Senzeni Na?

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"Senzeni Na?"
Song
Language Xhosa
Zulu language
Genre Folk music

Senzeni Na?” (also spelled Senzenina, English: What Have We Done?)[1] is a South African anti‐apartheid folk song. The Xhosa and Zulu language song is commonly sung at funerals, demonstrations and in churches.[1][2] Activist Duma Ndlovu compared the influence of "Senzeni Na?" to that of the American protest song, "We Shall Overcome."[3]

The song has been around at least since the 1950s, and it reached the height of its popularity during the 1980s.[1] The origins of the song are unclear. Zimbabwean poet Albert Nyathi claims to have written "Senzeni Na?" on the day that activist Chris Hani died.[4]

The song was among several songs of a more mournful nature that became popular among anti-apartheid activists in the 1960s. The song repeats the line "What have we done" a number of times, which musician Sibongile Khumalo has described as giving the listener a sense of desolation.[5]

Lyrics[edit]

There does not seem to be one universally agreed on set of lyrics. Below are two versions, the bottom one being the more aggressive of the two:

IsiXhosa/IsiZulu original[6]
Senzeni na?
Sono sethu, ubumnyama?
Sono sethu yinyaniso?
Sibulawayo
Mayibuye i Africa
English translation[6]
What have we done?
Our sin is that we are black?
Our sin is the truth
They are killing us
Let Africa return
IsiXhosa/IsiZulu original[7]
Senzeni na senzeni na
Senzeni na senzeni na
Senzeni na senzeni na
Senzeni na kulomhlaba?
Amabhunu azizinja
Amabhunu azizinja
Amabhunu azizinja
Amabhunu azizinja
Kuyisono ‘kubamnyama
Kuyisono ‘kubamnyama
Kuyisono ‘kubamnyama
Kuyisono kulelizwe
English translation[7]
What have we done, what have we done?
What have we done, what have we done?
What have we done, what have we done?
What have we done in this country (world)?
Boers are dogs
Boers are dogs
Boers are dogs
Boers are dogs
It’s a sin to be black
It’s a sin to be black
It’s a sin to be black
It’s a sin in this country (world)

Appearances in the Western world[edit]

While best known in South Africa, "Senzeni Na?" has gained some popularity overseas. The song was featured in the anti‐apartheid film The Power of One[8] and a recording of the song as sung at the funeral of Steve Biko can be heard at the end of the album version of "Biko" by Peter Gabriel.[9] The music was used for an adaptation of the hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts in the Mennonite Hymnal: A Worship Book.[10]

In Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy there is a city called Senzeni Na (founded by the Japanese). Part 7 of the book is also titled "Senzeni Na."[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Matyu, Jimmy (November 1, 2006). "'Senzeni Na' sung as an anthem of the struggle". The Herald Online. Retrieved May 31, 2010. 
  2. ^ Pieterse, Cosmo (June 1989). "Towards a Survey: A reflection on South African poetry". In Campschreur, Willem; Divenda, Joost. Culture in Another South Africa. Olive Branch Press. ISBN 978-0-940793-36-1. Retrieved May 31, 2010. 
  3. ^ Jorritsma, Marie. "Songs for Freedom: Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony". Echo. 5 (1). ISSN 1535-1807. 
  4. ^ "The Truth About: Albert Nyathi". New Zimbabwe. July 15, 2009. Retrieved May 31, 2010. 
  5. ^ Schumann, Anne (2008). "The Beat that Beat Apartheid: The Role of Music in the Resistance against Apartheid in South Africa" (PDF). Wiener Zeitschrift für kritische Afrikastudien. 14 (8): 26. Retrieved 24 October 2016. 
  6. ^ a b "Senzeni na?". Bangor Community Choir. Retrieved May 31, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Nora Makky. "Song in the Anti-Apartheid and Reconciliation Movements in South Africa" (PDF). Retrieved May 31, 2010. 
  8. ^ "The Power Of One soundtrack Hans Zimmer (1992)". www.hans-zimmer.com. Retrieved May 31, 2010. 
  9. ^ Drewett, Michael (February 2007). "The Eyes of the World Are Watching Now: The Political Effectiveness of 'Biko' by Peter Gabriel". Popular Music and Society. 30 (1): 39–51. doi:10.1080/03007760500504929. 
  10. ^ Hawn, C. Michael (January 1, 2003). Gather Into One: Praying and Singing Globally. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. p. 254. ISBN 978-0-8028-0983-4. Retrieved May 31, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Red Mars". Worldcat.org.