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The Click Song (Qonqothwane)

13 May 2010

Miriam Makeba is something of a legend in South Africa – or was, while she was alive, and she lived to be quite old. There are a number of recordings of her music on Youtube, but I had to share this classic song that is quite popular, as well as traditional, in South Africa. In the recording linked to below, I think she is speaking French. Actually, she’s flipping between French and Xhosa, but based on her other performances of this song, I’m guessing that she’s saying something like this, “One of the things people find so fascinating about our language is the clicks, and wherever I go, people ask me to speak in the ‘click’ language, so I say stuff like, (speaks a few Xhosa sentences). In fact, there is a song that we like to sing when a young girl gets married that the white people call, ‘the Click Song” because they don’t know how to say, Qonqothwane.”

Then she sings it.

This is a fun song. I even learned to sing it while I was there, and I still remember it, but I promise my clicks aren’t nearly as impressive as hers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtnyNeHAGx0

I tried to embed it, but its disabled for this song. Oh, well. Still go to the link. It’s worth seeing!

In another version of this song, there’s a little space between verses where she says, “helele, helele,” (hay-lay-lay). I didn’t draw the connection until later, but when a girl gets married, it’s traditional for the mother of the bride to shout out “lelelelelelelele!” Picture a native American warcry, falsetto high pitched, and that’s about what it sounds like. The shout “Haya!” in between the verses and chorus are a similar tradition, but it’s shouted by everyone.

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