LOUD WHISPERS: Jerusalem

In my book Speaking for Myself: Perspectives on Social, Political and Feminist Activism in Africa’ (2013) there is an essay called ‘Celebrating Brenda Fassie’. In the essay, I described how, some years ago, I was at the Music Moods record store at the Johannesburg airport in South Africa. As I was browsing through the stacks of CDs, Brenda Fassie’s powerful voice filled the store with one of her hits Vulindlela. A gentleman across from where I was got very excited and called out to one of the shop attendants, asking if they had that particular CD in the store. I happened to be standing right in front of a section which had Brenda’s CDs, so I handed him the album Memeza. He beamed from ear to ear, and asked if I was sure that Vulindlela was indeed on this CD. I told him it was Track three. He kept smiling, holding on the CD, and saying ‘Vulindlela’ over and over. Then he turned to me and said, Show us the way. I looked at him, puzzled, then I understood. He was telling me what Vulindlela meant. I was a big fan of Brenda Fassie’s music and I was very sad when she died in May 2004 after years of living life on the fast lane. It was my birthday the month after Brendah Fassie died, so I gathered friends around in Accra, Ghana where I was living at the time, and we listened to Brendah’s music way into the night. If the gentleman at the Music Moods store had not told me what Vulindlela meant, I would not have known, neither would I have cared. I simply loved the music.

I have collected a vast amount of music over the years from artistes across the African continent. I am a huge fan of Meiway from Cote d’Ivoire, I love Magic System also from Cote d’Ivoire, and I can dance to Awilo Longomba’s music (DRC) all night long. I am particularly fond of South African Jazz, Hip Hop, Gospel, Kwaito and ‘Bubble Gum’ pop music. There are the classics from the likes of Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Johnny Clegg, Mahotella Queens, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Lady Smith Black Mambazo and the marvelous Soweto Gospel Choir, to mention just a few. I also love the groups Malaika and Mafikizolo. Just like Brenda Fassie’s music, not understanding the lyrics never bothers me. It is the rhythm, beats and the way the music makes me feel that matters.

Last month, I stumbled across a South African song ‘Jerusalem’ by DJ Master KG featuring a female artiste, Nomcebo Zikode. Just like in many African Christian communities, the song Jerusalem is popular in South Africa, and one of the South African Jazz musicians I like, Ringo, has an excellent ‘collabo’ version of the song with another artiste Mandoza on one of his live albums. The Soweto Gospel Choir also have their own soul-stirring rendition. However, the version that Master KG and Nomcebo released recently is absolutely amazing, and it is no wonder it has become wildly popular, and has spawned many videos online of people singing and dancing to the song. Perhaps because so many people wanted to know what the song means, there is a translation available online.   These are the lyrics in Xhosa with the translation below:

 

Jerusalema ikhaya lami
Ngilondoloze
Uhambe nami
Zungangishiyi lana
Jerusalema ikhaya lami
Ngilondoloze
Uhambe nami
Zungangishiyi lana

Ndawo yami ayikho lana
Mbuso wami awukho lana

Ngilondoloze
Zuhambe nami
Ndawo yami ayikho lana
Mbuso wami awukho lana
Ngilondoloze
Zuhambe nami

 

Jerusalem is my home
Guard me
Walk with me
Do not leave me here
Jerusalem is my home
Guard me
Walk with me
Do not leave me here

My place is not here
My kingdom is not here
Guard me
Walk with me
My place is not here
My kingdom is not here
Guard me
Walk with me

Guard me
Guard me
Guard me
Do not leave me here

 

Why am I waxing lyrical about a South African hit gospel song? What about the many great Nigerian tracks currently ruling the airwaves? I love our own music, old and new. I am however writing about a special feeling of inspiration, even when you do not understand what is being said. It is a feeling that transcends language, borders, nationality, gender, religion and all those barriers we deliberately construct to make life more difficult for ourselves as human beings. It is ironic that South Africa, a country that has caused the suffering of many of our citizens over the past couple of years and who recently triggered the need to airlift hundreds back home to safety has a music track that speaks to people around the world. Who says God does not have a sense of humour. The beautiful track Jerusalem speaks to what is possible for the human soul to achieve, if only we can eschew all the wickedness we somehow feel is necessary. Our hate, anger, bitterness, selfishness, greed, ignorance. It does not matter what our religion or faith is. This world is not our home. We came from somewhere and we will leave one day, I don’t know where to, but we will leave. We call on God to guard us, to walk with us, and we beg him not to leave us. As the year draws to an end, we should all ask ourselves if we are worthy of His protection. Have we guarded and walked with others? Have we helped them in their moments of despair, at times when they called for premature departures to Jerusalem? Have we been thankful enough for whatever blessings we have received or are we constantly complaining when there are those who sleep and wake up hungry?

If you are able to, please listen to Master KG’s Jerusalem version online. I hope it lifts your spirits the way it does mine. I hope it gives you joy, hope and a sense of optimism. When we are faced with so much ugliness around us, we are left with the choices of giving into the gloom and desperation or doing what we can to change narratives for ourselves and others who need a new story. As we enter into another frenzied season of spending money we might not have enough of on insatiable family and community members, making long and dangerous journeys and settling perennial family or village problems, let us do so with faith that tomorrow will be better. Next year will be better. Our stories will get better. Tell yourself, ‘Till I get to my Jerusalem, I will claim a new story’. Ngilondoloze. Guard us Lord as we enter into this season of celebration. Keep us and our families safe. Make us worthy of your protection and guidance. Vulindlela. Show us the way Lord. I wish you all a Merry Christmas in advance.

 

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

 

 

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3 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: Jerusalem

  1. Femi Diipo December 19, 2019 at 11:32 pm

    The incredible power of music is beyond any man’s understanding, a language that trumps all others. I’m listening to this song as I type this and right now and my feelings are just indescribable.
    We pray for a better future, a better next year and a future rid of all the present evil.
    Compliments ma’am

    Reply
  2. Olakunle Olajide December 26, 2019 at 6:35 am

    I say a big Amen to all your prayers ma’am and I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in advance…
    Music has a way of uplifting the soul and creating an atmosphere. The lyrics from this song Jerusalem is profound..Thank you for sharing ma’am..

    Reply
  3. Eric Onuoha December 31, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    Good music uplifts a person’s Spirit. I pray that God guide us in all we do

    Reply

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