top of page

Our Blessing Cup!

Soweto Gospel Musical Tradition Sunday

(Plus, music from the African Continent)

Today’s music explores the music from the continent of Africa with the anthems coming from the Soweto Gospel tradition and those American composers now writing in that tradition to help keep it alive.

“Soweto is an urban settlement or 'township' in South Africa, southwest of Johannesburg, with a population of approximately 1.3 million (2008, Joburg archive). Soweto was created in the 1930s when the White government started separating Blacks from Whites. Blacks were moved away from Johannesburg, to an area separated from White suburbs by a so-called cordon sanitaire (or sanitary corridor) this was usually a river, a railway track, an industrial area, or a highway etc., they did this by using the infamous 'Urban Areas Act' in 1923. Soweto became the largest Black city in South Africa, but until 1976 its population could have status only as temporary residents, serving as a workforce for Johannesburg. It experienced civil unrest during the Apartheid regime. There were serious riots in 1976, sparked by a ruling that Afrikaans be used in African schools there; the riots were violently suppressed, with 176 striking students killed and more than 1,000 injured. Reforms followed, but riots flared up again in 1985 and continued until the first multiracial elections were held in April 1994.”

Sahoboss. "Soweto." South African History Online. March 20, 2017. Accessed February 03, 2018.

“The South African choral tradition, spread from Christian missions to mine workers toiling in deplorable conditions, has persevered into the 21st century. Ladysmith Black Mambazo brought it to the world's attention in the 1970s. The Soweto Gospel Choir has married it to American gospel.”, Michael Huebner |. "Soweto Gospel Choir weds traditions with exuberant music, dance." February 14, 2010. Accessed February 03, 2018.

“The music, which uses traditional African call-and-response structure and rhythms and Western vocal arrangements, was born in the missionary churches of South Africa. Over time, a style developed that embraced both the hymns the missionaries had brought with them and the traditional music of Africa.”

Uhles, Stephen. “Soweto Gospel Choir Looks to Tradition.” The Augusta Chronicle, 16 Mar. 2006,, page=3

Offertory Anthem: “Ke Na Le Modisa” arr. Henri William Otsomotsi

This text is in Northern Sotho. It is the Psalm 23 translated. Northern Sotho is one of the official languages of South Africa and is a member of the Bantu/Nguni family of languages. It is spoken by about 4.2 million people in the South African provinces of Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Northern Sotho is referred to as Pedi or Sepedi in South Africa. Pedi is one variety of Northern Sotho spoken by the Pedi people who live in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. The Pedi dialect of Northern Sotho is also the basis for the written language.

I have a shepherd – what do I need?

He calls himself Jehovah, The living God

He leads me to green pastures, Food for my soul

He leads me beside peaceful streams; To water that fills my soul

When I am lost, He leads me back home; He leads me to the right paths with his love

Even when l walk through the dark valley of death, I shall fear no evil for you are with me.

Communion Anthem: “Our Blessing Cup” Thomas W. Jefferson

Psalm 116 inspires this anthem. Notice the rhythms and compare them to the those in the Soweto selection.

Thomas W. Jefferson is a pianist, composer, arranger, and music transcriber. He holds a Bachelor of Music from Texas A&I University, Kingsville, a MM from Chicago Musical College, and a DM from Northwestern University. He is the author of I Hear Music in the Air: Gospel-Style Piano Technique, and Spirituals for Piano: Let it Shine, volumes 1 & 2, in addition to has numerous choral pieces and arrangements published with WLP, GIA, Augsburg Fortress Press, and Earthsongs. Thomas currently serves on the piano faculty at North Park University and Sherwood Community Music School and is music director at Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows on Chicago’s west side.

Hymn: “Jesus, lover of my soul” (Aberystwyth) Joseph Parry (1841-1903)

“When Dr Joseph Parry, the famous Merthyr Tydfil born composer died on February 17, 1903, he left behind a musical legacy which is still celebrated today. In churches and chapels, thanks to the choral traditions of Wales and his many adoring fans in both this country and the USA, hymns like the famous Myfanwy and Aberystwyth are still sung by the masses. Remarkably though that later composition, his ode to the west Wales town where, in 1874 he accepted a role as Professorship of Music at Aberystwyth University has since become an anthem for African unity, a symbol of strength against struggle, oppression and apartheid. In 1897 Enoch Sontonga, a teacher at a Methodist mission school in Johannesburg took inspiration from Parry’s work. Aberystwyth had become a well-travelled hymn, its popularity had grown famous across many of the world’s Christian continents through the work of the missionaries. Sontonga created Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (Lord Bless Africa in Xhosa), to the tune of Parry’s Aberystwyth. The song became a pan-African liberation anthem adopted by black South Africans during the apartheid era. Its significance was maybe demonstrated best when sung by a crowd of thousands when Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s president in 1994. And in 1995 Nelson Mandela used the anthem (and rugby) to unite his people in post-apartheid South Africa.”

Morgan, Sion. "The Welsh hymn and the extraordinary history of Africa's favourite anthem." Walesonline. March 26, 2013. Accessed February 03, 2018.

34 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page