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Origins: Senzenina

09 Jul 00 - 06:14 PM (#254709)
Subject: Senzenina
From: Linda Kelly

South african funeral song. This is the most powerful song I have ever heard. If anyone can provide the words (not the english translation but the original) I would be most grateful

09 Jul 00 - 11:18 PM (#254859)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: Joe Offer

I hadn't heard it before, Ickle, but it's a nice tune. You can find a MIDI on this page (click). There's a nice (but brief) recording here (click).
-Joe Offer-

10 Jul 00 - 01:36 AM (#254924)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: Callie

There is a link to the background of the song here:

This the website of Solidarity Choir (of which I am a proud member!)

If you look closely, you will also see a link to Mudcat!

10 Jul 00 - 02:28 AM (#254934)
Subject: ADD: Senzenina
From: Joe Offer

Callie - I hope your friends don't mind if I copy-paste the information.
-Joe Offer-


Words & Music:  Traditional South African

Senzenina is a dignified complaint, an outcry against being forced to suffer merely for having dark skin. Most of us folks in the choir are on the pale side, but feel that when an injury is done to some of our human family, then all sisters and brothers should take up the cry. The process of internalising the experience of others is one that brings us all closer together. It is the essence of solidarity, and when it involves sharing music, then joy and sorrow are communicated in a universal language.

Senzenina, senzenina (x4)
Wenzenina uMandela?

Wenzenina uMandela (x4)
Sono sethu
Sono sethu bubumnyama (x4)
Wabulele afe wonke
Wabulele afe wonke (x4)
Senzenina, senzenina (x4)

What have we done? What has Mandela done? Our only crime is being black!

10 Jul 00 - 11:58 AM (#255120)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: Linda Kelly

Many thanks to all concerned

11 Jul 00 - 08:40 AM (#255632)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: Callie

If you're looking for a recording of the song, my choir has recorded the song on its first CD. I'm happy to either send you the song on tape (for free!), or you could consider buying the CD (this is not an advert by the way - just letting you know it is available if you want it!)


11 Jul 00 - 11:31 AM (#255708)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: Art Thieme

Pete Seeger recorded it -- a long ago concert. Just contained the one word as I recall. "Senzenina" -- over and over. "What have we done." It was before Mandela I do believe.

Art Thieme

11 Jul 00 - 11:40 AM (#255717)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: GUEST,Marymac, sans cookie

I have a recording of this-can't remember if it's on a cd or cassette. If anyone is interested, i can probably get Max to play it on the radio show-especially if it's on cd. Message me if you want to hear this. Guess that means I'd better reinstall my cookie, huh?


27 Jul 07 - 04:43 PM (#2112866)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: GUEST,Bernice

I have been searching for the music and lyrics for the song 'senzenina' from the movie 'in my country' am happy to purchase the sheet music or a copy of your recording.

Please revert to

Many thanks.

17 Mar 08 - 12:49 PM (#2290646)
Subject: Music Senzenina
From: GUEST,Mary K

Has someone, somewhere got the music for Senzenina? Supply this and gain my eternal gratitude!

17 Mar 08 - 02:01 PM (#2290732)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: Peace

Scroll to page 12. Some info there.

17 Mar 08 - 02:03 PM (#2290734)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: Peace

Senzenina, senzenina?
Sono sethu? Ubumnyama.
Wenzenina uMandela?
Benzenina abansundu?

17 Mar 08 - 02:07 PM (#2290737)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: Peace

'"Not only were songs with more militant lyrics composed from the 1950s onwards, but some old songs also underwent changes to reflect the mood of the people. The song Senzenina? (What have we done?), was heard throughout the liberation struggle in many versions. This is an example of a song that fulfilled the function of asserting cultural unity and assisting in societal integration, and at the same time critiquing key socio-political issues. Translated excerpts of some of the versions of Senzenina read as follows:

What have we done?
Our sin is that we are black.
Oh UDF we love you.
The Boers are dogs
They will die dogs
Farewell our beloved hero
Let Africa return'

17 Mar 08 - 02:14 PM (#2290746)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: Peace

The sheet music is available in a collection at

sheetmusic plus. Runs about $15.

04 Apr 08 - 10:27 PM (#2307081)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: GUEST,Tom Zalla

The entire song is on the Power of One movie CD.

06 Apr 08 - 01:46 PM (#2308391)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: Jim Dixon

Kieran Halpin also has a song called SENZENINA with English words which I suppose he wrote.

06 Apr 08 - 07:52 PM (#2308608)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)

I sang this song with Turtle Dove Harmony last summer in Ireland- incredibly powerful!

07 Apr 08 - 09:03 PM (#2309675)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: rich-joy

I think this song was included on the Ysaye Barnwell (of Sweet Honey in the Rock) recording and booklet : "Singing in the African American Tradition" - a very excellent production and harmony singing tutor!

Cheers! R-J

08 Apr 08 - 04:02 AM (#2309835)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: Captain Ginger

It's also on the CD that Coope, Boyes & Simpson did with the Flemish choir Wak Mar Proper, "The Christmas Truce", and very haunting it is too. It's available from the No Masters co-op.

05 Nov 08 - 01:09 AM (#2485257)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina

The soundtrack from the movie "The Power of One" has this and many other South African songs. It was made by Hans Zimmer and a talented South African Choir.

09 Jan 09 - 11:09 PM (#2536754)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: GUEST,Julia

This is a link to a Pdf of sheet music for this amazing song. Also in the movie "In my Country" also known as "Country of my skull"

Excellent film. I have a blip of the soundtrack, since it was never published. I procure it straight from the composer. The best version I've heard.

16 Feb 09 - 12:54 AM (#2568003)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: GUEST,madelyne christie


what does senzenina mean?

its for my home work and what does it mean?

thanks heaps maddy (madelyne) xxx

16 Feb 09 - 05:42 PM (#2568615)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: Stringsinger

As I recall, it was used in South Africa originally as part of a non-violent protest movement.
Pete Seeger did sing it.

The Mandela lyrics come later.


17 May 09 - 12:27 AM (#2633654)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Senzenina
From: GUEST,guest-kcheyniger

I first heard the haunting "Senzenina" chant at the end of Peter Gabriel's anthemic tribute to anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko in the song titled "Biko". Biko was murdered by police in prison in South Africa in 1977.

Intense song, highly recommend it.

Gabriel powerfully sang the song at many of his concerts, often leaving the crowds chanting "Biko" long after the concert ended, with Gabriel signing off by saying "The song has done its job, now the rest is up to you."

I think that song, especially at the Conspiracy of Hope concerts for Amnesty International in 1986, played a significant part in keeping South African apartheid issues in the popular conscience. And then Mandela was released, and the rest is amazing history...

Great to finally learn more about "Senzenina" in this blog after being moved by the music for years.
Thanks, and thank you Peter Gabriel,

23 Jun 20 - 02:29 AM (#4060871)
Subject: RE: Origins: Senzenina
From: Joe Offer

I got a question today about this song, and I have no idea how to answer it. The person wanted to know what part of the song is Xhosa, and what part is Zulu. Now, I know that Xhosa is the language with the clicks in it, but that's all I know. Can somebody give us deeper information about this wonderful song?
The Wikipedia entry on this song is here (click).

It is such a wonderful song to sing in choral harmony.


Capetown Youth Choir:

Hans Zimmer-Power of One Soundtrack:

Interesting version (unidentified-"Country of My Skull" film?):

Pete Seeger (1964):

Kieran Halpin (distantly related, but interesting):

23 Jun 20 - 02:55 AM (#4060878)
Subject: RE: Origins: Senzenina
From: Monique

"Although Xhosa and Zulu are similar enough to be considered dialects of one language, Xhosa and Zulu speakers consider them to be separate languages." from Encyclopaedia Britannica