New anthem is a thorny issue

WITH reference to Sibongile Khumalo's column of Friday, July 9, entitled "Time for a new great anthem".

The article is a very interesting challenge to the South African academic and creative community involved in the arts, particularly in the music field.

Not only is an anthem a voice and a unifying force of the whole nation, but also a reflection of all its people's feelings, hopes and aspirations.

As a collective song learned from kindergarten, it resounds from the home with the family and resonates with the community and echoes to the whole country and beyond its borders.

Our current Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika by Enoch Sontonga comes closest to fulfilling this ideal but it falls short of being a "unifier" because its lyrics do not embody the whole spirit of what it means to be South African in thought, word and deed.

Morena Boloka Sechaba comes close to expressing fully thissentiment.

Perhaps one should revisit one of the contemporaries of Sontonga, Dr Reuben Caluza, who was born in KwaZulu-Natal and raised down the road from the Sisulu house here in Phomolong, Soweto.

He was the first black person from this country to study music and obtain a doctorate from the University of Ohio in Oberlin, US, at the turn of the 20th century.

Together with other American-trained musicians, Sandile Gumede, a classical pianist and John Ngcobo, an opera and folk singer, they collaborated to produce a classic song Nkosi Busis izwe lethu (God bless our land). One of its poignant stanzas goes as follows:

Nkosi busis' izwe lethu God bless our country

Lisize - help it

Ulibonise - and show it

Okulungile -what is good

Noku faneleyo -and what is righteous

Lifeze - and let it fulfill

INtando yakho - your will

Then I added my own words:

Abansundu - Black people

Nabamhlophe - and Whites

Mabahlangane - let them unite

Basebenzele isizwe - and work for the nation

Bafeze - and fulfill

Intando yakho - your will.

Finally, the key factor in determining a "suitable" anthem for the whole nation is language.

In which of our 11 languages should the anthem be sung.

Only a referendum can decide this thorny issue for everybody's satisfaction. Otherwise the controversy will remain with us despite our commendable efforts at nation-building.

The alternative would be to follow the American model and have one national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner and several national songs O! Beautiful America! and God Bless America. What is America to me?

Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali, Pimville