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6th June 2003Zulu war cries
By Miguel
Where could I find sound samples of war cries & songs used by the zulus in battle?

Are those in 'Zulu' accurate enough?

What words were used and what do they mean? I think the only one I know is 'Usutu' which I believe means 'Kill' or 'death', but I might be wrong. Please excuse my ignorance.

Canary Islands
6th June 2003Mark Hobson

Here's a short list of various warcries used by just a few of the better known Zulu regiments. They are taken from Ian Knight's book "The anatomy of the Zulu Army"

iSangqu regiment - their warcry was "shi! Shi! Shi! Shi, shi, shi!"

uThulwana regiment - theirs was "Mina! Mina! Mina! Hhahe!"

uDloko regiment - "Hogo! Hogo! Hogo!"

uKhandempemvu regiment - the regimental war cry was "Izulu!" but some chanted "you were beaten down by the axe that strikes down! Nhla! Nhla! Nhla!"

iNgobamakhosi regiment - after Isandlwana they chanted "Iya! Iya! Iya! O ho, ho, ho" which means the lightening of the sky (British rockets) or sometimes "Tshitshilizi, Tshitshilizi" the sky is dangerous.

The two most common war crys used by most regiments was "usuthu!" which means- kill-, said just before the enemy was stabbed, followed by "Ngadla!" which means - I have eaten!
7th June 2003Joseph
I believe USUTHU was also Cetshwayo's war cry from his youth and thus was used by his army as a sign of honouring him...
7th June 2003Barry Iacoppi NZ
Good stuff Mark.
Any chance of a phonetic spelling of some or all of those war cries? It would be nice to be able to pronounce them and chant them correctly. I would have to practise on the cats first.
When I read Zulu words be they the names of places or people I have no idea if I am hearing them correctly in my head. Were it not for Richard Burton’s opening lines from the “Zulu” film I would not have had a hope in hell of pronouncing “Isandhlwana” correctly. I do assume that he came at least close to the correct pronunciation?
7th June 2003Mark Hobson
I'm afraid I fall into the same bracket as most people Barry, when it comes to pronouncing Zulu words. Apart from a few exceptions when I've heard the language actually spoken I tend to say them as I see them, which is a little ignorant I know. My Welsh is no better. Whenever I do give them a go I normally end up swallowing my own tongue!

The only rule I have picked up is that the enthasis is normally put on the second letter.

an example would be: iNgobamakhosi - pronounced by starting with the 'N'.

Ngadla - with little of the 'N' and using the top of the throat to force the 'g'

Of course, true Zulu speakers would probably be shaking their heads in disbelief at this feeble attempt.
7th June 2003Peter Ewart

Three years ago David Rattray & David Charles produced a CD entitled "On the Road to Rorke's Drift." Eight Zulu songs feature on it, six of these apparently being from very old recordings made in 1931 which the two came across during their making of the "Day of the Dead Moon" tapes.

I quote from the sleeve blurb: "...are among the only known recordings of authentic Zulu war songs performed by a Zulu ibutho ..." "Some of these men may have been present at the battle of Isandlwana - certainly the Induna or leader, Uthimune Mdlalose, took part in the battle. When these recordings were made in 1931 on a gold mine near Johannesburg, he was in his 70s and still working as a "boss boy" or underground shift leader. It was common practice for Zulu mine labour to be recruited along military lines and invariably the "boss boys" were the fighting Indunas or leaders."

The songs are very good! (I sometimes wake up the household on a Sat morning with a good blasting). I bought my copy at FDL when it came out but I'm sure the CD is available from DR's website or from his UK agent.

Perhaps the saddest thing about these recordings is that they remind us that the final breakup of the old Zulu order and many of its traditional rural and family customs was achieved by the sucking in of huge numbers of young men to the mines 200 miles from their homes, splitting young families, removing the menfolk & reducing the now landless population to a nation of wage labourers in the mines, where they suffered cruel hardship & often brutal treatment far from their families.

I once saw some old footage of the Prince of Wales's visit to Zululand (1920s) and was reassured to note that the Zulu dancing put on for him resembled closely that seen in "Zulu" 40 yrs later.

8th June 2003Keith Smith
Pronunciation of the Zulu language is generally straightforward but is more difficult when particular letters/combinations are used. Stress is always placed on the last but one syllable (the penult). So, inGobamakhosi is pronounced with the stress on the second 'o' as in inGobamakhooooosi. The "hl' combination is pronounced like the Welsh 'll' or as 'shl". Try it with Hlobane. The three hard ones are the letters c, q and x because these involve tongue clicks which make some words, like Nqutu almost impossible to pronounce.
8th June 2003John Young

Here's the English translation of a war song, that was heard in May 1879:

"Thou, the great and mighty king!
Thou who hast an army!
The son of Sonzica sent his forces!
We destroyed them!
The amaSoja came -
We destroyed them!
The mounted soldiers came -
We destroyed them!
The amaLenja came -
We destroyed them!
The Nongqai came -
We destroyed them!
Thou, the Great Chief!
Thou who hast an army!
When will they dare to repeat their attack?"

Recorded in Parliamentary Papers, 2374.

"The son of Sonzica" - Sir Theophilus Shepstone.
"amaSoja" - soldiers.
"amaLenja" = volunteers.
"Nongqai" - mounted police.

Perhaps the most famous war cry of the entire campaign has got to be, and I quote from H. C. Lugg's 'Historic Natal & Zululand', so blame him for any mispellings:-
"uHlamvana 'bul' umlilo kashongo njalo!"

Lugg's translation: "The little branch of leaves that extinguished the fire gave no order such as this!"

John Y.
25th March 2004Andrew Gronlund
This is to Peter. I am very interested in find a copy of the CD you mention as a Birthday present for my older brother. However I can not find it or any website that mentions it. As I am in the United States it may not be available. If you could direct em to where I could purchase it or a copy of it from yourself I would appreciate your help.
Andrew G.
27th March 2004AMB

I too would love to get a copy of the CD, so your thoughts on where it is avail are eagerly awaited!