5 amazing things you never knew about the South African national anthem

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Being South African is one of the best things in the world to be. And while braai vleis, vuvuzelas and rooibos tea are incredible symbols of our uniqueness, there are very few things that represent our diversity as flawlessly as our national anthem.

Holding a rich history, it should come as no surprise that there are a few interesting facts about our national anthem that you may not know. Here are just a few:

1. The SA national anthem is one of only 3 neo-modal anthems in existence

While the term “neo-modal” may sound like some type of science experiment, it simply means that the melody of the song starts in one key and finishes in another. Aside from the national anthems of Italy and the Philippines, South Africa’s anthem is the only other anthem that exists in this prestigious category.

2. The current anthem was officially adopted in 1997

In 1994, it was initially proclaimed that South Africa would have two national anthems – namely Nkosi Sikelel’iAfrika and Die Stem. In 1996, former President Nelson Mandela called for the two to be combined and shortened, thereby forming the national anthem we know today, which was adopted in the Government Gazette No. 18341, dated 10 October 1997.

3. It contains the languages of the 5 most populous of SA’s eleven official languages

The South African anthem contains four stanzas which consist of 5 of our eleven official languages – namely isiXhosa, isiZulu, seSotho, Afrikaans and English.

4. The melody of the song was arranged by two people

Although the arrangement of the melody is widely accredited to Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph, a renowned composer, pianist and teacher, the South African anthem was also arranged, in part, by Mzilikazi Khumalo, a composer and Professor of African Languages. While Khumalo was tasked with arranging the first half of the anthem, Zaidel-Rudolph arranged the last half of the piece and also wrote the English section of the song.

5. The SA national anthem was named Best National Anthem in 2017

According to an article published by The Economist in 2017, South Africa’s national anthem ranks at the top of the podium due to its “rousing tune” and “musical healing”.  Simply spectacular!

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Please feel free to contact Brian Kahn for further information or specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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