Thursday, June 13, 2013

Various versions of Umqombothi lyrics from around Africa

One of most popular music videos we used to watch when growing up in Ghana was that of Yvonne Chaka Chaka's Umqombothi. Here's a story about the song itself from Szavanna. We remember the words "African beer" from that very well. The rest of the lyrics? Little kids in Ghana and all over Africa struggled to figure out what those words were. So the question is How do you sing Yvonne Chaka Chaka's Umqombothi? The real lyrics are here on Fienipa's Lyrics site (courtesy of Museke). The chorus goes like this
We MaDlamini (Everybody)
Uph'umqombothi (Come and drink my)
We MaDlamini (magic beer)
Uph'umqombothi
However, these lyrics are butchered all over the continent of Africa. It's a compliment to Yvonne that her song is hugely popular and famous. But it's also a compliment that the song has been localized and has many versions. But before we can appreciate what people think the lyrics really are, we have to watch the video.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhi77_IB0uw

In Ghana, we sing "Obi n'apɔnkye awu, wɔnfa nkɔ mortuary!" which translates to "somebody's goat has died, it should be taken to the mortuary". It's fair to say many Ghanaians couldn't hear the Xhosa lyrics very well but what they chose to call it begs many discussion points. Did they see some goats running around the village? Did they believe what was in the pot was some goat soup?

My friend on Facebook Fß Parleen shared the story from Kenya. It's not really Swahili and frankly, I can't even tell if it is Sheng either. "We ma' Sammi, we ni mkombozi,we ma Sammi, Mkomboozi.. Afrika ndiye, Mkomboozi!". Translated into English means - "you sammi's mother, you are the saviour, the Saviour...Afrika is the saviour"! It sure looks like the Kenyans had more of a gospel twist to the song since TheIwittness said on Youtube that they sang this as "Yesu Mkobozi" as kids!

Mati Mutanguha also shared the butchered Rwanda version - "Wamasamelu wukomoqhobothi" which doesn't really mean anything but since she and her buddies thought they were singing it correct, would scream out these lyrics with so much confidence! 

Learn more about the song on Wikipedia. Follow Yvonne Chaka Chaka aka Princess of Africa on Twitter too @YvonneChakaX2. She's a great woman. I met her in Cape Town last month while there for the World Economic Forum event on Africa. It was the showing of the Ilizwi musical. She's been doing a lot of great humanitarian work and is still releasing albums. She has more than 20 to her credit. I asked her about her more recent songs and the story was what I expected - the record labels were "fleecing" her and it's not been easy promoting, marketing and distributing her more recent songs. She also talked about how other Twitter accounts were stealing her shine. So please take note of her official one and follow that.

I told her I was going to write this blog entry and I will send her a link. Help me get more info about this subject. Now how do you butcher Umqombothi in your African language?
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