Hymn of the week: Freedom is coming

In 1986 the Iona Community published a collection of fifteen songs from South Africa entitled Freedom is Coming. These were collected by a Swedish musician called Anders Nyberg.

Nyberg had travelled to South Africa while singing with a vocal ensemble called Fjedur, and was captivated by the music of South Africa and its role in the struggle for liberation. He returned to South Africa to work as a volunteer with the Lutheran Church in the townships of Gugulethu and Athlone and collected and arranged a number of the songs he learned in the churches and rallies of the townships.

Including both ‘religious’ and ‘political’ songs, helpful advice on performance and an accompanying cassette tape, Freedom is Coming was published at a time when South Africa was rarely out of the news. I had visited South Africa three years previously, as part of a Methodist Church Youth Exchange Team. We had been taught a few songs while we were there and I was excited to find one of these (Singabahambayo thina) in the book.  When we formed a music group at Lambeth Mission we included several of these songs into our repertoire. I’ve been singing them ever since.

A mark of the ongoing influence of this little collection is that three of the songs are included in the new Methodist hymnal Singing the Faith: ‘Freedom is coming’, ‘Thuma mina’ and ‘We are marching in the light of God’.

(Oh freedom) Freedom is coming
(Oh freedom) Freedom is coming
(Oh freedom) Freedom is coming, oh yes I know.

(Oh yes I know) Oh yes I know
(Oh yes I know) Oh yes I know
(Oh yes I know) Oh yes I know, oh yes I know.

(Oh justice) Justice is coming…

(Oh Jesus) Jesus is coming…

South African traditional words collected and edited by Anders Nyberg (b.1955)
Adaptation from Freedom is coming © 1990, WGRG, Iona Community



About Holloway Rev

Paul Weary is a Methodist minister living and working in Holloway, North London.
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