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Die Stem van Suid-Afrika — Anthems Symphony Orchestra

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Published on Mar 1, 2012

In May 1918, C.J. Langenhoven wrote an Afrikaans poem called Die Stem, for which music was composed by the Reverend Marthinus Lourens de Villiers in 1921. It was widely used by the South African Broadcasting Corporation in the 1920s, which played it at the close of daily broadcasts, along with God Save the King. It was sung publicly for the first time on 31 May 1928.

It was not translated into English until 1952, while God Save the Queen did not cease to have official status until 1957. The poem originally had only three verses, but the government asked the author to add a fourth verse with a religious theme.

The anthem speaks throughout of commitment to the Vaderland (father land) and to God. However, the anthem was generally disliked by black South Africans, who saw it as triumphalist and associated it with the apartheid regime where one verse shows dedication to Afrikaners. As the dismantling of apartheid began in the early 1990s, South African teams were readmitted to international sporting events, which presented a problem as to the choice of national identity South Africa had to present. Agreements were made with the African National Congress that Die Stem would not be sung at rugby matches, but at a rugby union test match against New Zealand in 1992, an instrumental version of it was played, and the crowd sang along, instead of the agreed moment of silence for peace and democracy in South Africa. At the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona that year, Schiller's Ode to Joy, as set to Beethoven's music, was used instead, along with a neutral Olympic flag.

In spite of this, Die Stem retained official status after the advent of full democracy which followed the 1994 general election. The anthem shared equal status with Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, which had long been a traditional hymn used by the ANC. In a remarkable gesture in 1995, Die Stem was sung by a black choir at the Rugby World Cup final match.

The practice of singing two different anthems had been a cumbersome arrangement during the transitional phase of the new South African era. In 1997, following the adoption of a new constitution, a new hybrid anthem was introduced, which combined Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika and Die Stem. Only the first verse of the Stem was sung at schools and ceremonies in both official languages prior 1994.

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