Baxabene Oxamu (Miriam Makeba)

Baxabene Oxamu
Miriam Makeba

Baxabene oxam’
Bexabene ngengxoxo
Bexakwe ingxuba ‘xaka

Hayi-ke-le-gqi! iQheya
Laxing’ eqhingeni
Beliqhatha ngeqhotho leqhude

[English Translation]:

The monitor lizards in an argument
They are in a heated debate
They are puzzled by a dilemma

Then (all of a sudden) a Khoi person
Got caught in the middle (of the matter)
Each was bribing him
With a piece of kudu meat

[Editor’s Note: My original intention was to transcribe and translate Busi Mhlongo’s version of the song from her UrbanZulu. In trying to find lyrics online, I stumbled across Miriam Makeba’s (the earlier) version, which I had never heard. There are a few interesting things to note about the different versions: 1) There is a difference in the pronunciation of certain phrases. It is quite certain that Mhlongo’s pronunciation is a deviation from the original, as it changes (and sometimes completely removes) the meaning and coherence of some of the lines. 2) For me, this song really highlights the fact that there are actually some significant differences between the various Nguni dialects. For example, in isiZulu iqhude is a rooster. Only now have I learnt that the name “kudu” is an anglicisation of the same word, which in isiXhosa is the word for that antelope. It makes sense! 3) While all online transcriptions I have seen show “iqhatha” (a piece of meat), both Makeba and Mhlongo clearly say “iqhotho” (a belt?). Online dictionaries list “iqhatha” as a piece of meat, which makes more sense in the context of the story. It may be that Makeba mispronounced the word; a mistake that carried through to Mhlongo’s rendition.]   

[Busi Mhlongo Lyrics]:

Kwaxabana oxamu
Bexabana ngengxoxo
Bexakwe ingxuba ‘xaka

Hayi-ke-le-gqi! iQheya
Laqhing’ eqhingeni
Liqhatha ngeqhotho leqhude

[Busi Mhlongo English Translation, as a Zulu-speaker might understand it]:

Some monitor lizards once argued
Arguing about/through a discussion
They were puzzle by a dilemma

Alas! A Khoi person
Had devised a scheme
He was causing (the) conflict
Causing conflict with a piece of rooster’s meat


ingxuba kaxaka = crisis/dilemma/trouble
iqheya = Khoi-san/light-skinned person
ukuxinga = to be stuck
ukuqhatha – the deceive/fake/cause conflict?




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