#Harambee63 Africa’s Anthem “God Bless Africa”
Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrica was composed in 1897 by Xhosa composer, Enoch Mankayi Sontonga at the age of 24. It was a prayer that God will bless Africa, a song that was influenced by the suffering he saw of the Black people in South Africa.
It was based on tune, “Aberystwyth” by a Welsh composer Joseph Parry, originally composed in 1879. The additional lyrics were added by Xhosa poet Samuel Edward Krune Mqhay in 1927.
It was formally adopted by Tanzania (Swahili Version) and Zambia (English Version and Adaptation) as their national anthems. Part of it was also adopted in South Africa’s anthem. Namibia and Zimbabwe initially used it as an anthem as well. It has been translated into French, Kiswahili, Chichewa, Sotho (for Malawi and Zambia) and the word “Africa” could be replaced by any nation that sought to adopt it.
Mang’u High School also uses it as an anthem.
The hymn that Sontonga wrote transformed into a song for liberation and was also sung in African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Churches during the African – American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s in the U.S.
The A.M.E Church was founded in 1816 in the United Stated, by free blacks.
Church in the U.S., like church in Kenya and in other parts of Africa, during colonial times, became the place to congregate and strengthen each other in the call for PanAfricanism – an ideology whose existence can be traced to 1791.
Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrica was the national anthem of the ANC.
In the 80’s at the height of calls for South’s Africa’s liberation from apartheid, Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrica was sung as a sign of solidarity for the struggle for Black People.
I heard this song for the first time in a little Catholic church in Waithaka – Dagoretti, at the age of 7, sang in Kiswahili. I remember listening to the congregations’ power and specifically to my grandmother’s voice. I remember too, that people were crying.