Mama Lisa's World
International Music & Culture
Kid Songs and Rhymes of
South Africa




Rub-A-Dub-Dub (Nursery Rhyme)
Monkey (Old Afrikaans war song )  MP3 Midi
Ducklings, Ducklings   MP3 Midi  
Clever Hansel (Kids Song) Midi
This Little Piggy (Finger Play)
Jan Pierewiet (Barn Dance Song)  MP3 Midi  
Hey, Diddle, Diddle (Nursery Rhyme)
Monday's Child (Nursery Rhyme)
Roll The Dough (Hand-clapping Rhyme)
My Sarie Maraie (Traditional Song) MP3
Sugarbush, I Want You So (Barn Dance Song)  MP3 Midi
Hickory, Dickory, Dock (Nursery Rhyme)
Father James   Midi
Rock-a-bye Baby (Lullaby)


England, Ireland,
Scotland, Wales
(Chinese Jump-rope Rhyme)
Goodness Gracious Me (Nursery Rhyme)

Fanti ?


Shay Shay Koolay (Call and Response Song)  

Ndebele & Zulu


Move Forward (Shoo-shoo!) (Call and Response Song)  







Izika Zumba (Great Zulu War Chanting Cry)  MP3 Midi
What Have We Done? (Traditional Song) MP3
We Are Marching (Hymn) MP3  
Hush-a-Bye Little Man (Lullaby) MP3  
  •   - this song has sheet music
  • Midi - this song has a Midi tune
  • MP3 - this song has an MP3 recording
  •   - this song has a Video recording

The Languages of South Africa

There are approximately 25 different languages spoken in South Africa, 11 of which are official: isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, siSwati, Sesotho, Sepedi, Setswana (Tswana), Tshivenda, Xitsonga, English and Afrikaans.

About the Afrikaans Language

Afrikaans is one of the major languages of South Africa. It is based on Zuid-Hollands, a dialect spoken by the earliest Dutch settlers. Its vocabulary has been enhanced by borrowings from various other European and African languages and its grammar has been simplified.

About The Nursery Rhymes

Many of the nursery rhymes listed on this page correspond to similar rhymes in the English Mother Goose tradition. My friend and correspondent, Marietjie Herselman, an Afrikaans speaking mother of three, has commented:

"I can't say for sure whether these rhymes have been passed on for a few generations but I can tell you that they have been around since I was a baby and my mother knew them. You'll find them in almost every nursery rhyme book in Afrikaans and all the kids know them... they are very popular in Afrikaans."

Here are some of Mama Lisa's recent posts about the music, culture and traditions of South Africa:
  • Maria wrote asking for info about the song, "Zimbole".  Here’s her email: I have been trying in vain to find the meaning of the African folk song "Zimbole".  I believe it's an Zulu word for peace but I'm not sure and I can't find any information anywhere!   There are videos on youtube of kids singing […] Read more »
  • Here’s a video to hear animal sounds around the world... Bow Wow Meow – Animal Sounds in Different Languages from properniceinnit on Vimeo. The languages are: English, Mandarin, French, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Hindi, Canadian-French, Romanian, Japanese, Russian, Dutch, Bengali, Brazilian-Portuguese, Colombian-Spanish, Swahili and Mongolian. Enjoy! Mama Lisa Read more »
  • Here’s a video about testing to see if someone is a native Zulu speaker and also a demonstration of how to make the Zulu click consonants... Enjoy! Mama Lisa Read more »
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    There are many variations in different languages of "mother" and "father".  These are formal words that people use when referring to their parents.  But most words used to address our parents directly are less formal. In the US, most people don’t say "mother’ and "father" when talking to their parents.  Even when I was a […] Read more »
  • Here Come Our Mothers Bring Us Presents is a traditional Zulu children's song that's sung by Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  Here are the lyrics with the Zulu part phonetically written... Here come our mothers, bringing us presents Ngci bo, Ngci bo, Nampayano mame * We can see apples, we can see bananas Ngci bo, Ngci bo, […] Read more »
  • Caryl wrote: Lisa, What a wonderfully rich site you have! I came across it while searching for the lyrics to a song that I heard at a children’s school in South Africa. I was wondering if you knew about this song. It’s a counting song about calabashes. The lyrics that I remember talked about having […] Read more »
  • Frances Turnbull from Musicaliti saw my post about British traditions and wrote to me about an interesting African one. Here’s what she said: Thanks for this – so easy to take it all for granted! It also reminded me of an African tradition that my dad adopted when we lived in South Africa. In Africa […] Read more »
  • Rose wrote me asking about the Afrikaans version of Brahms’ Lullaby that’s sung in South Africa… Dear Lisa, When I was a baby in Joburg, my mom used to sing a Brahms lullaby… Slaap my kindkie slaap sag, onder rose fannaag, iers die armpies on my neck, en dan warmpies toe gedek, more frieg as […] Read more »
  • Emanuela wrote to me asking about an Afrikaans song: Hello Lisa, I'm looking for the full lyrics to the little tune “Ek borsel my tande...” I've been singing it to my niece to encourage her to brush her little teeth, but I only know I tiny part of it. I'm wondering whether you might know […] Read more »
  • This is a protest song and it is traditionally sung at funerals. It was important during the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Senzenina means “What have we done” with the implication “what did we do to deserve this?” (Also spelled “senzeni na”.) Here you can see the original lyrics, with an English translation and a […] Read more »

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Email us a traditional song or rhyme from your country.

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