Generally national anthems are the most dreary and banal drones, not anything that anyone from another country would even consider to be music, let alone something that might move them in any way… Think of Britain’s awful dreary pean of praise to the House of Windsor – not even about the country – and you will know what I mean.
However, a few countries have taken the trouble to give themselves national anthems that are not only a hymn of praise to their country, but also musically moving and powerful, and the best of these (to my mind) is the South African Anthem, which combines both a great melody (well two actually) and even has words that are not too awful.
Two Anthems In One.
As I mentioned above, the current South African anthem is actually made from two totally separate pieces, one that originated with black Africans, and was the anthem of the resistance to apartheid, the other was for many years the anthem of the white Dutch Settlers, and as part of the approach the South Africans took at the end of apartheid, they decided to simply join the two together and make that their new national anthem – Pleasingly gentle idea.
So, what were these two songs?
The first part of the current South African Anthem is ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’ (God bless Africa) which was composed by a Methodist school teacher named Enoch Sontonga in 1897. He intended it to be simply a hymn to be sung in church, but it later became much more famous as a song of resistance to the apartheid policies of the white South African government.
Effectively becoming the alternative South African national anthem and was the song that the ANC sang at all their demonstrations and gatherings,
Here is a very powerful version, sung in Zambia by a whole slew of people who fought against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
See what I mean? That is one seriously powerful and moving piece of music.
The other part of the current national anthem of South Africa is rather less powerful, and to be honest, much more of a ¨classic¨ national anthem.