Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sesame Street African Alphabet Song (with selected viewer comments)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcase the 1987 Sesame Street segment of Kermit the frog and Muppets singing the English alphabet in the isicathamiya style of singing. The voices of the Muppets were sung by the award winning South African (Zulu) isicathamiya group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Information about isicathamiya singing is included in the Addendum to this post.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Sesame Street: African Alphabet

SesameStreet, Uploaded on Dec 29, 2009

...Kermit and a Zulu tribe sing an alphabet song

WARNING: Many comments in this video's viewer comment thread are NSFWOCV (not suitable for work or children's viewing) because of racist statements and profanity.

This is a representative sample of what I consider to be appropriate comments from that video's viewer comment thread. The oldest comments are posted first, except for some responses to questions.


Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Kermit made a wonderful combination for a fantastic song.
-Brendan Richards
Absolutely LOVE this!!!!
Does anyone have the text of what Kermit is saying when using each letter of the alphabet? Also what do the other muppets say at the end and what does it mean? Anyone???
Amazing Beautiful Creatures Dancing Excites the Forest Glade in my Heart how I do Jump like a Kudu Listen to the Music so Nice the Organ Plays Quietly Rest the Sleepy Tiger Under the Vine tree at the Water side and X marks the place neath the Yellow moon where the Zulu king and i did hide.
-Paris Henare [2010]
- "Kuddu" - a kind of antelope :)

Kumnandi "it's nice" (Kumndandi kwelakithi - it's nice in our place, loosely translated).

Thanks friend!
-Coderoid [2010]
The correct spelling for that word is "kudu".

Out of the billions of alphabet sketches throughout the years on Sesame Street, this one by far is the greatest!
I taught my cousin the sign language alphabet to this.
Just love this....teaches children their ABC's and shows different cultures from all over the world. Brings peace and harmony.
Very creative. It is actually exposing kids to the rich tradition of African singing so full with syncopation, deep tones, and catchy tunes. This video is NOT racist at all.
Actually, that was not the African alphabet, but I liked it, anyway. :) It was an African rendition of the English Alphabet...
Where is an assumption made that ALL Africans live out in the tall grass, from this video?!?!?! I see no such assertion. I see singing puppets, that are singing in front of a backdrop of nature. I clearly hear Kermit use the term Zulu, which tells us who they are. They are in traditional Zulu attire, which appears more or less authentic (for a puppet) and yes such ceremonial song/dances STILL take place and are huge tourist attractions in the area. For instance The Zulu Reed Dance
Anyone claiming this is racist should probably look in the mirror. This is Sesame Street doing what it's been doing for decades,using artistic,stylized skits that appeal to children in an effort to teach them important things such as knowing the alphabet. This is cool.
What everyone is forgetting is that this is SESAME STREET!!!! They try to make learning entertaining while bringing a variety of different cultures in the Mix.
[This was written in response to a comment indicating that Kermit was a Muppet and not a character on Sesame Stree]

@Buzette123 Kermit is a Muppet but Kermit premiere on Sesame Street before the Muppets were created. then again, Sesame Street are all Muppets since they were created by the same person

According to the Muppet Wikia, this debuted in 1987, which means that it's quite possible Jim Henson himself is puppeteering Kermit for this segment.

The original scene had the original singers, not puppets, this was a remake of that scene..

"Isicathamiya (with the 'c' pronounced as a dental click) is a singing style that originated from the South African Zulus. In European understanding, a cappella is also used to describe this form of singing.

The word itself does not have a literal translation; it is derived from the Zulu verb -cathama, which means walking softly, or tread carefully. Isicathamiya contrasts with an earlier name for Zulu a cappella singing, mbube, meaning "lion". The change in name marks a transition in the style of the music: traditionally, music described as Mbube is sung loudly and powerfully, while isicathamiya focuses more on achieving a harmonious blend between the voices. The name also refers to the style's tightly-choreographed dance moves that keep the singers on their toes."
for a pancocojams post that showcases the singing & dancing style of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Thanks to Jim Henson for his Sesame Street & Muppets legacy. Thanks also to Ladysmith Black Mambazo and all other persons who were associated with this Sesame Street segment. Also, thanks to those whose comments were featured on this page & to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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