Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Steingo, Gavin. “Producing Kwaito: Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika after Apartheid.” The World of Music: Journal of the Ethnomusicology Programme—The University of Sheffield 50 (2008): 103-20.

South African kwaito group Boom Shaka’s 1998 version of the hymn Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (Nkosi Sikelela from the album Words of Wisdom), despite being seen by many South Africans as disrespectful of the religiously and nationalistically loaded hymn, successfully re-imagined the future of South African youth culture in the post-apartheid era. Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika was composed in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga and became the anthem of the African National Congress in 1925. A multilingual version of the hymn incorporating the apartheid-era anthem Die Stem has been the national anthem of South Africa since 1997. Kwaito music, a South African variant of House music that is typically produced by slowing down House tracks and adding vocals and samples, became an important means of expression for black youths following the end of apartheid in 1994. Boom Shaka’s Nkosi Sikelela is built on a looped four-measure sequence with a different chord progression than the original hymn. The opening section includes a sample of a 1998 Nelson Mandela speech appealing to African allies of the liberated South Africa. The second section introduces Boom Shaka’s Lebo Mathosa singing the opening eight measures of Nkosi Sekelel’ iAfrika , slightly modified but in the original C Major, over the loop sequence in A Minor. The familiar tune is harmonically recontextualized, yielding dissonance where there was stability in the original. In the third section, Boom Shaka’s Thembe Seete sings the same eight measures of Nkosi Sekelel’ iAfrika modulated down a minor third to match the loop in A Minor. Although hermeneutical readings of Boom Shaka’s Nkosi Sikelela are fraught—especially surrounding assertions of a rejection of “Western” harmony—post-apartheid black empowerment is apparent in the re-composition of a culturally and politically significant hymn in the globally-mediated style of kwaito.

Works: Boom Shaka: Nkosi Sikelela (109-13)

Sources: Enoch Sontonga: Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (109-13)

Index Classifications: 1900s, Popular

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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