The Train is Pushing: African music bringing Africans together

Posted: May 14, 2013 in Pan-Africanism, Uncategorized
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I’m sure that, just like me, there are many Africans who can sing African songs whose lyrics they don’t understand. Africa being enriched with hundreds of languages and nations, many of us grow up to enjoy the tune, melody and strong voice of those who do not share the same mother tongue as we, and yet we still some how feel and understand the message.

One particular singer that I truly admire for her strong, beautiful voice is Zahara of South Africa. Besides having such a strong voice, this singer-songwriter-poet also knows how to rock the acoustic guitar. I had the pleasure of seeing her perform live in Pretoria when she joined us at a flag hand-over ceremony hosted by the ANC Youth League and the National Youth Development Agency of South Africa.

Zahara singing at flag hand over ceremony

Zahara singing at flag hand over ceremony



Handing over the flag of the 17th World Festival of Youth and Students to the next host of the festival, Ecuador

Handing over the flag of the 17th World Festival of Youth and Students to the next host of the festival, Ecuador


“Loliwe” (The Train)’s lyrics
translates to “The train is pushing; here it comes, wipe those tears off, loved one; in Heaven, in the Lord; lives only the holy; if you want to go there, pray”

I only learned what the lyrics meant recently after searching for the English translation online; in the mean time, I just sang every word of the song as if I were a native speaker of Xhosa… sort of.

There is an incredible bond between musicians and their fans, but to me there is an even more incredible bond between African musicians and their African fans. We don’t like them because they are the newest trend or because they come from somewhere else; we love them because they come from similar backgrounds and situations and they use their voice and message to spread solidarity between us.

Like when my organization, the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS), in collaboration with Alliance Francaise Asmara, invited Tiken Jah Fakoly to come to Eritrea for an Anti-Female Genital Mutilation concert. From the welcoming to the concert at Cinema Roma to the open air concert at Bahti Meskerem Square, the experience was epic!



Rahel and Tiken Jah Fakoly

Rahel and Tiken Jah Fakoly

Or how about when Umoja of South Africa came to Eritrea in 2011 on the occasion of her 20th anniversary of independence to rock Asmara with a musical that says so much about South Africa’s history even though we couldn’t understand a single word they were singing? It wasn’t just an epic occasion for us Eritreans who saw it on stage or when it was aired live on television; Umoja learned a lot about the Eritrean struggle as well. Apparently, they must have appreciated Eritrea’s struggle for independence enough to celebrate Eritrea’s Independence Day again this year, this time in Johannesburg.


Umoja were also at the flag hand-over ceremony. It was so great seeing my friends again… they all remembered me!


Umoja is set to celebrate Eritrea’s independence again; this year they will perform in Johannesburg, 25 Ma 2013

I can go on and on about this subject having collaborated in the organizing of such concerts as early as 2004. The message, however, is already clear. There is a lot of power in music, and African music puts added value in our struggle to advance our beloved continent. Not only does it promote umoja (togetherness), but it also embraces the African value of ubuntu (I am because we are!). Such exchanges are celebrations of uhuru (freedom), Pan Africanism and solidarity among our struggles.

Long live musical exchange among Africans!!

  1. Rahwa Ghermai says:

    I’m really really feeling this one Rahella. UHURU! Hope you’re not all missing me too much on Twitter but I had to take a break. NKOSI SIKELELE AFRICA!

  2. panos48 says:

    Very nice article! -Reblogged by

  3. […] Check out a past blog post of mine about African music bringing African people together by clicking HERE! […]

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