Song of the Day: Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika “Lord Bless Africa”

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 
(18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013)

“Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” (“Lord Bless Africa” in Xhosa), was originally composed as a hymn in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga, a teacher at a Methodistmission school in Johannesburg, to the tune ‘Aberystwyth’ by Joseph Parry. The song became a pan-African liberation anthem and was later adopted as the national anthem of five countries in Africa including Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia and Zimbabwe after independence. Zimbabwe and Namibia have since adopted new national anthems. The song is currently the national anthem of Tanzania, Zambia and since 1994, a portion of the national anthem of South Africa.

Lyrics:

Language Lyrics English translation
Xhosa Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo,
God bless Africa
Let its (Africa’s) horn be raised,
Zulu Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.
Listen also to our prayers,
Lord bless us, we are the family of it (Africa).
Sesotho Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,
Setjhaba sa, South Afrika — South Afrika.
Lord bless our nation,
Stop wars and sufferings,
Save it, save our nation,
The nation of South Africa — South Africa.
Afrikaans Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,
From the blue of our heavens,
From the depths of our seas,
Over our everlasting mountains,
Where the cliffs give answer,
English Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom
In South Africa our land.

The song was the official anthem for the African National Congress during the apartheid era and was a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement. For decades during the apartheid regime it was considered by many to be the unofficial national anthem of South Africa, representing the suffering of the oppressed. In 1994 after the fall of apartheid, the new President of South Africa Nelson Mandela declared that both “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” and the previous national anthem, “Die Stem van Suid-Afrika” (“The Call of South Africa”) would be national anthems. While the inclusion of “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” celebrated the newfound freedom of many South Africans, the fact that “Die Stem” was also kept as an anthem even after the fall of apartheid, signified to all that the new government under Mr Mandela respected all races and cultures and that an all-inclusive new era was dawning upon South Africa. In 1996, a shortened, combined version of the two anthems was released as the new national anthem of South Africa under the constitution of South Africa. The anthem uses several of the official languages of South Africa. The first two lines of the first stanza are sung in Xhosa and the last two in Zulu. The second stanza is sung in Sesotho. The third stanza consists of a section of the original South African national anthem, Die Stem van Suid-Afrika, and is sung in Afrikaans. The fourth and final stanza, sung in English, is also based on Die Stem van Suid-Afrika.

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