The Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) has put the spotlight on the intended purpose of the SA National Anthem.
South Africa’s multi-lingual national anthem was proclaimed in October 1997, with the goal of creating a common identity, fostering national pride, social inclusion, and reconciliation.
“This heritage month, we acknowledge our members’ contributions to the fusion of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika and Die Stem,” said SAMRO Chairperson Nicholas Maweni.
“It is now nearly 25 years after our reconciliatory period, but a number of South Africans still do not want to sing Die Stem section because it is synonymous with Afrikaner Nationalism and the white architects of Apartheid,” lamented Maweni
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika was an anti-apartheid anthem sung among the black population at political meetings causing it to be banned by the then Nationalist government.
Maweni noted that this part of the national anthem remains unsung by Some South Africans who have not learned the words for whatever reason.
A national anthem is a patriotic musical composition representing and evoking eulogies of the history and traditions of a country or nation and it starts with a note.
South Africa’s post-democratic elections national anthem was named “Best National Anthem” by the Economist in 2017.
Maweni recalled that it was in the spirit of reconciliation that in April 1993, the Multiparty Negotiating Forum (MPNF) called for the two songs – Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika and Die Stem – to be shortened, combined, and made to represent as many people of the South African rainbow as possible.
To achieve the symbolic reconciliation of these songs then President, Nelson Mandela, brought together a committee of twelve leading South African music professionals to find a way to achieve his goal.
The final arrangements of the anthem were drafted by two SAMRO members, the late Prof Mzilikazi Khumalo and Prof Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph.
It contains five of South Africa’s official languages – namely isiXhosa, isiZulu, seSotho, Afrikaans and English – to serve as a symbol of a united and democratic South Africa.
“The spirit of reconciliation was important at the time, but is it still relevant today?” asked Maweni on Heritage Day.
The National Anthem of South Africa is owned by the people of South Africa and free of any and all copyright.
This means no copyright revenue is accrued by the work, not even for arrangements or adaptations of the music or lyrics.
“A national anthem is one of the main symbols of every nation, which signifies the nation’s pride,” said Maweni.
“Does the National Anthem serve as an expression of our national identity after more than two decades?
“As uncomfortable as it is to have this conversation, we know that many strides still need to be made to close the gaps of inequality and intolerance and to bring about social cohesion.
“Our anthem should give us a sense of common identity. It should be a symbol of a united South Africa sung with both humility and pride.
“Social cohesion and nation-building must now be a stronger call in our national anthem, and again it starts with a note.”