The BBC Proms has somewhat lost its glorious coat of zeal, but it is indeed a national spectacle, with each year marking the end of summer for the Brits.
And the custom was that at each Prom session, the almost anthem-like canon of “Land of Hope and Glory” and “Rule, Britannia!” be sung by the overtly moved crowd in the theatre. However, as the title and the obvious background suggests, the songs were composed in the days of British imperialism, leading to another ‘cancel culture’ debate this week. And the great United Kingdom is yet again very much divided by the issue, with those who decry the racist undertone and those who vehemently deny such wrongdoing.
The Royal Albert Hall, in the Proms, is mostly attended by white Brits, wearing outfits adorned mostly of the national colour of red, white and blue costumes, waving Union flags and singing along to patriotic anthems.
“Rule, Britannia!,” composed in 1740, is lyrically concentrated on boasting the once-infamous British Navy and all its glorious power:
The nations, not so blest as thee,
Must in their turns to tyrants fall;
While thou shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.
Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.
“Land of Hope and Glory,” was written in the Victorian age of 1901 when the British Empire was the greatest superpower on Earth:
Land of hope and glory, mother of the free
How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet
Kehinde Andrews, professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University, label the songs as of “blatantly racist propaganda”, which vaingloriously lauds and commemorates imperialist past of the British Isles.
“Rule, Britannia!” being written in an age and time when the Empire was the key source of the Atlantic slave trade, he and many critics believe the song should be banned – which affected the BBC’s decision in just playing the music instead of the crowd singing it.
“No one’s banned the song, no one’s said nobody can listen to it, it’s not being burned in the Houses of Parliament. Is this a song you want to sing to celebrate our public service broadcast television? No it’s not, it’s not appropriate.”
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