South Africa launches another hymnal

Finally there is an isiXhosa hymnal with text AND music for South African congregations. The new hymnal was officially launched at a concert, and everyone was excited.

Nkosinathi Mabombo, Angus Blaauw, Lubabalo Dyasi, Anele Mnguni, and Luvuyo Booi are the talk of the congregations in South Africa. These brothers and sisters contributed some of the original compositions for the new hymnal, which has now been in use since April 2023.

One country, many languages

South Africa is a multicultural and multilingual country. The country has eleven official languages. Others have an official status in the areas where their speakers live. isiXhosa is one of the eleven official languages. Nine million people speak the language, which is also simplified as Xhosa. Among them are many New Apostolic people who live in the Eastern and Western Cape Provinces.

Xhosa, best known for its click sounds, is a tonal language, which means that words are distinguished by different pitches (high and low). It belongs to the branch of Nguni languages and uses the Latin alphabet.

First the Bible, then the hymnal

In 1833, European missionaries translated parts of the Bible into Xhosa for the first time. The South African singer Miriam Makeba landed the first hit in Xhosa in 1967 with “Pata Pata”, which was also choreographed. And in 1992 a first New Apostolic hymnal was published in Xhosa. But it was a text-only edition.

Music galore at the hymnal’s official launch

A powerful rendition of “Masithi Amen” (“Sing Amen”) resounded in our Mdantsane congregation on 8 April. The choir and soloists were accompanied by an orchestra, organists, and pianists at the concert to launch the new isiXhosa hymnal with text and music. And of course, a recorder orchestra was a must too. The musicians performed songs from the newly published hymnal to a delighted audience. The new hymnal contains a mix of general Christian and New Apostolic songs—based on the old English hymnal—traditional Xhosa spirituals, and ten newly composed songs. “The members were overwhelmed with joy, and many described the experience as unforgettable,” John Rodriques, the music manager of the New Apostolic Church Southern Africa, says.

Work on the hymnal took almost three years. And the result is pretty impressive: 300 hymns with text and music are now available to congregations where Xhosa speakers are most prevalent. However, the hymnal can be used by any congregation or choir. “Naturally, the hymnals are regionally focused where languages are most prevalent. However, we do not prevent any of our members (congregation or choir) singing from any of our hymnal publications,” John Rodriques points out. The hymnal can be purchased online or at the NAC sales shop in Southfield for 50 rand (about 2.65 US dollars).

An array of hymnals

Seventeen languages are covered by the five hymnals of the New Apostolic Church Southern Africa. The English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa hymnals are monolingual. Then there is the Zulu-Sesotho hymnal with two main languages. It also has an African spiritual section containing songs in Shona, Setswana, Tsonga, Xhosa, Silozi, and Swahili. And since 2022, there is also a Portuguese hymnal being used in the Regional Church with an African spiritual section containing songs in Chichewa, eChuabo, Changana, Sena, and eMacua. The publishing of further hymnals in the Regional Church is still under discussion.

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