The students of the Ntonga Music School perform Qongqothwane (“The Click Song”)

Qongqothwane is a traditional song of the Xhosa people of South Africa. It is sung at weddings to bring good fortune. In the western world it is mainly known as The Click Song, a nickname given to the song by European colonials who could not pronounce its Xhosa title, which has many click consonants in it. The Xhosa title literally means “knock-knock beetle”, which is a popular name for various species of darkling beetles that make a distinctive knocking sound by tapping their abdomens on the ground. These beetles are believed by the Xhosa to bring good luck andrain.

The song is known world-wide thanks to the interpretation of South African singer Miriam Makeba (herself a Xhosa). In her discography the songs appears in several versions, both with titleQongqothwane and as The Click Song.

There’s more info on this song in Miriam’s book The World of African Song (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1971) with the following translation: “The doctor of the road is the beetle/He climbed past this way They say it is the beetle/Oh! It is the beetle.”

She explains the song as a traditional folk song which refers to the knocking beetle which makes clicking sounds and can revolve the top part of its body in any direction. The beetle is used in children’s games to point the way home, but also has a deeper symbolism, pointing the way to a better future in times of trouble. In her biography (p.86), she mentions singing it in The Village Vanguard Club in New York, and calls it a “Xhosa song about a dreamy bride”