Songs, Some in Tonga

If you are interested in neither music not language, you might want to skip this post.

“Making Melodies in my Heart”

I learned this one from the kids at the innovative school here in Macha. It reminds me of Father Abraham, but a little less lively:

Making melodies in my heart (x3)
To the king of kings!

Thumbs up!
(repeat verse with your thumbs up)

Thumbs up! Elbows out!
. . .
Thumbs up! Elbows out! Feet apart! Knees bent! Tongue out! Head tilted! . . . Sit down!

(We sang this one in orientation, but I don’t think I posted it. It’s accompanied by a rhythm of double-thumps against the chest and a clap. I think it would make a really cool round.)

Listen to the heartbeat all around the world,
Pulsing, flowing,
One body, one spirit.

“Luyando Leza Ndupati Maninge”
(More-or-less to the tune of the first verse of “Rock-a My Soul In The Bosom of Abraham”)

Luyando Leza ndupati maninge (x3)
Luyando ndupati

Luyando Jesu ndupati maninge (x3)
Luyando ndupati

Kushoma muli Jesu chibotu maninge (x3)
Kushoma chibotu

(Ndupati is pronounced ‘dupati,’ and on the last line, you elongate the ‘lu’ of luyando, and ndupati is three notes that fall in the same part of the line as ‘soul’ does in English. Kushoma is pronounced closer to ‘goo-shoma,’ and while you can hear the ‘li’ of muli if you know it’s there, I didn’t hear it until Maureen looked over the lyrics I’d written down. Also, chibotu is said ‘jibotu,’ like the ‘gee’ of gee whiz.)

The love of God is very wonderful . . . wonderful love
The love of Jesus is very wonderful . . . wonderful love
To trust in Jesus is very good . . . good to trust

(That’s very rough; I think the ndu part is something like an accusative ‘me,’ which would make -pati some kind of verb, I think. Tonga grammar, so far as I can tell, is mostly very simple, but I don’t understand it. It doesn’t help that it includes parts of speech that English hasn’t really had distinctions for during the past several hundred years, and I’m pretty certain that Maureen can’t talk about, for example, object pronouns — though if I ask if the first person in the verb is who’s doing it, and the second person who it’s done to, she has enough comprehension of the way the language works to confirm that I’m right.)

“Leta Maila” (Inyiimbo Zyabakristo #133, BRINGING IN THE SHEAVES)
This is a song that we sing a lot at Macha BICC. I’ve been curious what the words mean, because the tune is really nice (and I like the way we sing it better than any of the stuff I’m finding on youtube, which tends to be either insipid or march-y, whereas ours is just — joyful). While we were at Mboole, I sat down with Maureen and we translated it (ironically, this is how I missed digging up cassava with the others).

Kosyanga cifumo mbuto yaluzyalo,
Syanga isikati akumasuba;
Lindila ciindi cakutebula loko,
Akusega, tuyooleta maila.

Leta maila, leta maila,
Akuseka, tuyooleta maila;
Leta maila, leta maila,
Akuseka, tuyooleta maila.

Syanga musalala, syanga mumudima,
Utayoowi mayoba ma impeyo;
Twamana milimo, yoonse yamumuunda,
Akuseka, tuyooleta maila.

Mukulila ukamusyangile, Mwami,
Antela moyo ulakupengesya;
Twamana kulila uzootutambula,
Akuseka, tuyooleta maila.

Translation (literal, not poetic):
Plant, (in the) morning, seeds for mercy,
Plant (in the) afternoon, (in the) evening;
Wait (until) the time for havesting much,
With joy*, we shall bring in our maize**.

Bring the maize, bring the maize,
With joy, we shall bring in our maize.

Plant in the light, plant in the dark***,
You shall not fear clouds or cold;
We are finished work, our work for the fields,
With joy, we shall bring in our maize.

In crying, you plant for the Lord,
Though heart may be suffering;
(When) we are finished crying, you shall receive us,
With joy, we shall bring in our maize.

*or ‘smile,’ or ‘love’
**or ‘grain.’ Maureen says that maila is ‘big Tonga,’ that if I went to Mamba and asked for maila, I would be given cassava, that it’s a generic word for the staple grain. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a generic word for food, actually; if Zambians haven’t had nshima, they don’t feel like they’ve eaten.
***or ‘the good times, the bad times.’ As an interesting side note, mu-salala (‘in light’, I think) is very like the name of the Holy Spirit, ulya muuya usalala, (where I think u- is a third-person pronoun, although it might not be). You can also just say muuya.

And now for a familiar one (would you like phonetic spelling, too? I can write some up):
“Ndilakondwa” (Inyiimbo Zyabakristo #103, I AM SO GLAD)

Ndilakondwa nkaambo Leza wesu,
Waamba luyando lwakwe MwiBbuku;
Muzigambya zili mu-Malembe.
Cipata** ncakuti wandiyanda.

Ndakondwa kuti wandiyanda,
Wandiyanda, wandiyanda;
Ndakondwa kuti wandiyanda,
Wandiyanda, mebo.

Wandiyanda, ame ndamuyanda,
Nduyando lwakwamuleta kunsi;
Nduyando lwamucita amfwide,
Ndasinizya kuti wandiyanda.
(Bold for corrections to typos)

Ndabuzigwa inga ndilaambanzi?
Majwi ngenkonzya kuvuwa ngaaya;
Muuya wa-Leza ulaandyambila
Kuti Jesu lyoonse wandiyanda.

I am rejoicing* because of my God,
He talks (of) his love in the Book;
Surprise which is in the Scriptures.
That big thing** that he loves me.

I am rejoicing that he loves me,
I am rejoicing, I am rejoicing;
I am rejoicing that he loves me,
He love me, me.

He loves me, and I love him,
His love of me brought him down;
His love of me caused*** him to die,
I’m truly convinced that he loves me.

I am being asked, what shall I say?¥
Words that I am able to answer here;
Spirit of God, you continue to tell me¥¥
That Jesus always loves me.

*It’s possible that ‘glad’ is in fact a better translation, but I think this is an active verb.
**For those of you playing along at home, I’m pretty sure this word is related to ndupati in “Luyando Leza Ndupati Maninge.” Ci- is a noun declension/adjective agreement/thing relating to luyando, love.
***lit, ‘to do.’
¥We spent a lot of time on this line, and I STILL don’t have any idea what the heck inga means, if it means anything. But I can break down ndi-la-amba-nzi: I-(progressive/future tag)-say-what.
¥¥Similarly, u-la-(a)-nd(y)-ambi-(la), You-(progressive)-(?)-to me-say-(?).

And to save you a google, here are the English lyrics, courtesy of this site.
I am so glad that our Father in Heav’n
Tells of His love in the Book He has giv’n;
Wonderful things in the Bible I see,
This is the dearest, that Jesus loves me.

I am so glad that Jesus loves me,
Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me;
I am so glad that Jesus loves me,
Jesus loves even me.

Jesus loves me, and I know I love Him;
Love brought Him down my poor soul to redeem;
Yes, it was love made Him die on the tree;
Oh, I am certain that Jesus loves me!

If one should ask of me, how can I tell?
Glory to Jesus, I know very well!
God’s Holy Spirit with mine doth agree,
Constantly witnessing Jesus loves me.

A few weeks ago we sang “There’s no one, no one like Jesus” at Macha BICC, and I resolved to track down the Tonga words. (Have I mentioned that WordPress gives me information on who searched what and found my blog, and because I like data, I look at it sometimes? My post with the words to this one in English and Ndebele has drawn six different people looking for the words to that song in other languages, which is pretty impressive considering that my next runners-up on google hits are people looking for this blog and people searching “Lusaka,” each of which has three hits. Probably the people looking for lyrics and the people looking for me are more satisfied than the Lusaka people, but one can’t please everyone.) We sang it again last week, and Beatrice, one of my coworkers, does music-stuff at church, so I asked her if she could write down the words for me, so here they are. She also told me that the first stanza is Bemba (one of the other main languages spoken in Zambia), and then the second and third stanzas are Tonga, and then you can sing English if you want to.

Takwaba uwabanga yeesu.
Takwaba uwabanga yee.
Takwaba uwabanga yeesu.
Takwaba uwabanga yee.

Ndayenda yenda koonse, koonse.
Ndalanga langa koonse, koonse.
Ndazinguluka koonse, koonse.
Takwaba uwabanga yee.

Kunyina uyelene a Jesu.
Kuyina uyelene a wee.
Kunyina uyelene a Jesu.
Kuyina uyelene a wee.

Translation is pretty much the same as the English.



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13 responses to “Songs, Some in Tonga

  1. We used to sing “I am so glad” in school in Jamaica. In English.

    • It’s weird to me how much religion and school merge here. I can’t imagine singing hymns in a (non-religious) school in the States, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find it here. I’ve attended morning chapel at the innovative school, Matt and Chris are both in BIC-run ‘grant aided’ schools that are funded with government money, and the (BIC-run) secondary school over at Mission holds chapel at the church I attend. (And leave groundnut shells on the floor. Come one, kids, if you’re going to eat in church, at least pick something a little less obvious. And less work for the women’s bible study cum church-cleaning crew to sweep off the floor.)

      • Richard

        We lived in Zambia in the ’70s, in Kabwe & Lusaka..
        We sang in chi-Nyanja, chi-Bemba and chi-Tonga. Singing was a joy, one reason was the harmony and passion. It was not routine or just dutiful.
        We loved the languages and the people. I speak English, French; less German and Spanish and a little Russian.

        We travelled from N’Dola (Copperbelt) to Livingston and enjoyed our stay. On returning to home I searched for a way to improve my Bemba, Nyanja and Tonga but there was no Internet and no books in the library, so I had to wait couple of years. I was glad to find your blog a couple of years ago.


        • Even with the internet, tools are pretty limited. Five and a half years ago, before I went, I looked for language resources to study beforehand, but all I found was stuff about the Tonga islands, and the hard copy resources that the program staff shared with us seemed to be the fruits of years of careful gleaning. (In retrospect, I should have spent a few hours taking pictures of everything I had before I left.)

          I think things are getting a little better now, as the internet is more and more available to Zambians, but I imagine that it’s still hard to find even a basic Chitonga primer. I’m glad my blog has been helpful!

  2. my kids used to sing religious songs – I hesitate to call some of them hymns – in their state-run public school here in Scotland. I think they have cut back on that a bit in the last 5 years. I was APPALLED when my 7-year-old came home spouting to the tune of the Flintstones theme song:

    “God’s love
    is the best love
    we have ever ever ever known…”

  3. Cheelo

    There are rather some errors regarding how some Tonga (Chitonga) words are pronounced. I am a native speaker of the language. I can see some of your ‘errors’ are similar to those of one of my American friends. For example you suggest that
    ‘kushoma’ be pronunced as /goo-shoma/. ‘k’ still has the sound /k/ but unlike in English the Tonga ‘k’ is modified by pitch and therefore has its strongest and weakest version. In this case it has the weakest or softest form which is not equivalent to /g/.

    • It’s true that the k in kushoma is not quite the English g, but it’s much easier for an English speaker to get something approximating the correct sound by thinking ‘g with a hint of k’ than ‘soft k,’ because ‘soft k’ is not a concept we are familiar with.

  4. Kim

    I’m trying to figure out the pronunciation for the “I am so glad” song, especially the words that begin with Nda…,etc. Is it phonetic?

    • It’s largely phonetic.

      The vowels take the same sound as in Spanish: ah, eh, ee, oh, oo (fAther, pEt, kEEn, wrOte, trUE). Sometimes I is closer to “ih” than to “ee”, depending on context, I guess. Y is not a vowel.
      Doubled vowels don’t change their sound, just their length (and I don’t mean the phonetic sense of length, I mean the actual time it takes to say), though actually, lyoonse is an oo sound. (But usually they don’t change.)

      The leading Ns are not fully vocalized. There’s often . . . an echo of an n? A leading nasal rumble? I didn’t always hear it even from native speakers, and “dee” or “dah” is a better approximation of “ndi” and “nda” than “en-dee” or “en-dah.”
      Ditto the leading Ls. After a year in Zambia, I still can’t get the exactly correct degree of l-flavor in lyoonse, and “yoon-sey” is pretty close.
      The “lw” of lwakwe is maybe a little easier, or at least easier to conceptualize.

      As I mentioned above, k generally has a kind of soft g, but as I was corrected above, it’s not exactly hard g . . . to be most correct, you should alternate between saying “dee-la-gond-wa” and “dee-la-kond-wa,” each time making them closer and closer to each other until you wind up somewhere in the middle.

      C is usually hard, but when followed by i has a soft c/j/sh/z sound. Sort of like if you said “zebra” with a j instead of a z, and didn’t have any hint of g.
      That’s not a very good explanation, and if I come up with a word that has that sound, I’ll tell you.

      NG . . . just give up on ng. It’s a nasal sound that doesn’t exist in English; we don’t even have the letter to write it. I don’t know what it’s called. I recommend approximating with hard g, which isn’t right but is the best you’re likely to do. Most days I wound up sounding like I’d strangled a cat, and hard g was still the best I could do.

      Ndilakondwa nkaambo Leza wesu,
      Waamba luyando lwakwe MwiBbuku;
      Muzigambya zili mu-Malembe.
      Cipata ncakuti wandiyanda.

      dee-la-kgond-wa kaaahm-boh ley-za wey-su
      waaahm-bah lu-yan-doh lwak-wey mwee-bu-ku
      mu-zi-gamb-ya zi-li mu-mah-lem-be
      ji-pah-tah cah-kgu-tee wan-di-yan-dah

      Ndakondwa kuti wandiyanda,
      Wandiyanda, wandiyanda;
      Ndakondwa kuti wandiyanda,
      Wandiyanda, mebo.

      dah-kgond-wa kgu-ti wan-dee-yan-dah
      wan-dee-yan-dah wan-dee-yan-dah
      dah-kgond-wa kgu-ti wan-dee-yan-dah
      wan-dee-yan-dah mey-boh

      Wandiyanda, ame ndamuyanda,
      Nduyando lwakwamuleta kunsi; (sorry, typo)
      Nduyando lwamucita amfwide,
      Ndasinizya kuti wandiyanda.

      wan-dee-yan-dah ah-mey dah-mu-yan-da
      du-yan-do lwak-wah-mu-le-ta kgun-si
      du-yand-do lwa-mu-ji-tah amf-wi-dey
      dah-si-niz-ya kgu-ti wan-di-yan-dah

      Ndabuzigwa inga ndilaambanzi?
      Majwi ngenkonzya kuvuwa ngaaya;
      Muuya wa-Leza ulaandyambila
      Kuti Jesu lyoonse wandiyanda.

      dah-bu-zig-wa in-gah dee-laaahm-ban-zi
      maj-wi ngen-gkonz-yah gku-vu-wa ngaaaah-yah
      muuuuu-ya wah-le-za u-laaahnd-yam-bi-lah
      gku-ti yeh-su lyoon-sey wan-dee-yan-dah

      Does that help?

      • Kim

        Yes! Thankyou so much! We’re going to try to teach this song to our VBS kids, starting tomorrow. We’re using the Forgotten Voices VBS curriculum and they gave the words to the chorus, but no pronunciation guide! This helps me immensely! We’ll do our best! Thankyou again!

        • Glad to be of help!

          (By the way, my roommate says that the c in cipata is like the French j, so the initial sound of je, for example, is much closer to the initial sound of cipata than anything I can think of in English.)

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