bawo, thixo somandla background information

here’s a nice version of “bawo, thixo somandla” – one of my favourite traditional south african songs, sung by pro cantu:

i also found a general introduction and the translation of the xhosa lyrics:

Those of us who live in the Gauteng area first heard this folk-song [ad#right] in the early eighties, sung by Jabulani Mazibuko’s Soweto Teacher’s Choir, following their return from a tour of the Transkei in the Eastern Cape Province. They told us that it had been sung to them by a choir at a School for Disabled Children in Umtata.

They were so moved by the depth of feeling with which the song was sung by these little ones that they immediately decided to learn it from them and import it into Soweto.

These facts tell us something of the nature of the song: It is a prayer of supplication to God from people in dire distress.

However, some have chosen to interpret it as a “protest” song. That, unfortunately, is the fate of a number of folk-songs: They are all too often construed in the narrower context of local socio-political conditions.

But the empathically repeated words mayedlule lendebe (“may this cup pass from us”: clearly an allusion to the words of Christ during his Agony in the Garden as given by all three Synoptic Gospels) tend rather, in our view, to tip the scales in favour of the “prayerful” interpretation.

Bawo, Thixo Somandla

Bawo, Thixo Somandla,
Buyinton’ ubugwenxa bam?
Azi senzen’ ebusweni beNkosi,
Bawo, Thixo Somandla?

Azi senzeni na?
Azi senzeni na?
Azi senzeni Nkosi yam,
Sigqibana nje!
Sibuthwel’ ubunzima
Sibuthwel’ ubunzima
Bawo, Thixo Somandla.

Mayedlule lendebe,
Mayedlule lendebe,
Azi senzeni Nkosi yam,
Sigqibana nje!

Enhliziyweni yam
Ndisolokho ndisitsho “Mngci!
Ayidlule lendebe,
Bawo, Thixo Somandla”.

Father, God Omnipotent

Father, God Omnipotent,
What is my transgression?
What wrong have we done you, O Lord,
Father, God Omnipotent?

What have we done?
What have we done?
What have we done, my Lord,
That we kill each other like this!1
In [this] world
We are loaded with troubles,
We are loaded with troubles,
Father, God Omnipotent.

Let this cup pass from us,
Let this cup pass from us,
What have we done, my Lord,
That we kill each other like this!

I have an unceasing sob
In my heart,
I keep saying “Truly!
May this cup pass from us,
Father, God Omnipotent”.

[related post: bawo thixo somandla]

  1. A reference to political unrest in South Africa []

4 thoughts on “bawo, thixo somandla background information

  1. This is a fantastic song sung by wonderful singers – what a rich sound they make. I’m very happy to say that we will be hearing them in the UK in July of this year. I can’t wait to hear them.

  2. this song always make the hair at the nape of neck stand – it moves me as a south african like no other song does. it’s more powerful than the national anthem

  3. Thank you so much for providing the lyrics together with the translations… I have been looking for this song for days. God bless you.

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