#981: 1897, Enoch Sontonga, Nkosi Sikelel i Afrika

by Ray_North on January 20, 2015

This anthem is utterly unique and wonderful in every way – the anthem that inspired the ANC and those who opposed apartheid, the anthem that conjures up images of township funerals and raised clenched fists and tears; now amazingly it is the anthem of a united nation; the anthem of rugby matches and state funerals, interwoven into the fabric and history of a nation, interwoven into a modern tune that celebrates the alternative Afrikaans history to take its place alongside everything else – proud and still defiant.

I bloody love this anthem.

I remember first hearing it as a callow teenager when Pete Gabriel put a section of it at the end of his brilliant Biko – the poignancy of it being sung at the funeral of a great freedom fighter, and I remember being blown away by the power of this song, the haunting voices shimmering with the emotion of the unfairness of their oppression.

I remember it being sung outside the South African Embassy in Trafalgar Square, when I went on a demo with my undergraduate mates in 1988.

I remember someone telling me the melody was based upon a Welsh hymn, ‘Aberystwyth’ – and feeling pride.

And, I remember hearing it sung before the 1995 Rugby World Cup final, and watching dumbstruck and happy as blonde white South African Rugby Players and fans, who had just cheered Nelson Mandela, sang the ANC anthem with a verve and passion that could match anything.

It is a truly marvellous anthem, and long may it be sung in peace as part of a united and stable South Africa.

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