Tanzania: Did You Know? Tanzania Has Same National Anthem As SA, Zimbabwe

NOT many countries in the world get to share the distinction of having the same national anthem as two other countries, but Tanzania is one of them.

The anthem in question, "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" ("God Bless Africa"), was a Xhosa anthem, a pan-African liberation song composed by Enoch Sontonga. The Swahili version for Tanzania is called "Mungu Ibariki Afrika." South Africa adopted it as recently as 1997.

The song became a panAfrican liberation song and versions of it were later adopted as the national anthems of five countries in Africa including Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia and Zimbabwe after independence, and South Africa after the end of apartheid.

National anthems are the standard bearer of patriotism. They're meant to bind the citizens together, to proclaim that--forget what anyone else might tell you--this country, and only this country, is the best country on earth (often, according to the lyrics, it's even been given divine approval).

It's funny, then, how multinational so many anthems are. Britain's "God Save the Queen" has long been sung by Britons (and citizens of its many former colonies), but several other countries have lifted the tune for their own national anthems.

Norway and Liechtenstein still use the melody for their anthems, and Americans singing "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," the de facto national anthem until 1931 (when "The Star-Spangled Banner," complete with a tune cribbed from an English drinking song, was officially chosen to replace it), are likewise pinning their patriotism to England's. The national anthems of Africa are no different.

Tanzanians everywhere rise and sing to "Mungu ibariki Afrika," (Swahili for "God Bless Africa"), but the song isn't originally--or exclusively-- their own. Composed in 1897, "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" ("Lord Bless Africa" in Xhosa) was originally intended as a hymn. Its composer, Enoch Mankayi Sontonga, was working at a Methodist missionary school in South Africa (his homeland) at the time, and he penned the first verse and chorus thinking he was creating a school anthem.

Though the lyrics may change country to country, the spirit--and the music-- stays the same. Turns out Sontonga's song really has brought the entire continent of Africa together!


AllAfrica publishes around 500 reports a day from more than 100 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.