Enoch Mankayi Sontonga

Enoch Sontonga, from the Mpinga clan of the Xhosa nation, was born in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, South Africa in about 1873. He is believed to have received training as a teacher at the Lovedale Institution and was then sent to a Methodist Mission school near Johannnesburg. A choirmaster and photographer, he married Diana Mgqibisa, daughter of a prominent minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and had one son. Sontonga died unexpectedly in Johannesburg in 1905, at the age of 32.

Sontonga wrote the first verse and chorus and also composed the music for Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika in 1897. His choir and others sang this song around Johannesburg and Natal and it made a strong impression on audiences. In 1912, at the first meeting of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), the forerunner of the African National Congress, it was immediately sung after the closing prayer and in 1925 the ANC officially adopted it as a closing anthem for its meetings.

The song spread beyond the borders of South Africa and has been translated and adapted into a number of other languages. It is still the national anthem of Tanzania and Zambia (Mungu Ibariki Afrika in Swahili) and has also been sung in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa for many years. In 1994 it became part of South Africa's national anthem.

Nkosi Sikekel' was first recorded in 1923 by Solomon T. Plaatje accompanied by Sylvia Colenso on the piano. A well known Xhosa poet, S.E.K. Mqhayi, wrote a further seven verses. Published in 1927, it was included in the Presbyterian Xhosa hymnal, Ingwade Yama-culo Ase-rabe in 1929, in a newspaper, Umtetela Wa Bantu and in a Xhosa poetry book for schools.

On 24 September 1996, Heritage Day, the grave of Enoch Sontonga was declared a national monument by South African President Nelson Mandela. At the ceremony, the Order of Meritorious Service (Gold) was bestowed on Enoch Sontonga posthumously, received by his granddaughter, Mrs Ida Rabotape. The program included praise poetry and a narration that told something of this man, who wrote a song almost 100 years earlier that, unbeknown to him, stirred the hearts and gave strength to thousands during struggles in South African history.

Enoch Mankayi Sontonga — Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika

Sung originally as a hymn, Sontonga’s 1897 melody Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika focused on text to stir the heart and give strength to millions during struggles in South African history. Adopted as the African National Congress anthem, and later as the national anthem of South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia, this rendition for woodwinds by flutist/composer Valerie Coleman is upbeat and celebratory.

Suited for:


For Woodwind Quintet, 4 minutes.
WW5-0341 . . . $29.00

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