The Malaysian Who Knows 112 National Anthems by Heart

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A genius with an odd talent, Thean delights and surprises with his wide repertoire of national songs.

  • Sounds like a native singing national anthems
  • Can sing South Africa’s national song, which is in five languages
  • Determined to learn national anthem of every country

Thean See Xien, 31, can only speak English and Malay, yet he knows 112 national anthems by heart.

Learning the vast number of anthems is already a feat, but he has been told that he sounds like a native when he sings!

But Thean is no ordinary man, what with an IQ of 176 which is considered as “near genius or genius”. That could be the reason he can retain and recall so many anthems with ease.

Professionally, Thean is an in-house counsel for an oil and gas company in Kuala Lumpur.

Describing himself as a “shower singer”, he said he had no formal training in singing but has a good ear for pronunciation and music. He has always like singing and was in the church choir. He knows how to play the piano but his interests are travelling, spending time with friends and participating in pub quizzes and trivia nights, which he often wins.

A Eurovision junkie, he also listens to a lot of classical music and loves artists like The Cardigans, Alan Parsons and Eivor Palsdottir, a singer from the Faroe Islands.

He started learning the songs as a hobby out of boredom in 2002 and now has a repertoire of national anthems from most of the countries in Asia, Europe and North and South America. He can even sing South Africa’s national anthem which is sung in five languages – Afrikaans, English, Sesotho, Xhosa and Zulu!

“I found Danish and Arabic very challenging,” he told the South China Morning Post. “While languages like French, Spanish and German are pretty easy because the pronunciation is much more straightforward.”

Thean said his encyclopaedic knowledge of national songs has won him friends around the world.

“I studied in the UK and among the other international students it was a great party trick. Even now my social circle tends to show me off, especially if there’s a foreigner in the crowd,” he said.

“It’s like ‘oh, he can sing your national anthem’, and then everyone starts calling out country names and it snowballs from there.”

He is used to the delight and surprise on peoples’ faces when he breaks into song. At the Estonian Song Festival in 2014, he created some waves when a local reporter picked him out from the crowd as “the sole Chinese-looking person” and on interviewing him, discovered that Thean could sing the Estonian national anthem!

Although his unusual talent has gained him some fame, Thean is against monetising or commercialising it as “that would take the fun out of it”.

He is not done with learning national anthems yet as he determined to learn the national song of every country on every continent! Perhaps with the exception of Antarctica.

“If penguins taught me a national anthem, I’d do my best to learn it,” he jested.