1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

Anthem (aka ‘Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika’) – Lungiswa

Lungiswa – Lungiswa

Lungiswa – Lungiswa

Most South Africans know the history of ‘Nkosi Sikeleli Afrika’. It was a prayer in the form of a hymn, composed by Enoch Sontonga and was asking God to bless Africa. During the height of the Apartheid years the song was used by the ANC and those involved in the anti-apartheid struggle as an anthem. It has been adopted by Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia and Zimbabwe as their national anthems and when apartheid fell, it was incorporated into the national anthem of the new South Africa.

Lungiswa is Lungiswa Plaatjies and is the niece of Dizu Plaatjies, a member of the percussion band Amampondo. As a youngster Lungiswa would be the vocalist for Amampondo. In 2000 she released her debut solo album simply entitled ‘Lungiswa’. The album opens with a beautiful rendition of Nksoi. The song draws strength from 3 areas. Firstly the simplicity of the instrumentation which is mostly percussive and harks back to Lungiswa’s musical roots with Amampondo. Secondly, she drafts in a rich bass male choir which vibrates throughout the song.

But the main beauty of this track comes from her pure and somewhat soulful voice. Lungiswa sings this slow and relaxed version of the hymn with great feeling and her voice is only just a notch louder than the bass singers and both are muted against the percussion. This makes for a reverential song that has a feeling of giving thanks and praise alongside the request for blessing of the lyrics.

There are many versions of ‘Nkosi Sikilele’ out there but this one and the magnificently powerful version from the film ‘Cry Freedom’ (entitled ‘The Funeral’ in the soundtrack and attributed to Thuli Dumakude) are the two I keep coming back to. The latter is for days when you want to experience the power of the song while Lungiswa’s version is for when you want to bathe in the beauty of it.

Where to find it:
The Great South African Trip – Various Artists (2007), African Cream

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