Weeping, by Josh Groban (errr, actually Bright Blue)

I am a big Josh Groban fan – have been ever since he made that remarkable debut on the Ally McBeal show. “You Lift Me Up” (which he sang on the show) still gives me goosebumps and brings tears to the eyes. So, it was with delight that I opened a Christmas present this year to discover his latest album, “Awake” inside the wrappings (buy a copy for yourself at Kalahari.net or Amazon.com).

This blog is not the place for an album review, but suffice to say that it’s his standard mix of songs. After listening to it a few times, I actually think it might be a touch weaker than the other two albums – not his fault, but maybe just the songs being a little less powerful than I would have hoped.

Track 12 was a surprise, though – “Weeping”. This song is actually one of the legends of South African music history, a personal favourite of mine, and a deeply meaningful protest song from my home country’s dark apartheid past. The first time I listened to Josh singing it, I felt betrayed – I don’t think he does justice to it. I’ve softened that view with further listening. But more of that in a moment. It’s a real pity he didn’t put the background to the song in the album sleeve.
Here are the words of this great song:

WEEPING
by Bright Blue
Recorded by Bright Blue (1987), by Vusi Mahlasela (1994), Soweto String Quartet (1999), Soweto Gospel Choir (2005), Josh Groban (2006) – these are the most well known version (a full list available at the official song website: weeping.info)

Bright BlueI knew a man who lived in fear
It was huge, it was angry, it was drawing near
Behind his house, a secret place
Was the shadow of the demon he could never face
He built a wall of steel and flame
And men with guns, to keep it tame
Then standing back, he made it plain
That the nightmare would never ever rise again
But the fear and the fire and the guns remain

It doesn’t matter now
It’s over anyhow
He tells the world that it’s sleeping
But as the night came round
I heard its lonely sound
It wasn’t roaring, it was weeping

AwakeAnd then one day the neighbors came
They were curious to know about the smoke and flame
They stood around outside the wall
But of course there was nothing to be heard at all
“My friends,” he said, “We’ve reached our goal
The threat is under firm control
As long as peace and order reign
I’ll be damned if I can see a reason to explain
Why the fear and the fire and the guns remain”

It doesn’t matter now
It’s over anyhow
He tells the world that it’s sleeping
But as the night came round
I heard its lonely sound
It wasn’t roaring, it was weeping

Copyright: Heymann/ Fox/ Cohen/ Cohen.
First Recorded and released by Bright Blue in 1987

Listen to an extract by Soweto Gospel Choir or an extract by Soweto String Quartet – maybe not as slick as Josh’s, but certainly more plaintive, which is how I believe the original was intended. I cannot find an online version of the original by Bright Blue. In a few days’ time, I’ll rip and post an extract here (but you won’t regret buying their best of album at Kalahari.net anyway). This is not just a song. It’s not a lullaby, its a protest song.

This is a difficult post to write, as it stirs up the mirky history of my country’s past. I am a white, male South African, born in 1970 and was thus a young person during the awful final days of apartheid. This song was written by a white, male South African just slightly older than me, while he was conscripted in the South African army – which was one of the tools the apartheid government used to suppress non-white South Africans.

Unless you are a South African, it is difficult to believe that we lived under apartheid for so long. It was an insidious and evil social experiment, that used fear and ignorance (both fuelled by propoganda) in equal measure. I cannot claim to have been part of the struggle against apartheid. I was too young (although many black young people stood up to the government, and were killed for their protests, so that’s not much of an excuse, I know). But, in 1989, when I was a conscript in the SA air force, I had a life changing moment. In fact, there was a series of life changing events, starting with the fact that I was promoted to lead trumpeter of the national serviceman’s (conscript’s) band, with the dubious “honour” of playing at the funerals of slane air force personnel. I did so over 50 times in the months between July 1989 and August 1990 – all the time reading newspapers and watching news bulletins that denied that we were fighting a war (in Angola, Mozambique and the townships and homeland states created by the apartheid government to keep blacks and whites segregated).

The “final straw” moment for me came while watching “Cry Freedom” (which had been banned, unbanned, confiscated by police, rebanned, re-unbanned, and finally screened in limited release). That story is for another time, but it changed me dramatically, and shaped who I am today. I give all this information because this song embodies thousands of stories like mine. It’s not just a song, its an anthem for my country’s past. (For further reading, Wikipedia provides a good enough primer on South Africa, including a separate history and a history of apartheid).

In 1987, Bright Blue, released “Weeping” on their album “The Rising Tide“. It was written by keyboard-player Dan Heymann, although copyright credit goes to all four existing band members. This was a dark time in South Africa. For middle class young white men in particular, it was becoming increasingly obvious that apartheid was coming to an end, but we were still being conscripted. There was a bizarre sense that we were living in a time between times. Apartheid couldn’t last, but what lay ahead? Many feared the worst, most just didn’t think about it. When I voted for the first time, I voted in favour of a referendum giving permission to the FW de Klerk government to negotiate a power sharing agreement with the ANC. All I knew is that apartheid needed to end. This song was sung into that environment, somehow being missed by the over-energetic censors, and shooting to #1 on Radio 5’s playlist (this was the top music radio station, with a predominantly white audience). It has since been voted (by online vote) as the number 1 SA song of the 20th century (on the Amuzine/ SA Rock Digest poll). Besides the clearly political words, there is a blatant musical reference to N’Kosi Sikelel’ iAfrica, the ANC’s anthem (now part of the SA national anthem) which was banned (even playing it could get you locked up in jail without trial). (This is not in Josh’s version of the song, BTW).

On blogs discussing the song, the obvious question is about the symbolism. Specifically, what is “It” in the opening verse?

Dan Heymann explains the symbolism of the song in his own words:

Actually, there isn’t much of a riddle to these Weeping lyrics;
“The man” referred to in the Weeping lyrics is the late P. W. Botha, one of the last white leaders of South Africa before the end of the Apartheid regime;
The “demon he could never face” in the Weeping lyrics refers to the aspirations of the oppressed majority,
while the Weeping lyrics also refer to the “neighbors”, literally the journalists from other countries who were monitoring the situation in South Africa.

For non-South Africans, maybe some more detail will be helpful:

  • The people “living in fear” were all South Africans, but in this case specifically white South Africans, who had been conditioned to believe in the “Swart Gevaar” (The Black Threat/danger). As whites, we did not socialise with blacks, nor did we understand them. In a vague way, we were brought up to fear the “other”.
  • The “it” that was “drawing near”, and “behind his house” was the fear, and the unknown. It was the fear that the majority (only 12% of South Africans are white) would rise up and “take out” the minority who had been ruling over them and abusing that privilege.
  • The apartheid government, under National Party control (mainly Afrikaner led), used police, the military, force and states of emergency, in addition to the apartheid laws (declared crimes against humanity by the UN) and special powers given to the government forces, to keep blacks under control. They were required to carry identity documents that gave them permission to be in “white” suburbs after dark only if they were employed as domestic labourers. They were forced to live in poverty in townships, and unemployed family members shipped hundreds of kilometres away to “homeland states”. These laws were enforced by force and “men with guns”, and the blacks were kept “tame”. (One of the horrors was that young white men like myself were forced into this system – many were jailed for being conscientious objectors and refusing to be conscripted).
  • The “nightmare that would never ever rise again” was the “threat” of black rule.
  • The chorus reflects the strange apathy of the late 1980s. It felt as if we were all holding our breath, waiting for something to happen. “It doesn’t matter now” – there was a sense of hopelessness, of inevitability.
  • The “it” in the chorus was the apartheid state and all the people supporting it. They, too, knew that apartheid couldn’t last. When they were being watched, they were “roaring”. But, in the cold dark of night, they were “weeping”.
  • Foreign countries who came to look and see what was happening were shown a sanitised version of the country (“they stood outside the wall”). It was an amazing part of apartheid South Africa that you could live here, travel around and never see the ravages of apartheid. Even today, poverty is often hidden. But, it was never totally hidden – the “smoke and the flames” were evident. And the late 1980s saw an increase in smoke and flame.
  • The apartheid government pretended it was in control and that “peace and order reigned”, and it refused to answer questions. Famously Pik Botha, SA’s ambassador to the UN (and now an ANC member!), neatly sidestepped all questions with the type of heroic spin doctoring we are so familiar with today.
  • And the “fear and the fire and the guns remained”.
  • For me, the final chorus always became personal – it was me who ended up weeping instead of roaring.

By the way, when the song is sung in a post-apartheid South Africa, it is a song of hope. The fear and inevitability were unfounded. As much as we have issues to resolve in SA, we are living in a miracle, too. It would have been easy for angry black people to retaliate and oppress or harm the whites in South Africa once the country became a democracy. But, that didn’t happen. The fear and the fire and the guns are gone. At least, the apartheid ones!

There are many who now feel that Josh Groban is commenting on modern America. While this was not the original intent of the song, it is certainly appropriate. But it is not nice. And this I suppose brings me to my concern about Josh’s version. It sounds too nice. This is a protest song. If it is to be applied to America today, then it is a damning indictment on the “land of the free” that is systematically reducing its citizen’s freedoms, imprisons “enemy combatants” and bypasses the Geneva Convention, refuses to “explain to the neighbours” (or to sign up to international treaties, like the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Accord, and nearly 50 others), taps its citizen’s phones, and more. It needs to have an “edge” to it, and it needs to be more plaintive and sad. Josh’s version is “nice”, and his voice doesn’t do justice to weight of the words of this song.

Having said that, I am thrilled that Josh Groban has picked this song up and will make it an international hit. I’m seriously thrilled he didn’t do a Helmut Lotti type rape of African culture in the process. But it would have been nice to include some of the story in the album flyleaf.

This is one of my favourite songs of all time. As with many things, I believe that knowing the story behind the song makes the song itself more powerful and emotive.

Get the album and enjoy the song.

For the record:

Bright Blue Musicians – complete list:

  • Dan Heymann: keyboards (1984-88, 2002-3)
  • Tom Fox: guitar, vocals
  • Ian Cohen: bass, vocals
  • Peter Cohen: drums, vocals
  • Robin Levetan: vocals on first album only
  • Basil Coetzee: sax on ‘Weeping’
  • McCoy Mrubata: sax on ‘Yesterday Night’
  • Peter Barnett: percussion on first album
  • Scorpion Madondo: Saxophone on ‘Time On My Own’
  • Terri Cohen: backing vocals (1996, 2001)
  • Tonia Selley: backing vocals (1996)
  • Mark Goliath: keyboards (2001)
  • Buddy Wells: saxophone on ‘Madiba 1990′

32 Responses to “Weeping, by Josh Groban (errr, actually Bright Blue)”

  1. Celeste January 3, 2007 at 4:05 pm #

    Thanks for writing that, Graeme. I feel much the same as you about the song, being a White South African female. My association with goes back to July 1988 when I was working as a casual in Edgars in Benoni one Saturday morning. I was bored out of my tree and kept looking at my watch to see how long I still had to endure the torture of the jewellery and cosmetics counter. It was exactly 12:00 and “Weeping” was playing over the store PA system. Suddenly there was huge booming noise that I can still hear in my mind. The Wimpy across the road had been bombed by the ANC because it was a regular meeting place for Benoni police officers and their counterparts who were torturing political prisoners.

    For me it’s always been significant that “Weeping” was playing in that moment. It was like the perfect soundtrack. And it was also a kind of political awakening for me.

    I agree with you that Josh Groban’s version is “nice”, but in my mind, unless you have experienced an element of the emotion that goes along with that song, you have no place singing it.

  2. sweetsue January 11, 2007 at 6:06 pm #

    WOW!

    I am an 18 year old South African Indian girl, and was so most impressed with this blog. It’s not often that people hear about the fear that white people faced. It’s also refreshing to hear from a white person who doesn’t claim to have been a key member in the struggle to end apartheid, I appreciate the honesty.

    You Rock!

    Sue

  3. Graeme Codrington January 21, 2007 at 12:02 pm #

    I have just uploaded an extract of the original version from Bright Blue. Get their album at: http://www.kalahari.net/e-trader/referral.asp?linkid=5&partnerid=588&sku=30248925&format=detail or http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000I5X81K/theedge0f-20.

    The MP3 clip is about 750Kb, and available at: http://www.tmtd.biz/images/weeping_cut.mp3

    And, by the way, in this extract, you will hear the strains of Nkosi Sikele Africa just before the sax solo starts.

  4. magget January 24, 2007 at 7:38 pm #

    Also covered in the late 90’s by my cousin’s group, Qcumber Zoo, went internatinal. Another South African success story & moment of glory.

    Caroline

  5. pinzart March 21, 2007 at 2:16 am #

    Thank you, Graeme for the detailed analysis of Weeping. I recently purchased Josh Groban’s album, and Weeping was the track I kept coming back to. I’m an american, and I did not know the history of the song. I bought the album on iTunes so had no liner notes to refer to in any case, but I want to assure you that even with Josh’s “nice” version, the song was instantly recognizable as a heartbreakingly poignant protest song. I thought that was very clear. My only problem was not knowing what was being protested and trying to analyze it without the back story. Hence my trip to the internet and finding your terrific blog. I loved the song before, but now, knowing the background, I appreciate it even more.

    I will look for the Bright Blue version. Thank you for the links.

    Pam

  6. Graeme Codrington March 21, 2007 at 9:53 pm #

    Pam,

    Thanks for that. And apologies for being a bit sensitive about one of “our” songs…

    Its good to know that people are taking the time to find out the background. It really does make a difference to this song!

    Graeme

  7. Kathleen April 23, 2007 at 6:57 am #

    Hey,
    Thank you so much for giving this history lesson. I can not tell you how many times I have listened to Josh Groban’s version of Weeping and tried desperatly to figure out its meaning…I brought myself to the conclusion that it was an old folklore from Africa made into a song. Then I googled it…ah google. I am in Canada, so I can not personally relate to the song. However, I have friends from South Africa both black and white. I must say, I get two different sides of the story most of the time, but never a clear explaination like yours. Not just that, but I had no idea it was tied to the songs meaning. I agree with you, Josh’s version does NOT come off as a protest song but more like a nice, light story. Just as well, the original meaning to the lyrics do not personally affect him…so it would be weird to hear him protest. Unless of course the speculation of it being about modern America reigns true.
    Anyway, I just wanted to thank you and also let you know that in the first few lines you titled Josh’s song “You lift me up” however it is actually called “You Raise me Up” and, for the record, it is also a cover song previously done by Secret Garden. Also, he sang “You’re Still You ” and “To Where you Are” on Ally McBeal, two seperate occasions :p They are from his self titled debut album. I guess this is my way of sharing knowledge in return hehe

    -Kathleen

  8. Rose May 15, 2007 at 5:19 pm #

    THANKS SO MUCH FOR EXPLAINING MORE ABOUT THE LYRICS OF “WEEPING”. I RECEIVED THE ALBUM AS A GIFT FROM MY SON FOR XMAS LAST YEAR. “LULLABY” AND “WEEPING” BOTH BRING CHILLS TO MY ARMS. I HAVE TRIED HARDER TO UNDERSTAND THE WORRY, FEAR, ANGER, AND THE HIDING THAT SONG CONTAINS. WHAT YOU HAVE SHARED MAKES IT ALL CLEARER. AS YOU STATED, I WISH THERE HAD BEEN A SMALL BIT OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE MEANING OF THE SONG. I DON’T THINK THAT WOULD ENDANGER JOSH’S FAME AT ALL. HE HAS A POWERFUL VOICE, AND I FEEL THIS IS A BLESSING HE HAS. JOSH WILL CONTINUE TO SHARE, AND I HOPE YOU WILL AS WELL.

    -ROSE

  9. Jennifer August 15, 2007 at 1:39 pm #

    I’m an American, and like those in the comments above me who aren’t from South Africa, I didn’t know the meaning to the song. So I did a google search. The meaning made me like it even more… but After I listened to the version by Bright Blue I noticed you are right, Josh Groban’s version does have a “nice” sound to it and doesn’t seem to be a protest song at all.

    I like Bright Blue’s version more, made me tear a little, and just to sound even more cliche… it gave me chills.

    Nice blog.

  10. bev October 23, 2007 at 2:37 pm #

    Hi guys,

    Where is Bright blue? are they still a band, i was a huge fan, and was somewhat happy when i heard that Josh was doing their song, but felt a little sad, that it takes him to have to make the song an international hit. I would rather the bright blue version, but be that as it may, the best song EVER!!!

    bev

  11. Christine October 26, 2007 at 6:16 pm #

    Wow, I’m glad I came across this page! Like Pinzart above, I am not South African (I’m Canadian). As I was first listening to Josh’s album this is the one song that stood out to me as being important but also not making sense as I was not really sure what it was talking about. I can understand that his producers may have made it more ‘pretty’ than how it was intended when written, I did not see it as an American song either.
    I have several friends from South Africa (I lived with 2 of them while in London) and was amazed at their stories of growing up in SA. My one flatmate talked about the ‘servents’ he grew up having and he said how it was very common there. I don’t think apartheid is a situtaion I, or anyone who wasn’t there, will ever truely be able to appreciate how horrific it was…but I’m learning more and admire those who were brave enough to stand up against it! For that, I’m grateful to Josh G. for putting this song on the album as it is making more people aware of what exactly happened!

  12. J Harris November 20, 2007 at 11:00 pm #

    I am so happy to have an explanation and the history of Weeping. I was born in the U.S.A in the 1950s. I was a blue eyed blonde who lived in the deep south. As a very young girl, I lived in a very white world. I was shielded & protected from the problems of the world. I knew 2 black people & loved them both & in my heart, I know that they loved me too. Maybe that is true because it is hard to look into the eyes & heart of any child & blame them for the evil of the world. Our washing machine broke when I was 5 or 6 and I went with my Mom to a washateria. As she was loading the clothes into machines, I saw a sign that said Whites Only. I showed it to my Mom because I thought that it meant that you could only wash white clothes in the machines & that we would get in trouble if she washed my family’s clothes that were dyed different colors. She told me to be quiet & she would explain when we got home. In the washateria and at home, she was embarrassed when she tried to answer my questions. Se was embarrassed because she knew it was wrong. It wasn’t long before I watched the Civil Rights Movement unfold on TV. With the innocence of a child, I could understand what was happening, but not why. My parents could not explain it to me, but Walter Cronkite could. I watched Martin Luther King give the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech & the March on Washington. I saw the dogs & fire hoses turned on children. I saw marchers beaten with clubs. I saw the church bombed and heard of the little girls who died in that church. I heard the marchers sing ‘We Shall Overcome’. I saw George Wallace stand at the door of a school & try block the entrance of black students who bravely walked through mobs to get to those doors. My family moved to a small town & my first day of school in that town was the first day of integration. My parents sent me to school on the bus, but gave me instructions of what I should do & where I should go if trouble broke out. That day and in the years that passed until my high school graduation, were peaceful. I am sure that I did not understand what the black children felt or suffered during those years. I never witnessed name calling or fights, but now know that those things must have happened.

    As an adult, I look back and know that Segregation was the product of slavery & the predudice handed down from generation to generation.
    Americans have their own shameful past.

    It has been a long & hard road & we still have a long way to go. I do believe that with each generation, we progress. When I married in 1993, a 7 year old boy came to live with me, as my son. He had light brown hair & green eyes. His 3rd grade classroom could have been the child’s version of the United Nations. He didn’t see race. He didn’t see religion. He didn’t see color. He saw kids to play with. He saw potential friends in a new school and a new city.

    It is my hope that all around the U.S., parents experienced the same thing that we have. At 7 and at 21, my son has good friends of many races, religions, and cultures who have played, partied, and worked together. From elementary school to high school there was always at least one set of parents who stuck around our home or at a party to insure that their children were in a safe enviroment. I could appreciate their concern and welcomed them to stay. I am happy to say that the worst incidents we had were kids fighting over whose turn it was to play with a toy or go off the diving board at the city pool. Regular kid stuff. At 21, his passions are music and computer software engineering. He has friends that he’s had since the 3rd grade & new friends who share his passions.

    I can’t wait to see what happens when he has children. Perhaps we will be closer to The Dream and further from The Weeping. You know the lyrics to Weeping. Read the words at this link:

    http://www.usconstitution.net/dream.html

    I end with part of a poem by James Russell Lowell tht I learned as a teenager:

    “Men! Whose boast it is that ye
    Come from fathers brave and free,
    If there live on earth a slave,
    Are you truly free or brave?”

  13. Adrienne November 28, 2007 at 12:24 am #

    Wondering where I can get a full MP3 of Weeping? The original version? Man, I cannot live without this song, I still have the record somewhere but no record player!!!

  14. TomorrowToday Team November 28, 2007 at 4:24 pm #

    Adrienne,

    I haven’t been able to find a full MP3 online. The best is to buy a Bright Blue CD album – I put a link to it on that blog entry. It doesn’t cost much, and is good pay back for the band.

    Graeme

  15. Pam East November 28, 2007 at 5:37 pm #

    J. Harris,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences growing up and your hopes and dreams for a better future. I found your message very uplifting.

    I’m raising a daughter who is now 13 years old. Like your son, she does not see race or religion as a barrier to friendship. Her friends come from all walks of life. I know things are not perfect. Prejudice has not been eradicated. But I do see hope for the future in our children.

  16. Adrienne November 28, 2007 at 11:50 pm #

    Thanks Graeme, I will certainly do that. But from where? Amazon don’t have it! Where should I look? You know, I too listened to the Josh Groban cover, and he is very lucky to have had such a moving song to cover, but you know, the passion just aint there, I mean, how can it be? To a greater degree one has to have experienced those feelings to be able to sing it with conviction and passion. What a song, man, I reckon I will never hear a song of that calibre again in a long time….

  17. Graeme Codrington November 29, 2007 at 7:44 am #

    You can get Bright Blue’s best of album at Kalahari.net (South Africa’s Amazon.com) – they do ship internationally. The link is: http://www.kalahari.net/e-trader/referral.asp?linkid=5&partnerid=588&sku=16760578

  18. Eleanor December 21, 2007 at 6:39 pm #

    A side-note to the “Weeping” story: We live in Cape Town, South Africa and at my eldest son’s end-of-year prize giving a few weeks ago, the choir sang “Weeping”. My children are both well familiar with “Weeping” as Bright Blue’s CD is one of my current set in the car CD. My eight-year old son was in the audience with us and commented after hearing it that “I have never really listened to the words before, but I get it … it’s all about the crime and violence that we are living with now, isn’t it?”

  19. Victoria Koning July 18, 2008 at 11:32 pm #

    With great delight I came across this post. I was born in South Africa in 1969 and can understand exactly what you mean. My only claim to “helping the cause” was also to vote YES in the referendum you mentioned. I knew that in spite of our fear and all those what-ifs, apartheid had to end, and that was the only way I knew how to contribute.

    This song has always stirred my soul and reading this explanation, through teary eyes, has helped me understand why. Thanks for sharing this message.

  20. Pearl Assan July 21, 2008 at 5:40 am #

    I love Josh Groban, and the first time i heard this song, it captured my soul, without knowing the details of its roots. I was listening to it today and decided to find out more about it. I guess what we don’t ralize that the common denominator between the opressors and the oppressed is fear. As a black woman living in the USA, it is unfortunate that my race preceeds me every where I go I’ve been called racial terms, . I’ve seen both sides of the stories. As nice as the Groban version suonds, it gives meaning to some of the paternalistic and racial issues that we face as Americans each day. From Hurricane Katrina to Jena 6, Anything can be wrapped up in a gift box with a pretty bow on top, but unless we look inside of it you’ll never know what it contains. So, I completly understant the sense of ownership South Africans have to the song, but that’s the point of Music, it trensends all cultures and breaks all barrires. We each listen to it and bring our own meanings to it. For the girl who is being molested by her father, for the woman Who is being beatten by her husband, for the people in Darfur, China and many other parts of the world. Our stories are different, but our plight….the same. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not yet seen. Change will come, nothing lasts forever.

    Thank you for this blog!!!

  21. Thomas July 25, 2008 at 1:14 am #

    I loved Weeping the moment I heard it. It brings out fear, inevitability, hopelessness, and finally reprieve from fear. After few searching, I read your post and really started to understand why this song carried so many different emotions.

    Your wonderful post really painted pains on both sides of the evil Apartheid very well. As a Korean American (South Korea) who immigrated to U.S., I felt that this song can just as readily be the protest anthem for North Koreans. To someone like me, U.S. is now my country (and proud to an American), but I will always hold Korea near my heart. It is very painful for me to hear North Korea being painted as Axis of Evil. To a certain degree, you feel very conscious of your Korean heritage. There is no doubt that North Korean regime is evil. According to testimonies by my church members who went there for short-term medical missions, they all felt this ominous oppressive darkness that weighs them down sapping all energy and joy right out of them. They were constantly monitored and fed propagandas to a point where they felt so… violated. Even then, my church members testified that the weight being lifted slowly as they worked with North Korean doctors with genuine interest in advancing medical knowledge (North Korean doctors use 60s and 70s medical equipments still) so in small ways to give hopes to their people.

    The music can be very powerful. I hope Weeping or something similar can really take hold in North Korea as it did in South Africa. Even to South Koreans, who seemed so mixed about the reunification that may jeopardize their newfound wealth.

    Thank you for being so informative and your heartfelt sharing.

  22. Brian Bedingfield March 19, 2009 at 4:50 pm #

    Hi Graeme

    I stumbled on your blog because I was wanting to find the words for the repeated refrain just before the final chorus – it sounds like it starts off with a Zulu prefix “siya …”. Any ideas?

    Many thanks

  23. Graeme Codrington March 20, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    Are you referring to Josh Groban’s version? I don’t have it with me at the moment.

    In the Bright Blue version, there is a repeated phrase, which sounds like, “U say ayo”. It definitely isn’t “siya”, which means “we are”. I’m sorry, but I can’t help you with the meaning. It may just be a rhythmical interlude, similar to “ooohh” or “aaahhh”. This is fairly common in African singing.

    But now we’ve asked the question, maybe someone else will have a better answer.

  24. Brian Bedingfield March 20, 2009 at 3:44 pm #

    Thanks Graeme – it is the Bright Blue version I’m referring to.

  25. Joseph M November 3, 2009 at 5:05 pm #

    I first heard this song on Letterman performed by Josh Groban. “Weeping” struck me immediately. I did a bit of web surfing and came up with http://www.weeping.org. The website was put together by Dan Heymann, the writer of the song.

  26. Joseph M November 3, 2009 at 5:07 pm #

    sorry, that was http://www.weeping.info

  27. Katie December 20, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

    Thanks for this, I have listened to Weeping over and over on Josh Groban’s album. It was immediately clear to me that it had a political message attached to it, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about what it could mean. I actually often felt like it may be about Israel’s occupation of Palestine. It makes sense, since many people compare the apartheid situation there to the former situation of South Africa. I wonder if that’s what Josh Groban was talking about?

  28. The Lone American January 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    Thanks for the story behind the words, Graeme. As a young American studying at a South African university (and the only degree-seeking American at this entire university) I have had a chance to be immersed in South Africa (albeit, mostly the Afrikaans culture). When I heard this song, I innocently thought it was applied to today’s SA. I remember ex-president of the ANCYL Malema wishing for “white domestic workers in ten years in townships.” I would have thought this country would wish for the end of townships, the end of poverty making so many domestic workers possible, and primarily, I would hope they would focus on education. You can easily see the ANC of today cares first for their “comrades” and last for the poor, rural citizens who get teachers who fail their own tests in basic literacy and a lack of basic services. I thought the people weeping were the half of South Africa being left behind by the government actually voted in to represent ALL of them, not just rich people (black or white or otherwise) in cities. I can see how it represented SA then, but I think it could still fit quite nicely now, too.

    • Graeme Codrington January 16, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

      Wow, powerful thoughts, The Lone American. I work and pray for the day when South Africa will be a paradise for ALL South Africans! Thanks for your reminder!

  29. Rose December 6, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    Thanks for this – I was listening to Weeping being played as part of tribute to Tata Madiba’s passing. I’ve always loved Bright Blue’s rendition of this song but never knew the meaning behind it.

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