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This is what my language sounds like

A while ago I promised I would do a post about Afrikaans songs. Oh dear. It's more work than I thought it would be, and it's aggravated by the fact that I've lost touch with contemporary culture in South Africa. (Please don't ask me about Die Antwoord. I don't get it. I don't want to get it.) So for now, while I continue my research, I've selected two golden oldies that are very natsukashii (that's a Japanese word for "dear" or "missed") to me. You'll notice the central themes that unite these songs: an abiding love for Africa, as well as loss and longing.

Quick recap: Afrikaans, my mother tongue, is a South African language developed from 17th century Dutch. It has adopted words from Malay, Khoisan and Bantu languages, but 90% of its vocabulary is of Dutch origin. Yes, I understand Dutch (with a bit of effort) and Flemish (easily). Afrikaans has about 6 million native speakers.

Tomorrow we return our focus to Japan. Tonight, songs from home. I mean my first home. Japan is now my home. It gets confusing, but you know what I mean, don't you?

Halala Afrika, by Johannes Kerkorrel

Halala Afrika is a beautiful song by a brilliant songwriter whose stage name was Johannes Kerkorrel ("kerkorrel" is an Afrikaans word for "church organ"). He caused a music revolution in South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s, since he openly defied the white government and the Dutch Reformed Church in his songs. He was fired from the Afrikaans newspaper where he worked and banned from the national broadcaster, but his songs were hits in South Africa, Belgium and the Netherlands. He committed suicide in 2002.

Halala is a Zulu word that means "welcome". Afrika is the Afrikaans spelling of Africa. 


English

When this land was young and the horizon wide open
It was green in this hemisphere south of the equator
And at dusk when the sun set and the cattle walked home
You could hear the call of the women across the hills:
Halala, we are Africa, forever. (The Afrikaans is ambiguous. It could also mean "our Africa is eternal".)

Tula tula mtanami, tula tula sanaboni, tula tula mtanami,
Ubab' uzobuya sihlale naye, ubab' uzobuya sihlale sonke.

Then the ships arrived from the west, white sails across the sea
To ask for food and water, but to stay for so much more
And this land that was so open, this land we abandoned
For the ghettos of cities we were given copper wires:
Halala, we are Africa, forever.

Tula tula mtanami, tula tula sanaboni, tula tula mtanami,
Ubab' uzobuya sihlale naye, ubab' uzobuya sihlale sonke.

Our mother's womb hid many treasures
Diamonds and coal, gold, noble metals
And the people turned into slaves, paid to tunnel
Into the earth to remove every shred of wealth
And the wide open savanna was strangled with barbed wire
And all the animals – from elephant to gemsbok – had to bow
Before the power of the big game hunter and his massive guns
Until nothing remained but silence, only silence ruled:
Halala, we are Africa, forever.

(The song includes a chorus in Zulu, one of South Africa's black languages. Translated into English: Hush, my child; hush, little baby; hush, my child. Father will return, we shall stay with him. We were living happily; return this land we enjoyed to us.)

Afrikaans

Toe die wêreld hier nog jonk was en die horison wyd en oop
Was dit groen hier in die halfrond, suid van die ewenaar
En in die skemer as die son sak en die beeste huis toe loop
Klink die roepstem van die vroue oor die heuwels van die land:
Halala, ewig is ons Afrika.

Tula tula mtanami, tula tula sanaboni, tula tula mtanami,
Ubab' uzobuya sihlale naye, ubab' uzobuya sihlale sonke.

Toe kom die skepe uit die weste, wit seile oor die see
Om te vra vir kos en water en te bly vir soveel meer
En die land wat een tyd oop was, die land het ons verruil
Vir die ghetto’s van die stede is ons koperdraad gegee:
Halala, ewig is ons Afrika

Tula tula mtanami, tula tula sanaboni, tula tula mtanami,
Ubab' uzobuya sihlale naye, ubab' uzobuya sihlale sonke.

Daar was rykdom in die maag van ons moeder Afrika
Diamante en ook steenkool, goud, edel metaal
En die mense word die slawe hier want die mense word betaal
Om te tonnel in die aarde, elke greintjie uit te haal
En die groot en oop grasvlaktes, span dit toe met doringdraad
En van die olifant tot die gemsbok, al die diere moes kom buig
Voor die mag van die grootwildjagter, voor die mag van sy groot geweer
Totdat net die stilte oorbly, totdat net die stilte heers:
Halala, ewig is ons Afrika.

Kinders van die wind, by Laurika Rauch

I know an age-old song
about life’s joys and sorrows,
about shipwrecks long gone
to the depths of the sea.
The words are lost forever
but still the tune lingers on —
like a dimly recalled image
from a very old story.
Visions, dreams, and names
have been scattered by the wind,
and where all the words have gone
only a child could guess.
Nomads without direction, 

seekers that never find…
Ultimately, we are all just
children of the wind.

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