Language quiz

Here’s a recording of song in a mystery language.

Do you know or can you guess which language it’s in and where it’s spoken?

This is one of the songs I’ll be singing tomorrow afternoon at the big Sing for Water event in London. The Bangor Community Choir with be there along with about 50 other choirs and we’ll be raising money for WaterAid. We’ll be singing from 2-3pm in the Scoop next to City Hall and Tower Bridge on the South Bank, and the Bangor choir will be doing some of our own songs from 3.30pm ish by HMS Belfast.

So if you’re around in London tomorrow afternoon please come along to listen and support us, if you can.

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This entry was posted in Language, Music, Quiz questions.

13 Responses to Language quiz

  1. michael farris says:

    The vocal style sounds South African, so I’m going to guess something Nguni (zulu, xhosa, swati etc).

  2. AlexM says:

    I can’t hear any of the click consonants common in Xhosa or Zulu but it definitely sounds Southern African to me. Perhaps Tswana.

  3. Čuovggas-Mikkal says:

    Yoruba, perhaps?

  4. Christopher Miller says:

    Ngacabanga ukuba bacula ngesiZulu – I thought they were singing in Zulu: some words I could understand clearly such as “siyofunda imali” (we will learn money) and
    ‘ezulwini’ (in the sky/heaven). However, the accent is much “softer” sounding than any Zulu I have heard, especially the voiced bilabial fricatives where I would expect to hear Zulu’s implosive b. I wonder if this could be Zimbabwean siNdebele or perhaps Nrevhele of the Transvaal…?

  5. Christopher Miller says:

    Turns out my second guess was spot on! Ndebele of Zimbabwe, with its softer fricative ‘b’ sound. I misheard some of the words though. It’s a song by Lovemore Majayivana “Sayiwela” (we will cross it). Lyrics and background here.

  6. peter j. franke says:

    My first impression was Zulu but I see Christopher is the one among us who knows the region and is able to discriminate between some familiar tongues.

  7. Alonso Day says:

    Boer Wars FTW!

  8. Dirk Bakker says:

    I was going to say the singing immediately reminded me of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and I see I wasn’t far off! Beautiful song too.

  9. Simon says:

    Christopher is right – the language is Northern Ndebele (Sindebele) which is spoken in Zimbabwe and Bostwana.

    The song is the Limpopo River Song and comes from Zimbabwe. It is sung by people who have to walk from Matabeleland to work in the gold mines of South Africa, crossing the Limpopo River (Ingulukudela) on the way.

    The lead voice on this recording is that of Una May Olomolaiye, who also lead us for the Sing for Water performance of this song.

    Here’s the Sing for Water version, recorded live in London yesterday.

    As well as this song, we sang songs in English, Māori and Georgian at the Sing for Water event, which went really well and was great fun. Someone has posted some videos on YouTube of the event.

  10. formiko says:

    I knew it wasnt Yoruba, Twi or Wolof because I didn’t recognize any words. I know next to nothing about most S. African languages. Maybe I’ll look into Ndebele now.

  11. Patricia says:

    can’t get enough of this blog its very interesting have added the site to my favs and will look forward to updates

  12. Petréa Mitchell says:

    I just listened to the Sing for Water version. Nicely done, and it sounds like you had a good crowd there! I hope you had fun!

    The only African languages I’ve ever gotten to sing in are Afrikaans and Swahili (“Nkosi Sikelel’i Africa”, which contains the absolute worst consonant cluster I have ever encountered in all my years of singing).

  13. Simon says:

    Here are the words and the translation:

    Sayiwela, sayiwela
    Sayiwela sibili
    Sayiwela Ingulukudela
    Siyofuna imali

    Baphina obaba? / okoko?
    Basemazulwini
    Basitshiyel’indubeko
    Indubeko zomhlaba

    We crossed it, we crossed it
    We really crossed it
    We crossed Ingulukudela (Limpopo)
    To look for money

    Where are those fathers / mothers?
    They are in heaven
    They left us problems
    These earthly difficulties