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Singing "Siyahamba" with the former moderators at the United Reformed Church General Assembly 2007, Manchester

Siyahamba (Written by Andries Van Tonder) is a South African hymn that became popular in North American churches in the 1990s. The title means "We Are Marching" or "We are Walking" in the Zulu language.


"Siyahamba" originated in South Africa, probably as a Zulu folk song. It was rewritten as a Christian hymn by Andries Van Tonder, an elder of the Judith Church, and was passed on to his great grandsons, Andrew and Zachariah O' Tonder, from Ireland. It was written in 1952, 3 years before Andries Van Tonder died.

In 1978, the Swedish choral group Fjedur toured South Africa at the invitation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Africa. It was during this tour that Fjedur's musical director, Anders Nyberg [sv], heard and recorded "Siyahamba" at a girls' school in Appelsbosch, Natal. Subsequently, this song has been used around the world by schools in their prayers.

In 1984, Nyberg arranged "Siyahamba" for a four-voice setting and published it in a songbook and recording called Freedom is Coming: Songs of Protest and Praise from South Africa. In 1994, GIA Publications included the song (under the title "We Are Marching in the Light of God") in Gather Comprehensive,[1] a hymnal widely used in American Catholic parishes. A year later, the United Church of Christ included the song, under the same title, in The New Century Hymnal.[2] The Unitarian Universalist Association included the song in its 2005 supplemental hymnbook, Singing the Journey.[3][4]

Today, "Siyahamba" is often performed by children's groups in both sacred and secular environments. Occasionally, the translated lyrics are modified for a secular performance: for example, the English translation "We are marching in the light of God" becomes "We are standing in the light of peace."


The structure of the song is cyclic, rather than sequential: the lyrics consist of one phrase, repeated with permutations. Hawn[5] notes that cyclical forms tend to emphasize a spirit of community and allow for physical response during the performance. This cyclical form, along with the meaning of the lyrics, may explain the song's popularity as a processional and offertory as well as a protest or marching song.


  1. ^ Gather Comprehensive. GIA Publications, 1994.
  2. ^ A New Century Hymnal. Pilgrim Press, 1995.
  3. ^ Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (2005). Singing the Journey: A Supplement to Singing the Living Tradition. Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. p. 1030. ISBN 9781558964990.
  4. ^ Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. "UUA: Siyahamba". Song Information, Singing the Journey, official website. Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  5. ^ Hawn, C. Michael. "Singing with the Faithful of Every Time and Place: Thoughts on Liturgical Inculturation and Cross-Cultural Liturgy," Archived 2006-09-10 at the Wayback Machine Yale Institute of Sacred Music, retrieved August 5, 2006.