Saturday, March 26, 2016

The History Of The Boy Scouts' "Een-Gonyama Song/Chant"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides information about and an example of the Boy Scout song/chant "Een-Gonyama".

A video of a White man teaching this chant to a group of White men and women is also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for historical and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

Editor's Note: This post doesn't include examples of the song "Hold'em Down You Zulu Warriors". Those songs/chants may be adaptations of the "Een-Gonyama" song/chant.

"British imperialists in the late 19th century denigrated non-western cultures in rationalising the partition of Africa, but they also had to assimilate African values and traditions to make the imperial system work. The partisans of empire also romanticised non-western cultures to convince the British public to support the imperial enterprise. In doing so, they introduced significant African and Asian elements into British popular culture, thereby refuting the assumption that the empire had little influence on the historical development of metropolitan Britain. Robert Baden-Powell conceived of the Boy Scout movement as a cure for the social instability and potential military weakness of Edwardian Britain. Influenced profoundly by his service as a colonial military officer, Africa loomed large in Baden-Powell’s imagination. He was particularly taken with the Zulu. King Cetshwayo’s crushing defeat of the British army at Isandhlawana in 1879 fixed their reputation as a ‘martial tribe’ in the imagination of the British public. Baden-Powell romanticised the Zulus’ discipline, and courage, and adapted many of their cultural institutions to scouting. Baden-Powell’s appropriation and reinterpretation of African culture illustrates the influence of subject peoples of the empire on metropolitan British politics and society. Scouting’s romanticised trappings of African culture captured the imagination of tens of thousands of Edwardian boys and helped make Baden-Powell’s organisation the premier uniformed youth movement in Britain.Although confident that they were superior to their African subjects, British politicians, educators, and social reformers agreed with Baden-Powell that ‘tribal’ Africans preserved many of the manly virtues that had been wiped by the industrial age.

...Although he claimed an expert knowledge of Africa from his service in colonial wars, Baden-Powell could hardly be considered an authority on Zulu customs. This mattered little as metropolitan Britons were almost entirely ignorant of African institutions. Nevertheless, they were fascinated by the romanticised and exoticised depictions of their new colonial subjects they read about in the popular press, juvenile literature, and memoirs of colonial war heroes."...

From Ingonyama - he is a lion!
"In [his 1920 Boy Scout Handbook entitled] Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell introduces Scouts to a Zulu chant which he calls the Eengonyama chorus.

...The Ingonyama chant is one of many ancient battle-cries of the Zulu warriors. Baden-Powell first heard this chant in Zululand (now the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa).

In 1888, Captain Baden-Powell was part of a column searching for the Zulu chief Dinizulu, who was leading the Usutu people in revolt against the British colonists. The column was joined by John Dunn, a white Zulu chief, who led an impi (army) of 2000 Zulu warriors to join the British. B-P describes them as `fine strong muscular fellows with cheery handsome faces... their brown bodies were polished with oil and they looked like bronze statues.'

I heard a sound in the distance which at first I thought was an organ playing in church and I tought [sic] for a moment that we must be approaching a mission station over the brow of the hill. But when we topped the rise we saw moving up towards us from the valley below three long lines of men marching in single file and signing a wonderful anthem as they marched. Every now and then one man would sing a few notes of a solo which were then responded to by an immense roar of sound from the whole impi, of deep base voices and higher tones singing in harmony.'"

Source: Baden-Powell, Lessons from the varsity of life, quoted by Hillcourt in Baden-Powell: the two lives of a hero."

"Leader: Eengonyama—gonyama.

Chorus: Invooboo. Ya-Boh! Ya-Boh! Invooboo!

The meaning is:

Leader: "He is a lion!"

Chorus: "Yes! he is better than that; he is a hippopotamus!"

The Scout's Rally:

Leader: Be Prepared!

Chorus: Zing-a-Zing! Bom! Bom!

(Stamp or bang something at the "Bom! Bom!")

Scout War Dance:

Scouts form up in one line with leader in front, each holding his staff in the right hand, and his left on the next man's shoulder.

Leader sings the Eengonyama song. Scouts sing chorus, and advance a few steps at a time, stamping in unison on the long notes.

At the second time of singing they step backwards.

At the third, they turn to the left, still holding each other's shoulders, and move round in a large circle, repeating the chorus until they have completed the circle.

They then form into a wide circle, into the center of which one steps forward and carries out a war dance, representing how he tracked and fought with one of his enemies. He goes through the whole fight in dumb show*, until he finally kills his foe. The Scouts meantime sing."
*"In dumb show" here means "pantomiming".
These lyrics are given with musical notations,

The word "Een-Gonyama" is a folk processed form of the South African Zulu word "Ingonyama". Although one meaning of "ingonyama" is "lion" the AmaZulu (Zulu people) don't use that word as a referent for that animal because parts of that word are used as one of their titles for their king. "Instead of Ngonyama meaning Lion, isiZulu uses the word i(li)Bhubhesi"

Also, read this comment from
Lion King Song Meaning? What does that African Tribal song when Simba is Lifted up on the mountain Mean?...
Mahlomola, 2013
"Nants ingonyama bagithi means, in ZULU, "here comes a BEAST, our people!"...

the word "ingonyama" usually refers to the greatest predator in a given place... and in the context of the "lion king" it refers to the lion.

The actual word for lion in ZULU is IMBHUBEZI."
Click for more information and comments about the word "ingonyama".


getatuibi, Uploaded on Feb 21, 2010
The actual chant begins at 3:30 of this video.
This video only has 1, 732 viewer hits and no comments as of this date. [March 26, 2016]

I don't know anything about this video- including which language the instructor speaks prior to the "Een-Gonyama" chant and who (which group) he is instructing.

I believe that wearing "fake" Zulu attire to perform the "Een-Gonyama" song/chant or any other "Zulu War Chant" is probably well-meaning, but still part of the appropriation and romanticization of Zulu culture that is at the core of the "Een-Goonyama" chant.

My position is that if Boy Scouts and other people sing and perform the "Een-Gonyama Song Chant", they should first learn about its history, recognizing that this chant and this dance aren't authentic representations of the history and culture of the Zulu people of South Africa and of the Kikuyu people of Kenya (whose "war dances" are said to have inspired the Een-Gonyama dance.)

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