Another song of Bethlehem by way of Nigeria

 

Sheet music for Betelemu, Nigerian Christmas carol sung in the Yoruba dialect.

Sheet music for Betelehemu, Nigerian Christmas carol sung in the Yoruba dialect.

Three days ago I posted a blog entry “Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem” with commentary related to Matthew 2:4-6 which focuses on Bethlehem, the place of the Savior’s birth, and I shared two songs inspired by that small town located 6 miles west of Jerusalem in Judea: the Black spiritual “Children, Go Where I Send” plus a medley of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Away in a Manger.” Since posting that entry, I discovered another related song, Betelehemu, a Nigerian carol sung in the Yoruba dialect.

According to Godsongs.net, the Christmas song was originally composed for the Morehouse College Glee Club by the choir director for the college, Dr. Wendell P. Whalum, who received the song from Michael Babtunde Olantunji, a Rotary scholarship student who attended Morehouse in the 1950s. After graduation, he went to become known as Olantunji, an accomplished percussionist and recording artist in his own right, working with such artists as Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Bob Dylan, and other noted jazz artists before his death in the US in 2003.

Here are lyrics with translation:

Betelehemu, Betelehemu, Betelehemu, Betelehemu.

Awa yi o ri Baba gbo jule.
Awa yi o ri Baba fehenti.
Awa yi o ri Baba gbo jule.
Awa yi o ri Baba fehenti.

Awa yi o ri Baba gbo jule.
Awa yi o ri Baba fehenti.
Nibo labi Jesu,
Nibo lagbe bii.

Betelehemu ilu ara,
Nibe labi Baba o daju,

Iyin, Iyin, Iyin, nifuno.
Iyin, Iyin, Iyin, nifuno.

Adupe fun o,
jooni,Baba olo reo.
Adupe fun o,
jooni,Baba olo reo.

Iyin, fun o Baba anu, Baba toda wasi

Translation:

We are glad that we have a Father to trust.
We are glad to have a Father to rely upon.

Where was Jesus born?
Where was he born?

Bethlehem the city of wonder.
That is where the Father was born for sure.

Praise, Praise, Praise be to Him
We thank Thee, We thank Thee for this day,

Gracious Father.
Praise be to Thee, Merciful Father.

This amazing Christmas song has been sung by various soloists and ensembles, most notably including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Listen to this Christmas lagniappe or special treat recorded by the Morehouse Men’s Choir: “Betelehemu

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