Sheet music

SOUTH AFRICA : South Africa National Anthem
South African National Anthem
National Anthem of South Africa
'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika/Die Stem

  • Author: FIRST SECTION:
    Enoch Mankayi Sontonga (1860-1904), Samuel Edward Krune Mqhayi (1845-1945)
    Cornelis Jacob Langenhoven (1873-1932)
  • Composer: FIRST SECTION:
    Enoch Mankayi Sontonga (1860-1904)
    Marthinus Lourens de Villiers (1885-1977)
  • Adopted: Second section as National Anthem 1936, together with first section 1995
  • National Day: April 27 (1994) - Freedom Day
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    'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika'

    The words and music of 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika' ('God Bless Africa') were composed as a hymn by ENOCH MANKAYI SONTONGA (1860-1904) in 1897 along with SAMUEL EDWARD KRUNE MQHAYI (1845-1945) who also contributed to the words. Sontonga was a teacher in one of the Methodist Mission Schools in the township of Nacefield near Johannesburg. He had a gift for sound and constantly composed pieces, words and music for the use of his pupils' entertainment. He hoped to print his collection of compositions but died before his ambition was realised. Since then various teachers and choir conductors came to borrow the manuscripts and 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika' was publicly sung for the first time in 1899. It was sung in all provinces and steadily gained recognition as the people's National Anthem. The first verse has survived as the basis of the popular National Anthem today. The ANC (African National Congress) adopted 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika' as its National Anthem in 1925, and many organisations and churches followed suit.

    The song has become the National Anthem also of Tanzania and Zambia. 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika' is closely associated with and symbolises the struggle of the people for a democratic South Africa.

    'Die Stem van Suid-Afrika'

    After the birth of the Union of South Africa in 1910, the search started for a National Anthem with a South African idiom that could be used in either official languages - 'Die Stem van Suid-Afrika' ('The Call of South Africa') fulfilled these needs.

    It was a poem written by CORNELIS JACOB LANGENHOVEN (1873-1932) on May 30 and 31 1918. Originally there were only three verses, by a request a fourth followed a few days later. A national competition was held to get the best possible music, sponsored by 'Die Burger', a Cape newspaper. In April 1919, MARTHINUS LOURENS de VILLIERS (1885-1977) made a first attempt, but it did not satisfy Langenhoven. After he had tried several others, de Villiers finally came forward with an acceptable tune in 1921. For many years the lyrics were accompanied by different melodies. This popular tune contributed greatly to the general adoption of 'Die Stem' as a National Anthem. After his retirement de Villiers made 17 journeys throughout the country, and visited many schools. When the South African Broadcasting Corporation started to close its daily broadcasts from its Cape studio with both 'God Save the King' and 'Die Stem', the general public also became familiar with it. In 1932 the 'Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurverenigings', then a new cultural organisation, announced a competition for the best lyrics and composition to be used as the official National Anthem. Fifty five poems were sent in and forty compositions. It was not surprising, therefore, that in 1936 the poem by Langenhoven and the composition by de Villiers were unanimously accepted by the selection committee of the aforementioned organisation.

    In 1938, the then Prime Minister, decided that 'Die Stem' should be played at the opening of Parliament, together with 'God Save the King'. It was not till May 2 1957, however, that another Prime Minister announced in Parliament that the government had accepted 'Die Stem' as the official National Anthem of South Africa.

    Official acceptance intensified the search for a suitable English translation. In 1952, a special committee, comprising eminent South Africans, finally recommended a translation made from the best parts of more than 220 translations submitted. The then Prime Minister accepted it for official use, in the same year the National Anthem was sung in English for the first time, the occasion was the Van Riebeeck Festival in Cape Town. The English version was revised in 1959.

    With effect from April 27 1994, South Africa adopted two official National Anthems, 'Die Stem' and 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika'. On May 17 1995, with Cabinet approval, the National Anthems were shortened and merged into one version for ceremonial purposes. The new shortened version comprises five of South Africa's official languages; it starts with 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika' in Xhosa and Zulu (both being Nguni languages) and Sotho, and is followed by the opening lines of 'Die Stem' in Afrikaans and ends with an excerpt of 'The Call of South Africa' in English. The five languages referred to above are the only languages used.