Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"Zimbole" May Not REALLY Be An African Children's Song (But It Still Could Be Used To Teach REAL African Cultures)

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest revision: September 15, 2019

This pancocojams post presents information and comments about the children's song "Zimbole" and showcases every example of this song that I've found on YouTube as of this date.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to all those who are featured in these videos and all those who published these videos on YouTube.

While searching YouTube for African children's songs, I happened upon a 2010 video of "Zimbole" that is given as Example #1 in this post. That video's title is "Zimbolé - African Folk Song all over the World". Prior to watching that video, I had never heard of or read about this children's song.

A clue to this song's introduction to the world-if not to its original composition- is found in this statement from that same above mentioned video. "Join this enthusiastic song and dance the Zimbole-Choreo! Clap your hands! Produced by Johnny Lamprecht." gives this information:
"Zimbolé (Fußballtanzlied)
Johnny Lamprecht & Trommelzauber
From the Album Afrika bewegt uns
September 24, 2009
Google translate indicates that "Fußballtanzlied" is a German word that means "soccer dance song" [Note that "football" is the term that is used in Germany and most other nations for the sport that people in the United States call "soccer"].

It's possible that Johnny Lamprecht or Johnny Lamprecht & Trommelzauber could have based this "soccer dance song" on an authentic African song. But it's also possible-and I think more likely, that he or they came up with this song using a real African word, or an African sounding word.

In the above mentioned 2010 video of "Zimbole", one commenter wrote that the song was from the Zulu people of South Africa. Also, several people in that discussion thread wrote (or repeated what was previously written in that discussion thread) that "zimbole" means "peace". I've seen that definition for "zimbole" elsewhere online pertaining to this children's song. However, the word "zimbole" isn't found in an online list of words meaning "peace" in languages spoken in South Africa.*

Google translate identifies the word "zimbole" as being Zulu. However, Google translate also identifies "zimbole" as being Chichewa, a language in Malawi and gives the English translation of "sign up" for the word "zimbole" in both Zulu and Chichewa. For what it's worth, Google translate gives no translation for "zimbolé [with an accent mark]" in any African language that is available on that feature.

Even before I found information about the song "Zimbole" in that 2009 German album, I wondered if "Zimbole" was a newly composed song that is designed to "sound African". Alternatively, the versions of "Zimbole" that are found in videos below could have been contemporary, westernized adaptations of a traditional African song. However, I think this is less likely. I had my doubts about the African provenance of this song in part because shouting "Hey!!" (or "Yeah!!") at the end of the song and sometimes shouting "Yeah!!) in the beginning of the song appear to me to be Western elements. Also, it seems to me that the stomping feet, knee patting, and body patting while performing this song could have come from the African American patting Juba (Hambone/body patting) tradition.

It also occurs to me that the word "zimbaleo" (that is found in that song and is pronounced "zimbalayo") sounds a lot like the word "Tingalayo", the title of a Caribbean children's song. Is this a coincidence or was it done on purpose?

I like the song "Zimbole". I like the fact that the song is uptempo and I like the different body movements that children can do while singing this song. I think that young children who would be introduced to this song would really enjoy it.

I believe "Zimbole" could be a great addition to the repertoire of songs which introduce children to various cultures around the world. If this song is truly from Africa, I hope that someone would identify which African nation and ethnic group it is from. If a specific African provenance can't be identified for this song because the song was actually composed by a non-African, then people should clearly state that.

Children should be taught the truth. They shouldn't be told that a song is "African" without being told where in Africa that song comes from. And if you don't know where, then say that. Otherwise, children may consciously or unconsciously assume that there is only one African country, and only one African language, and only one way that way that African people look, and dress, and speak. All Africans don't look alike or dress alike or speak the same languages.

If "Zimbole" or any other song was recently composed, then it's not traditional. If you are teaching "Zimbole" or any other song to your students and learn that that song was recently written "in an African style" by a German, or an American or any other non-African, then you should share that information with your students. Such a song could still serve as introduction to learning REAL facts about African nations and African cultures within those nations. And if that song was recently written by an African and is only based on a traditional song from a particular African ethnic group, then it's not really a traditional African song.

"African Song

(pronounced Zim-bo-lay)

Zimbole Zimbole Zimbole Zimbole
Zimboleo Zimboleo
Zimbole Zimbole
Stomp-stomp-stomp (feet)
Slap-slap-slap (Hands on thighs)
Clap-clap-clap (two-hand clap)
(Repeat a bunch!)

Please learn this wonderful song from Africa
and sing with the Oakland Symphony at the
Young People’s Concerts in October.
The lyrics given here are the same throughout all the versions that I've found online- although some versions begin with the children shouting "Yeah!!" and other don't. Also, at the end of each iteration of the song, in some versions the children shout "Hey!!" and in other versions the children shout "Yeah". The movements that are done for the song may also change with chest patting (or slapping) being done instead of knee patting or hand clapping.

Example #1: Zimbolé - African Folk Song all over the World (HD)

TamborenaTV, Published on Jun 12, 2010

African Folk Song Zimbolé, presented by kids, students, teachers, musicians and parents all over the world. Come on! Join this enthusiastic song and dance the Zimbole-Choreo! Clap your hands! Produced by Johnny Lamprecht.
At 1:39 in this video, a girl is shown in blackface (i.e. with black paint on her face, presumably to represent an African girl. Some other [White] children in that scene and at other points in that video wear "pseudo" African clothing or other "ethnic costumes". I consider the blackface to be offensive and the pseudo ethnic attire to be problematic.

Also, at .07 a girl is picking in her nose. So you might choose to show this video to children after that time mark to avoid children snickering or making gross out sounds.
Here are selected comments from this video's discussion threads (with numbers added for referencing purposes only.)

Andrea Moon, 2012
"Can you give me the lyrics please??? I love this song and want to teach it to my students next year. thanks in advance.

2. yop, 2016
":3 Zimbolé Zimbolé Zimbolé Zimbolé Zimboléo Zimboléo Zimbolé Zimbolé :D "

3. Svenja Carlson, 2014
"+Andrea Moon the lyrics are posted by Anto Sanz... the second part goes Zimba-lay-o Zimba-lay-o (Zimboleo' is how he wrote it.) Zimbole' Zimbole'. Hope this helps"
The comment by Anto Sanz is no longer found in that discussion thread.

"I was wondering what Zimbole means and also I have students from all parts of Africa would this be a folk song they would know. Somalia, Sudan, Burkino Fasco, liberia, Tanzania, Ethiopia?"

5.Lexie B, 2014
"My school Ways is singing this song for internattional day 2"

6. Cassandra Dunnings, 2014
"I am trying to find the translation of The word the words of this song. Please share with me the English translation so I can share it with my students. "

7. Lexymolina123 Musically, 2016
"It means peace:)"

8. Azizi Powell, 2018
"Lexymolina123 Musically:. I've read the comments from Makayla Osborne (found below*) that "zimbole'" is a Zulu (South African) song. If this is true, I don't think that " zimbole'" means "peace". Most online sources give "ukuthula" as the Zulu word for peace. Other Zulu words for "peace" that I've found are "ukuthula", "uxolo", "nokuthula", "ngokuthula", and "kuthula".

According to Google translate, the Zulu meaning for the word "zimbole" is "sign up". If that's correct, I suppose "sign up" may refer to "join". If "Zimbole'" is really a traditional African song (and I'm not sure that it is), and if it's really a Zulu song, maybe it referred to "joining" the army.

I'd love to find out more information about this song and its provenance (where it came from and what was the earliest date it was sung."

*In this YouTube comment I wrote "found above" since Makayla Osborne's comments were published above the comment that I responded to.

UPDATE: June 4, 2018: Read the comment from Mama Lisa's blog in this pancocojams discussion thread from a South African woman who corrects the information that "zimbole" means "peace" in Zulu.

9. Azizi Powell, 2018
"Google translate also gives "sign up" for the English translation for zimbole in Chichewa (a language in Malawi]. And, for what it's worth, Google translate gives no translation for Zimbolé [with an accent mark] in any African language that is available on that feature.

By the way, it may be a coincidence but it occurs to me that the word "zimboleo" which is pronounced zimbolayo is very close in pronunciation to the word "Tingalayo" -which is the title of a Caribbean children's song.

I wonder if"Zimbole" is really an authentic African song or is it a nice contemporary percussive song that someone composed and marketed as an African folk song?."
I wrote this before I looked up information about Johnny Lamprecht who was mentioned in this video's summary. Makayla Osborne's comments are actually found below (in this selected comments' hronological order format).

10. Makayla Osborne, 2017
"I know what zimbole` is its zulu and zulu I to resons .1.a member of the south African people traditionally living mainly in KWAZULU--Natal province.the Zulu fromed a powerful military empire in southern Africa during the 19th century before being defeated in a series of engagements with afrikaner and british Steelers." 2.the bantu language of the Zulus related,to Xhosa and spoken by over 9 Million is one of the official language of south Africa. adjectives: relating to Zulus or their language. 1only"
Makayla Osborne initially wrote “fula’ and then corrected her comment saying that she meant “Zulu”.

11. Makayla Osborne, 2017
"I know this song"

12 . Makayla Osborne
"its a south African song"

Example #2: Zimbole - Vorschulchor-Musikschule Klaus Neuhaus-Klangvokal Festival 2012

Published on Jun 27, 2012
German to English translation of Vorschulchor-Musikschule Klaus Neuhaus-Klangvokal = Preschool choir music school

Example #3: Zimbole

hinnerk03, Published on Sep 14, 2014

Ibo (Ibrahima Ndiaye) im März 2014 in der Grundschule Sandhorst
As a point of information, two African nations where the last name "Ndiaye" is usually found are Senegal and Mali.

Example #4: p3 zimbole

Escola Pau Casals, Published on Apr 12, 2016

Example #5: Zimbole by ~Visual Musical Minds~

Visual Musical Minds, Published on Aug 24, 2016
The movements suggested in this video are:

3 leg pats
3 hand claps
3 chest slaps
[followed by children shouting Hey!!]

Example #6: zimbole

Escola Sant Jordi, Published on Oct 26, 2016


Challa Raghunath Reddy, Published on Feb 28, 2017

African folk song ZIMBOLE performed by little Lead Indians as a part of British Council's ISA Activity - WORLD OF FOLK TALES
This song begins at .059 with the children yelling Yeah!

Example #8: Zimbole african song

My School Music, Published on Jun 7, 2017

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  1. Here's the complete reprint of this article:
    11 Words For Peace From 1 Country; January 5, 2012

    "The Constitution of South Africa names eleven official languages:

    “The official languages of the Republic are Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.”

    As a side note, this makes South Africa only second to India, which recognizes 23 official languages in its Constitution, with the number of dialects as high as 1,650!

    Most South Africans can speak more than one language. Growing up, I never appreciated the wonder of hearing different sounds and languages around you every day; to hear the rhythms of a language even though you don’t understand what is being said.

    Here are 11 words for peace, in the national languages of South Africa. May your year be filled with peace, in whichever language you choose to say it!

    Xhosa: uxolo

    Zulu and Ndebele: ukuthula

    Tsonga: ku rhula

    Venda: mulalo

    English: peace

    Sesotho: kgotso

    Afrikaans: vrede

    Tswana: kagiso

    Northern Sotho/Sepedi: khutšo

    Swati: lucolo
    Here are two other articles about how to say "peace" in Zulu and in Xhosa
    "What's the Zulu word for peace? Here's a list of words you may be looking for.

    Zulu words for peace
    ukuthula, uxolo, nokuthula, ngokuthula, kuthula"

    "What's the Xhosa word for peace? Here's a list of words you may be looking for.
    Xhosa words for peace
    uxolo, axolelane, ukuthula, zoxolo"

  2. Here are two other places online where the song "Zimbole" is referred to as an "African song" or a "traditional African song".


    Zimbole, pronounced zim-bo-lay, is a traditional African song that includes simple body percussion in its structure (three stomps, three thigh slaps…, three hand claps, and one accented “yay!”)"

    **** "Does Anyone Know the Origin and Meaning of Zimbole?
    In 2015 a visitor to Mama Lisa's great online resource for children's songs asked about the song "Zimbole" and described it as "an African folk song". The visitor also wrote that she "believe[s] it’s an Zulu word for peace but I’m not sure and I can’t find any information anywhere!".

    The only person who responded to this query shared information about the last name "Zimbole".

    Here's the comment that I wrote on that website: [comment awaiting moderation]

    Hello, Mama Lisa.

    I just published a blog post about the song “Zimbole”. [I added a link to this blog post and this post's title]

    As the title to that post suggests, I believe that “Zimbole” isn’t a traditional African song but was newly composed (or perhaps adapted from an African song). The producer/composer of this song in 2009 is Johnny Lamprecht, who is German. The song was marketed in an album of African songs with the title “Zimbolé (Fußballtanzlied). Google translate gives the English translation “Soccer dance song” for Fußballtanzlied. (Of course, most people throughout the world refer to that sport as “football” instead of soccer”.

    I think this song is neo-African. I really like the song for children, but hope that people don’t mislead children (or themselves) into thinking that this is a traditional song. I also hope that children aren’t taught that a song or custom or person is African without asking where in the HUGE continent of Africa that song or custom or person comes from.

    Best wishes! One Love!

    1. Here's a comment from Mama Lisa regarding the comment that I wrote in her blog's discussion thread about the song "Zimbole". Note that her comment refers to number of online comments that indicate that "Zimbole" is a Zulu [South African] song:
      "Lisa Says:
      June 1st, 2018 at 12:11 pm
      Hi Azizi,

      Thanks for the info! Your article is interesting. I asked Frances who grew up in South Africa, about the song and the word “Zimbole”. Here’s her response:

      “‘Zimbole’ is definitely not Zulu for peace, am asking my fellow music teachers though. (Peace is ukuthula, where the root, thula, means quiet/calm.) Also, Zulu uses punctuation to denote contraction, no accented letters – even tongue clicks are written as c or x. I’ll get back to you!”

      I’ll let you know what Frances finds!

      xo Mama Lisa"