An English version, recorded c.1880, of Nansi Indaba (The Song of the Assegai), the most famous of Ndebele songs, performed by mass warriors at the climax of the Nxwala or annual First Fruits ceremony.(1)

A.C. Bailie, visiting Lobengula in the 1876-78, described the song’s origins:

“As Mzilikazi and the Ndebele left Zululand after a war over the cattle dispute, the Ndebele regiments succeeded in recapturing the cattle – and on the fifth day, the last regiment reported back, ‘This is our news. Come and see’.

What a grand scene this represents when one pictures to the imagination the rugged peaks and precipitous defiles of the Drakensburg traveresed by 1000s of victorious warriors, urging with their spears the cattle before their chief, their excited and exhulting women joining in the refrain, the whole scene lighted and tinted by a sunset such is never seen in other parts of the world. Mzilikazi made a speech to his people, telling them that they would become a great nation and assuming there and then the chieftainship. He proclaimed the chant Nauci Indaba (sic) to be their national anthem. and proclaimed it would not be lawful to sing (it) except on state occasions and then only at sunset.”

from A.C. Bailie,
Journal, folios 42-44,
Zimbabwe National Archives, BA 10/2/1

Here is the news. Dzi! Dzi! (2)
Oho! Oho! Here is the news.
Dzi! Dzi! Here is the news,
The news of the assegai. Dzi! Dzi!

Come and see us, the Zulus. (3)
Come and see news from other peoples.
Oho! No other people will come. Dzi Dzi!
No other people will come. Dzi! Dzi!

News of the people of Matchoban. Dzi! Dzi! (4)
Come and see, come and see.
Here is the news of Matchoban!
No other people will come. Dzi! Dzi!

Matchoban is the chief, the black lion.
The black lion is Matchoban. Dzi! Dzi!
The black lion is Matchoban.
The great chief Matchoban.

Ah, it kills men. Oho! Oho! Oho!
Ah, it kills men. Dzi! Dzi!
The chief’s spear. Oho! Oho! Oho!
Yes, it kills men. Dzi! Dzi!

H. Depelchin, S.J. and C. Croonenberghs, S.J.,
Journal to Gubulawayo
(Bulawayo, 1979), 199.


Footnotes

  1. No Ndebele verson is available, and Mtombe Khumalo explains why: “it could never be sung at any other time under any circumstances whatsoever”, (the words would be) “known some day” (but never) “from the lips of a Kumalo”. Quoted in Mhlagazanhlansi, My Friend Kumalo (199, rpt Bulawayo, 1972), 70.
  2. The repeated Dzi! Dzi! is accompanied by the stamping in unison of the warrior’s feet.
  3. The earliest known version was recorded by T.M.Thomas, a missionary to Mzilikazi in the 1860s;
    Come and see at Matjobana’s, come and see!
    Come and see at Matjobana’s, come and see!
    Here is the display, display of the spear
    Come and see at Matjobana’s, come and see!

    from Eleven Years in Central South Africa, T.M. Thomas, (London, 1972), 205
  4. Matchoban, more correctly Matshobana, chief of the Khumalo, and Mzilikazi’s father