Mouna Eddrou sings Nongqongqo by Miriam Makeba

The song

Mouna Eddrou sings Nongqongqo by Miriam Makeba. “Nongqongqo” means “to those we love” and was recorded in 1966 by Miriam Makeba. the song is a freedom song and “Nongqongqo” is the name of a prison in East London, South Africa. Probably the best way to describe the song is to read the meaning of the lyrics.




Nongqongqo (To Those We Love) 

Bahleli bonke etilongweni (They are together in prison)
Bahleli bonke kwa Nongqongqo (They are together at Nongqongqo)

Hee, hee, hee, Halala (Oh, oh, oh, oh)

Nanku Nanku, Nanku uSobukhwe (Here he is, here he is, here is Sobukwe)
Nanku, nanku etilongweni (Here he is, here he is, in prison)

Hee bawo Lutuli (Oh, father Lutuli)
Hayi uzotheni, uzotheni (What have you done? What is your sin?)

Nanko Nanko Nanko uMandela (Here he is, here he is, here is Mandela)
Nanku, nanku etilongweni (Here he is, here he is, in prison)

Nanko Nanko Nanko uSisulu (Here he is, here he is, here is Sisulu)
Nanku, nanku etilongweni (Here he is, here he is, in prison)

Yini wema-Afrika? (What is wrong with us, Africans?)
Hayi uzotheni, uzotheni (What have we done? What is our sin?)

Bahleli bonke etilongweni (They are sitting together in prison)
Bahleli bonke kwa Nongqongqo (They are sitting together at Nongqongqo)


It also features in the 1973 film “A Warm December,” which was produced by and stars Sidney Poitier. In the scene the two central characters listen as an African performer sings a song written by Miriam Makeba. It is a lament for Mandela and others who are in prison. In the scene, you see the (fictional) audience showing deep respect for the song, which in fact reflects the status South African freedom songs had in the world.


Miriam Makeba

The daughter of a Swazi mother and a Xhosa father, Makeba grew up in Sophiatown, a segregated Black township outside of Johannesburg. She began singing in a school choir at an early age. She became a professional vocalist in 1954, performing primarily in southern Africa. By the late 1950s her singing and recording had made her well known in South Africa.


The United States

Her appearance in the documentary film Come Back, Africa (1959) attracted the interest of Harry Belafonte and other American performers. With their help, Makeba in 1959 settled in the United States, where she embarked on a successful singing and recording career. She sang a variety of popular songs but especially excelled at Xhosa and Zulu songs, which she introduced to Western audiences. She also became known for songs that were critical of apartheid. In 1960 she was denied reentry into South Africa, and she lived in exile for three decades thereafter. 1963 saw the South African government banning her records and revoking her passport. In 1964 she married trumpeter and fellow Belafonte protégé Hugh Masekela. Although the couple divorced two years later, they maintained a close professional relationship. In 1965 she and Belafonte won a Grammy Award for best folk recording for their album An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba.



Makeba married the American Black activist Stokely Carmichael in 1968 (divorced 1979), that led to the decline of her career in the United States. She relocated with Carmichael to Guinea, and then moved to Belgium, continuing to record and tour in Africa and Europe. Her autobiography, Makeba: My Story (coauthored with James Hall), appeared in 1988. In 1990 Nelson Mandela, who had just been released from his extended imprisonment, encouraged Makeba to return to South Africa. She performed there in 1991 for the first time since her exile. Although she was plagued by health problems, she continued to perform in subsequent years, and she died of a heart attack shortly after giving a concert in Italy in 2008.


Her famous songs

Among the songs for which she was internationally known were “Pata Pata” and the “Click Song” in English (“Qongqothwane” in Xhosa). Both featured the distinctive click sounds of her native Xhosa language. Makeba made 30 original albums, in addition to 19 compilation albums and appearances on the recordings of several other musicians.


Mouna’s version

Mouna Eddrou sings Nongqongqo. This song has always been one of Mouna’s favourites. She accompanies herself on the Senegalese “casse-casse” instruments. If you enjoy her unique take on this song, you can see her perform “Maleika”, another Makeba song here.

You can also listen to Mouna singing and drumming in the songs section of Simon’s website.