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 wonderful mp3 recording that we just received by Élodie Chebat.
Sono sethu ubumnyama
Sono sethu yinyaniso
Mayibuye i Africa.
What Have We Done?
What have we done?
Our sin is that we are black
Our sin is the truth
They are killing us
Let Africa return.
We found that this song is considered to be in both the Zulu and Xhosa languages. Trying to figure out which language it was in, I looked up the words to this song, and found some of them in a Zulu dictionary and some in a Xhosa dictionary. On further research I found in the Encyclopedia Britannica: “The Zulu and Xhosa languages are similar enough to be considered dialects of one language, but speakers of Zulu and Xhosa consider them to be separate languages.” (FYI They are both Southeastern Bantu languages.)
Many thanks to Élodie Chebat for contributing and singing this beautiful song!
This article was posted on Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 at 4:00 pm and is filed under African Children's Songs, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Folk Songs, Languages, Mama Lisa, MP3's, Recordings of Songs, Senzenina, South Africa, Traditional Songs, Xhosa, Zimbabwe, Zulu. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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