Saturday, December 22, 2012

Teddy Pendergrass - Happy Kwanzaa (video & lyrics)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases a video of and lyrics for a Kwanzaa song that is performed by R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass & other singers.

This post also includes brief information about Kwanzaa, including my comments about the changes in Kwanzaa celebrations from its early years to 2010.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Happy Kwanzaa - Teddy Pendergrass

rapidvibrationz, Uploaded on Nov 25, 2010

R.I.P to brother Teddy Pendergrass & much thanks for creating this beautiful song. Much thanks for Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga for creating this tradition.

Happy Kwanzaa to all, and have a blessed, heaithy, and happy New Year.


(composer Teddy Pendergrass, date?)

Introduction: Habari gani! Habari gani!*

Verse #1: Lead
Ah, yeah!
Happy Kwanzaa.
Happy Kwanzaa.

Feel the joy as we sing
of the love that togetherness can
surely bring.

Umoja! [soft voice]

Set the table mat of straw
Thankful for the first fruits of the year.
Stay and Iight a candle, Joe.
Come join the party. It’s a celebration.
Karamu that Kwanzaa time of year.
Red or yellow, black, or white,
We all know that it’s alright.
It’s a celebration
that will last throughout the year.

Group- Happy Kwanzaa!
Lead - Happy Kwanzaa.
Group – Together there is much we can do.
Lead –Alright.
Group- Happy Kwanzaa!
Lead – Together there is much we can do.
Group- Happy Kwanzaa!
Group-Happy Kwanzaa
Lead - It’s a celebration

Verse #2: Lead
Remembering the times of old
Traditions in the food that fills our soul.
Yes it does.
So the children are the future of
All our hopes and dreams. Let’s teach them well.
Let’s teach them well.

Come join the party. [group heard making joyous chatter in the background]
It’s a celebration.
Group – Karamu
at Kwanzaa time of the year.
Red or yellow, black, or white,**
Yeah, you know that it’s alright.
It’s a celebration
that will last throughout the year.

Group- Happy Kwanzaa!
Lead - Happy Kwanzaa.
Group – Together there is much we can do.
Lead – Alright!
Group- Happy Kwanzaa!
Lead- Happy Kwanzaa!
Group- Happy Kwanzaa!
Lead- Happy Kwanzaa!
Group – Together there is much we can do.
Lead – Together there is so much we can do.
Group- Happy Kwanzaa!
Lead – Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy Kwanzaa.

Group- Kuumba.
Lead – So many ways to show our love.
Group- Imani
Lead- We gotta have faith in all that we do.
Group- Umoja.
Lead- But we gotta stay together.
Just a few of the principles that help us
Group- Happy Kwanzaa.
carry on.
Group- Together there is much that we can do.
Group- Happy Kwanzaa!
Lead - Happy Kwanzaa.
Group – Together there is much we can do.
Lead – Yeah
Group- Happy Kwanzaa!
Together there is much we can do.
Lead- There’s so much, so much we can do.
Group- Happy Kwanzaa!
Lead- Cause it’s ah

Rap portion:
Hey before we ate*** that’s when we give praise
to the Man upstairs for another blessed day.
I give hugs to my mom, my dad, and my sis .
You see after that I want to see what mom’s cooked.
While we drink from the cup of togetherness
It’s that part of the year that you don’t wanna miss.
I give a gift from the heart so you know it’s true.
So you recite a principle and tell me what it means to you.

Group -Kuumba
Individual voice - Creativity
Group – Imani
Individual voice – Faith
Group- Umoja
Individual voice – Unity
Group- Kuchichagulia
Individual voice – Self - determination
Group – Nia
Individual voice - Purpose
Group – Ujamaa
Individual voice – To have it all
Group- Ujima
Multiple voices – Work together!
Lead- But we gotta work together!

Group- Happy Kwanzaa!
Lead - Happy Kwanzaa.
Group –There is much we can do.
Individual voice - Yeah. That’s right. [Individual continues to make affirming remarks in the background throughout the remainder of the song.]
Lead –Everybody.
Group - Happy Kwanzaa.
Lead – Happy Kwanzaa.
Group- Together there is much we can do.
Lead: Together, together.
Group- Together there is much we can do.
Lead: so much we can do.
Group – Happy Kwanzaa
Together there is much we can do.
Lead – Take it up, take it up!
Group-Happy Kwanzaa
Together there is much we can do.
Lead- Everybody!
Group- Happy Kwanzaa
Together there is much we can do.
Lead- Yeah. Yeah.
Happy, happy, happy Kwanzaa
Group- Happy Kwanzaa
Lead – Oh yeah!
Group- Together there is much we can do.

[continue improvising in this manner until the end of the song]

* "Habari Gani" is a KiSwahili greeting.
** Read my comment below in the section labeled "Substitute Lyrics".
***I'm not sure about these words.

Transcription by Azizi Powell from the sound file. Additions & corrections are welcome.

This song by Teddy Pendergrass is particularly welcome since there are very few Kwanzaa songs that are known nationwide. My guess is that the lyrics "red or yellow, black or white" were written to address the question that has been asked since Kwanzaa began "Can and should people who aren't Black attend Kwanzaa celebrations?"

I agree with a commenter on that featured video's viewer comment thread who wrote "Kwanzaa has good messages for all races." and I believe that people who aren't Black should be welcomed at Kwanzaa gatherings. However, I believe that it's culturally inappropriate to use the colors "red" or "yellow" as referents for people. For that reason, I'm offering these substitute lyrics:

"See that candle shining bright.
With unity we'll be alright.
Kwanzaa's a celebration
that will last throughout the year."

Kwanzaa is a seven day annual holiday (from December 26th to January 1st) that was created by Maulana Karenga in 1966-1967.

Kwanzaa was established as a means of helping African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage. A Kwanzaa table is prepared in the gathering room with a straw mat, a bowl of fruits, ears of corn. A candelebra of three red candles on the left, three green candles on the right, and a black candle in the center is placed in the middle of the table. ("Red, black, and green" are considered to be the colors of the African American flag.) One candle is lit each day of Kwanzaa, the black candle being lit last. This custom of lighting a candle for each day of the Kwanzaa is the same as the Hanukkah tradition, as Hannukah probably served as a model for that aspect of Kwanzaa.

Each day of Kwanzaa is named after one a guiding principle - the Seven Principles (in KiSwahili, Nguza Saba). Those seven principles are (with African American pronunciations of the KiSwahili words giveen in brackets).
Umoja (Unity) [oo-MOH-jah]
Kujichagulia (self-determination) [koo-gee-chah-goo-LEE-ah]
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) [oo-GEE-mah]
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) [oo-JAH-mah] or [oo-jah-MAH]
Nia (Purpose) [NEE-ah]
Kuumba (Creativity) - [koo-OOM-bah]
Imani (Faith) [e-MAH-nee]

I was a member of the Black cultural nationalist organization, the Committee For Unified Newark, from 1967-1969. As a member of that organization which for much of that time was headed by Imamu Amiri Baraka (formerly Le Roi Jones), I was part of the organization which was the first to celebrate and promote Kwanzaa in the east coast of the USA. My recollection was that Kwanzaa was considered to be an alternative to Christmas, and was promoted as such by its founder Maulana Karenga and by Imamu Amiri Baraka.

Because gift giving is such an integral part of secular Christmas celebrations, exchanging gifts with one sighificant adult, and with children was also a part of that organization's Kwanzaa practices. In those early years, the idea was that throughout that seven day holiday, one gift per day was to be exchanged with your significant other, with your children, and/or with one other person who was special to you. These gifts were supposed to be handmade, and the best gift was supposed to be exchanged during the public gathering on the last day of Kwanzaa. However, even then the actual practice was that these gifts were store bought, and even then there was some pressure to give or receive the most expensive gift.

My recollection was that those early Kwanzaa gatherings focused on feasting, African dancing & drumming, socializing, and listening to a prepared speech about the Kwanzaa holiday in general or the specific day's principle, and the gift giving as is mentioned above. The only major change that I believe has been made in the Kwanzaa celebrations that I've sporadically attended in subsequent years is that gift giving isn't a part of those celebrations (thank goodness).

It appears to me that Kwanzaa is only celebrated by a small population of African Americans. Most people who celebrate Kwanzaa probably consider themselves to be "afro-centric". By "afro-centric" I mean those who are interested in African cultures, particularly African performing arts and West African fashion. This definition doesn't necessarily mean that those persons are interested in or knowledgeable about African politics. This interest in African culture is often reflected in those persons wearing their hair in a natural hairstyle, wearing, at least some times, African influenced clothing, playing African drums, performing African dance, and/or performing spoken word compositions that are centered around "Black consciousness". According to this definition of "afro-centric", those Black people could be of any religion (including Christianity or Muslim) or they could have no stated religious preference. Also, in contrast to my experiences of the early years of Kwanzaa, many of those persons who celebrate or at least acknowledge Kwanzaa (by wishing someone a "Happy Kwanzaa") also celebrate Christmas.

I've attended both public and private gatherings of Kwanzaa in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1970-2010. Like the gatherings in Newark, New Jersey in the late 1960s, those Pittsburgh Kwanzaa celebrations were relatively informal events in which people of all ages came together to socialize, and eat while listening to West African drums and watching West African dancing. Often a spoken word artist and/or an African storyteller performed, and a person or persons provided some words of wisdom about the particular day's Kwanzaa principle.

To my knowledge, there's no specified food for Kwanzaa, and there are no Kwanzaa candies like there are Christmas candy canes or Easter chocolate eggs or chocolate bunnies. That said, ideally fresh fruits are supposed to be a central part of the Kwanzaa meal as the KiSwahili phrase for "first fruits" is "matunda ya kwanza". Also, ham and other pork dishes and collard greens/kale with pork added are probably not included in the menu, since many afro-centric Black people don't eat pork for religious and/or cultural reasons. African and/or Afro-Caribbean dishes may also be included in the menu for Kwanzaa gatherings along with food & deserts that are typical for American special occasions such as Christmas & Thanksgiving. Non-alcoholic beverages are usually provided for public or private Kwanzaa gatherings. For the Kwanzaa gatherings that I've attended people are encouraged to bring prepared food, fruit, and beverages which are placed on tables and shared in a "pot luck" manner.

Because many people who attend Kwanzaa gatherings are afro-centric, particularly at private gatherings, the women in attendance wear traditional or pseudo- tradition (West) African clothing - long dresses, sometimes also with head wrap (geles). However, African clothing isn't a requirement and depending on the organization sponsoring a community Kwanzaa gathering, only a few women and even fewer men wear traditional or pseudo- traditional African attire.

I believe that like me, most of the people who acknowledge or actively celebrate Kwanzaa integrate that holiday into an overall celebration of the week of Christmas (December 25th to New Year's Day). For instance, Kwanzaa decorations are merged with secular Christmas decorations. This is quite easy to do since the Kwanzaa colors red, black, and green (the same colors as the African American flag) are almost the same as the Christmas colors of red & green.

Also, since the late 20th century African Americans have considered Akan & Ewe (West African) kente cloth as a generalized symbol of African culture. Another example of the practice of combining Christmas and Kwanzaa is the use of kente cloth designs in Christmas tree ornaments. In my opinion, kente cloth colors & designs combine quite well with Christmas red & green colors.
Click for photographs of kente cloth colors & designs.

The main point that I'm making is that for many African Americans who celebrate (or at least acknowledge Kwanzaa as a holiday that promotes African culture), there's no conflict over either celebrating Christmas or Kwanzaa. Usually, both holidays are acknowledged and/or celebrated.


Sweet Honey In The Honey - Seven Principles

Thanks to Maulana Ron Karenga for creating the Kwanzaa holiday. Thanks to the composer of this Kwanzaa song, and thanks to Teddy Pendergrass and group for recording it.

Also, thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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