South Africa is a country with an interesting history. Parts of it were colonized by the British and Dutch and there were settlers from at least 3 other countries. South Africa also had a large population of native people. These different groups of people had different claims on the land and ways of living. This meant that they did not always agree with each other and get along well. Not only did this cause disagreements, but it also caused wars and the eventual segregation of people based on their skin color (called Apartheid). This segregation ended in 1994 when the first universal elections were held and Nelson Mandela became the president. These events led to a change in the national anthem of South Africa in 1997.
Who wrote the South African national anthem?
In 1997 the national anthem was changed to a hybrid of two different traditional songs and the addition of new English lyrics at the end of the anthem. The first song is “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” (English: Lord Bless Africa) which was written by Enoch Sontonga. It is a traditional hymn written in the Xhosa language, but quickly became the anthem of the anti-apartheid movement.
The second part of the anthem is from the former anthem “Die Stem van Suid-Afrika” (English: The Call of South Africa), which was the official national anthem before 1997. It was written in 1918 by Cornelis Jacobus Langenhoven and was originally a poem written in Afrikaans. The music was composed by Reverend Marthinus Lourens de Villiers in 1921.
Interestingly, both of these songs were recognized as the official national anthem from 1995-1997, but were joined together to create the current anthem. The anthem contains 5 different languages and has the unique characteristic of a change of key.