Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Kum Ba Ya/Take My Hand, Precious Lord"By Lynda Randle ('08)

What does 'kumbaya' in the song "Kumbaya, my Lord" mean?


"Kumbaya, my Lord" started out in the 1920s as a Gullah spiritual sung on the islands of South Carolina between Charleston and Beaufort. Gullah is the creole featured in the Uncle Remus series of Joel Chandler Harris and the Walt Disney production of "Song of the South." "Come by here, my Lord" in Gullah is "Come by (h)yuh, my lawd" (see our Gullah dictionary). American missionaries probably took the song to Angola after its publication in the 1930s, where its origins were forgotten. In the late 1950s the song was rediscovered in Angola and returned to North American where it swept the campfire circuit as a beautiful and mysterious religious lyric. That is why the song is associated with Angola in many current printed versions.

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