An Incomplete Field Guide to Contemporary Nationalist, Irredentist, and Separatist Music

Here are some great songs celebrating land, folk, and the aspirations of cultural, religious, and ethnic groups that either desire a homeland, want to annex someone else’s, would like to preserve their cultural heritage, or are singing to get their spirits up during a war. This article is in no way written to show support or opposition to any group mentioned here, it is purely a list of my favorite songs from these movements the world over. So, don’t come at me, bro. I actually don’t have any ethnic or national links to any of these folks. My motivation for writing this article is to collect more of these songs, so please, if you know of one, share with me.

1. AK47 Wale

Let’s kick-off with this absolute banger of a song. It’s a modern remix of a Sikh separatist classic, complete with samples of machine guns firing and motorcycles revving. The video is replete with historical footage of every freedom fighter’s favorite gun wielded by Sikhs in their traditional garb. Throughout the video you see the words “Khalistan Zindawad” together with an illustration of an AK47. Khalistan is the name Sikh separatists give the nation they would like to carve out of India. The Khalistan Zindawad Force is considered a terrorist group both in India and the EU, but I’m not sure if this video is referencing them or not.

2. Gini Lic (Գինի Լից)

This is definitely one of my favorite songs in this list. The lyrics celebrate the assassination of Taleat Pasha—Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire—and one of the architects of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. He was killed by Armenian nationalist Soghomon Tehlirian in Berlin in 1921 as part of Operation Nemesis as revenge for the Armenian Genocide. Adana Project did a phenomenal job with this folk heavy metal cover.

3. Оj Kocoвo Kocoвo and Сини јарко сунце са Косова

Danica Crnogorcevic is my favorite Serbian singer, she usually sings traditional Serbian Orthodox Christian songs mostly centered around spirituality. Her voice is a wonderful fit for the vast acoustics of the churches, cathedrals, and monasteries she usually sings in. But, she does have a couple of tracks that would fit into the irredentist category such as these songs about Kosovo (once a region of Serbia, today a nation whose independence is recognized by some 100 countries worldwide), the songs are basically about how Serbia won’t ever give up on Kosovo. Both songs are worth a listen, the second one here “Сини јарко сунце са Косова” (Bright Blue Sun of Kosovo) is sung live in a church where you can really feel the power of her enormous voice.

4. Ukrainian Folk Song 🇺🇦 ARMY REMIX

South African DJ The Kiffness joined forces with Andriy Khlyvnyuk the lead singer of Ukrainian band Бумбокс (Boombox) to put out this remix of Ukraine’s unofficial anthem early during the invasion of Ukraine. The vocals are powerful, Andriy was on a world tour with his band, and once the Russian army crossed the Ukrainian border, he returned home to pick up arms and defend his homeland in true patriotic fashion. The Kiffness delivered with the beat and solid instrument track.

5. Els Segadors

Like most songs in this list, “Els Segadors” is a modern adaptation of an older song. The original “Els Segadors” is the beautiful and somber anthem of Catalonia (Catalunya) a region of Spain which recently voted to separate from the rest of Spain in a non-binding referendum, which led to brutal state violence on the part of the Spanish government. The unique thing about this song is that the band is not Catalan, but American. The singer is half-Catalan/half-Salvadoran, she basically translated the lyrics into English, saving the original Catalan lyrics to the very end. The chorus: “Bon cop de falç” is sung in English as “Raise up your scythes” but would actually be better translated as “A good blow from a sickle.”

6. Yma o Hyd

This is easily my favorite song here. An absolutely spine-tingling epic of pure Welsh nationalism: “Yma o Hyd” is sung here by Dafydd Iwan Jones with the help of a crowd in Cardiff, Wales right before a qualifier game for the World Cup (spoiler alert: Wales qualified!). A former president of the Plaid Cymru (Welsh Party), Dafydd is a composer of great Welsh folk songs as well as a bit of a troublemaker having been arrested for defacing road signs in English with Welsh translations. This song is basically an unofficial Welsh anthem and the battle song of the Welsh football team. The chorus: “Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth / Ry’n ni yma o hyd” translates to “In spite of everyone and everything / We’re still here.”

7. Brezhoneg’ Raok

Alain Stivell is a Breton singer from France, he’s responsible for reviving the Celtic harp and other traditional and regional instruments from Brittany. The lyrics to this song sound out a warning of the grave danger of Bretons losing their language and by doing so, their unique identity and potential future as a people and a nation:

Diwallit’ ta, mar plij, diwallit’ ta.

Hep Brezhoneg, hep Brezhoneg, hep Brezhoneg, Breizh ebet. Hep Brezhoneg, hep Brezhoneg, arrabat komz diwar benn Breizh.

Mar c’hellit ket sell’ dre ho taoulagad… mar c’hellit ket lar’ dezhi “da garan”… mar c’hellit ket lar’ “va mab” d’ho bugel, echu eo an abadenn da virviken.

Beware, I warn you, beware.

Without Breton there is no Brittany. Without Breton, let us speak no more of Brittany.

If you cannot look with your own eyes, if you cannot tell him “I love you”, if you cannot say “my son” to your child, that bond forever gone.

8. Podes Falar en Galego

Os Carunchos are a band from the northwestern region of Galicia in Spain where Galician is spoken, a language far more similar to Portuguese than Spanish. Language isolates culture, define a people’s identity, and is the backbone of nationhood and nationalism. This song is about passing the language on from one generation to the next. The title means “You may speak in Galician.”

9. A Vita A Morte

The movement for Corsican independence from France has heated up once again with recent street protests by Corsican youth earlier in 2022. It’s easy to love any Corsican song as their beautiful language sounds very similar to Italian. The song asks will you “campà francese o more corsu”—live French or die Corsican.

10. La Ilaha Ilallah

Turns out that some of the most brutal wars and conflicts produce some of the most beautiful music. This song is a testament of love for one’s faith and Chechen motherland. Filled with nationalist sentiment, it is a call to courage, a supplication for divine intervention, and a rally to expel and cleanse the Chechen homeland of her enemies.

That’s it! Send me more! I’m not biased or anything, if the song sounds good and I have enough of them then I’ll make another a list and thank you for it. Like I said, I’m not here to propagandize anyone’s movement or have any ties to any aforementioned movements—although, I must admit that I am stoked to see Wales in the World Cup so I can hear the Welsh fans belt out “Yma o Hyd” before every game.

For a the complete playlist with all the songs, click here.

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Marcos Carvalho

Marcos Carvalho was recently awarded a writing fellowship at the America’s Future Foundation. He has previously been published in The Hill, The Washington City Paper, Matador, and in The National Interest.

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