South Africa’s Nkosi Sikelil’ iAfrika Named Best National Anthem in the World

The UK’s Economist newspaper has selected South Africa’s Nkosi Sikelil’iAfrika as the best national anthem in the world.

The newspaper describes the key ingredients to a national anthem as including a “rousing tune to quicken the pulse, some pathos to moisten the eyes and that inexplicable something to make it stand out from all the rest”.

They say that too many anthems like ‘God Save the Queen’ contain “dreary harmonies” and just bang on a little too much about being victorious and glorious. For The Economist, good anthems are a little sad “because nationalism is really about longing, suffering and sacrifice”.

According to their straw poll, South Africa’s anthem – based on a protest hymn, with lyrics combining Afrikaans, English, Xhosa, Zulu and Sesotho – is the winner because the anthem serves as “an act of musical healing for the Rainbow nation”.


Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika celebrated its 120th anniversary this year, since it was composed (in 1897), and its 112th anniversary since the death of its composer Enoch Sontonga on 18 April 1905.

Sontonga wrote the first two stanzas of Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika. It’s a song with a message to mobilize Southern Africans to be patriotic to Africa through prayer.

Sontonga, who was born in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, was only 24 when he wrote the melody.

It makes up part of the South African national anthem, and is also the national anthem – sung in Swahili – for Tanzania (and in the past was the anthem for Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia too).

“Nkosi Sikelela is a call for blessings for the continent and its people,” said the EFF earlier this year.

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Russia and Uruguay’s anthems came second and third. Read the full list here:
economist.com/news/christmas/21732862-nationalism-playlist