The music from the Apartheid in South Africa was extremely important in the movement for freedom. At a time when there wasn’t much money for the Anti-Apartheid Movement, music became the most important weapon. The songs sung all over South Africa in resistance to the Apartheid intimidated the government more than weapons and violence could because of the powerful meaning behind each song that unified and strengthened the resistance. Artists all over South Africa wrote songs speaking out against the government and its cruel laws and although many of them were banned, the people of South Africa heard them and sang them to protest the rules of the government.
While there are many different varieties of revolutionary music from the Anti-Apartheid Movement, ranging from ironic upbeat songs like ‘Meadowlands’ by Nancy Jacobs and sisters to aggressive angry songs like ‘Beware Verwoerd’ by Miriam Makeba, some of the most powerful songs are soft and gentle with very meaningful lyrics, like ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ Afrika’ by Enoch Sontonga. Although the song is neither belligerent nor confrontational, the haunting melody played under tremendously empowering lyrics shape possibly the most influential song in the Anti-Apartheid Movement.
‘Nkosi Sikelel’ Afrika’ was written by Enoch Sontonga, a Methodist minister, in 1899 for the children’s choir in the South African school he worked at to sing at the ordination ceremony of Reverend Mboweni, a methodist pastor in South Africa. Soon after the first performance, Samuel Mqhayi, a famous writer and poet in South Africa, added seven verses to the song, giving it a much more meaningful connotation. As the struggle for blacks in South Africa intensified, ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ Afrika’ became more and more popular. Although the original hymnal sound of the song was very moving, many artists’ renditions gave it a new significance. The earliest variations of ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ Afrika’, like the upbeat Masowe Apostles and the slower Marankes, inspired many artists to do the same. Some used the lyrics or melody to add to their own original songs, like the aggressive rap by Prophets of da City and Dan Moyane’s fusion of the song’s lyrics with the melody of ‘Die Stem Van Suid-Afrika’, South Africa’s national anthem during the Apartheid. Others used the song as inspiration for songs with similar lyrics, like ‘Nkosi Yethu’ by Isaian Shembe and ‘Mwari Komberera Africa’ by John Maranke. Despite being banned by the government, ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ Afrika’ continued to be sung throughout the Apartheid and became so important that it was named the national anthem of South Africa at the end of the Apartheid.
Although ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ Afrika’ was originally a religious hymn, the lyrics had a very prominent political connotation. The song was not a revolutionary song in the traditional sense, but a prayer for freedom and equality. The meaning of the lyrics, shown below, called for the Lord to help the people. The seven additional...