the country for Monday, and the record label is urging Hispanic radio stations nationwide to play the cut at 7 p.m. EDT Friday in a sign of solidarity.
A remix to be released in June contains several lines in English that condemn U.S. immigration laws. Among them: “These kids have no parents, cause all of these mean laws ... let’s not start a war with all these hard workers, they can’t help where they were born.”
Bryanna Bevens of Hanford, Calif., who writes for the immigration-focused Web magazine Vdare.com, said the remix particularly upset her.
“It’s very whiny. If you want to say all those things, by all means, put them on your poster board, but don’t put them on the national anthem,” she said.
Kidron, a U.S. resident for 16 years, maintains the changes are fitting. After all, he notes, American immigrants borrowed the melody of the “Star Spangled Banner” from an English drinking song.
“There’s no attempt to usurp anything. The intent is to communicate,” Kidron said. “I wanted to show my thanks to these people who buy my records and listen to the music we release and do the jobs I don’t want to do.”
Kidron said the song also will be featured on the album “Somos Americanos,” which will sell for $10, with $1 going to the National Capital Immigration Coalition, a Washington group.
James Gardner, an associate director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, said Americans have long enjoyed different interpretations of the Star Spangled Banner, including country or gospel arrangements.
“There are a number of renditions that people aren’t happy with, but that’s part of it — that it means enough for people to try to sing,” he said.
Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Perez, said this country was built by immigrants, and “the meaning of the American dream is in that record: struggle, freedom, opportunity, everything they are trying to shut down on us.”