King Kata

Senzenina

Also spelled: Senzeni Na?
Origin: South Africa
Languages: isiXhosa and Zulu
Photo: a still from King Kaka’s Senzenina music video featuring Redfourth Chorus (watch it below)

A South African anti‐apartheid song, Senzenina has often been sung at demonstrations and at the funerals of people who were killed by the South African government during apartheid. Songs opposing the apartheid were often based on hymns, using a simple line or two which varied and repeated, allowing people to join in easily. This is an example of that style of song. There is no universal set of lyrics – rather there seem to be endless variations. No one is sure of the song’s origins, tho it’s been around since at least the 1950’s. Zimbabwean poet Albert Nyathi has said that he wrote “Senzeni Na?” on the day that activist Chris Hani died. There’s a distinctly mournful and powerful quality to the song which I find  mesmerizing: all at once comforting, heartbreaking, and inspiring.

While singing with the Oakland choir Vukani Mawethu, I fell in love with the set of lyrics they use. At this time in our own culture, with the Black Lives Matter movement at the forefront of our hearts and community, this song feels particularly important to be sung, and the lyrics from Vukani solidified that notion for me. When we who are not Black ourselves sing the line “Sono sethu ubumnyama”, I invite us to consider it as Andrew Cuomo put it in his 2017 speech: “As a New Yorker, I am a Muslim. I am Jewish. I am a refugee. I am Black. I am gay. I am poor. I am homeless…We are all one.”

Lyrics:

Senzeni Na? (What have we done?)
Wenzeni Na? (What have they done?)
Sono sethu ubumnyama (Our sin is that we are Black)
We’ll overcome
Come join us now
Senzeni Na? (What have we done?)

Note: for those of you who sing in the lower registers (Tenor and Bass) I’ve enclosed two teaching tracks in two different octaves. It is the SAME part, one octave apart – you can sing in whichever octave is more comfortable for you.

ALL:
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Soprano:
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Alto:
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Tenor:
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Tenor Low Octave:
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Bass:
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Bass Low Octave:
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The Cape Town Youth Choir’s stunning version:

King Kaka ft Redfourth Chorus: