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Anthem blunder sets a challenge

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The fact that Darren mashed the words and that South Africans reacted as they did, shows the pride we feel for our hybrid anthem with its lyrics in Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English

KURT DARREN butchers the national anthem during the Varsity Cup 2019 final between Tuks and Maties at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch. Picture: Phando Jikelo African News Agency (ANA)

Singer Kurt Darren admitted that he messed up singing the national anthem Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika at the Varsity Cup rugby final in Stellenbosch on Monday.

But, he tried to explain in a radio interview, it was not as if he didn’t know and love the anthem – an anthem he has sung many times at sporting events. Rather, he suggested, he was overwhelmed by the crowd of 20000 students, and muddled a few lines of the multi-lingual anthem before he stumbled to the end.

The confusion on the faces of the Pretoria and Stellenbosch university students, and the crowd who were singing along, was clear.

Yesterday, he called Radio 702 to explain, but made the situation worse. Instead of apologising, he seemed surprised at the fuss being made over his blunder. Acerbic 702 presenter Eusebius McKaiser reflected many of our feelings when he told Darren – a professional singer – that he’d had 25 years to learn the lyrics of the anthem.

When he invited Darren to sing it on air, the singer hung up. For many this was a reminder of Ras Dumisani, the singer who famously mutilated the national anthem at a rugby Test 10 years ago.

The fact that Darren mashed the words and that South Africans reacted as they did, shows the pride we feel for our hybrid anthem with its lyrics in Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English.

It also raises the question, however, of whether we all know the words of all four verses properly, or if we sometimes fluff the lines that don’t roll easily off our tongues.

What we should do in honour of Freedom Month and 25 years of democracy is to turn this into an opportunity to ensure that we know the words and can follow the tune of our unique national anthem, and sing it out loud and clear with pride.