1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Impi – Juluka

Impi – Juluka (Impi – Zulu for very successful song)

Impi - Juluka

Impi by Juluka

History lesson: Just one day before Michael Caine bravely fended off the Zulu army, the poms took a frightful beating at the Battle of Isandlwana (possibly because they were concentrating on how to say Ee Sandal Wanna). Such was the beating they took, that Johnny Clegg became so frightened of the Zulus that he decided if you can’t beat them, join them and thus the song Impi was born.

Why history lessons at school were never as tuneful as this can only be blamed on apartheid (why not, everyone’s doing it), and dull history teachers.  Footstomping, high kicking, drum poundingly brilliant, the history lessons at school were not, but Juluka took the Battle of Isandlwana and turned it into a victorious war cry that had us dancing in the aisles. It has become a firm favourite amongst Johnny Clegg fans.

Where to find it:
African Litany – Juluka (1981 ) Sony Music, RSMCD 1025
The Good Hope Concerts (live version) – Juluka (1986)
The Best Of Juluka / Savuka Featuring Johnny Clegg – Juluka & Savuka (1999) EMI, CDVM (WL) 22

Lyrics:

Impi! wo ‘nans’ impi iyeza (Here comes the army)
Obani bengathinta amabhubesi? (Who can touch the lions?)

All along the river Chelmsford’s army lay asleep
Come to crush the Children of Mageba
Come to exact the Realm’s price for peace
And in the morning as they saddled up to ride
Their eyes shone with the fire and the steel
The General told them of the task that lay ahead
To bring the People of the Sky to heel

Impi! wo ‘nans’ impi iyeza
Obani bengathinta amabhubesi?

Mud and sweat on polished leather
Warm rain seeping to the bone
They rode through the season’s wet weather
Straining for a glimpse of the foe
Hopeless battalion destined to die
Broken by the Benders of Kings
Vainglorious General and Victorian pride
Would cost him and eight hundred men their lives

Impi! wo ‘nans’ impi iyeza
Obani bengathinta amabhubesi?

They came to the side of the mountain
Scouts rode out to spy the land
Even as the Realm’s soldiers lay resting
Mageba’s forces were at hand
And by the evening the vultures were wheeling
Above the ruins where the fallen lay
An ancient song as old as the ashes
Echoed as Mageba’s warriors marched away

(Written by Johnny Clegg)

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