A contemporary artwork by Nicolaas Maritz for the choral composition 'Desert Sun' by South African composer Hendrik Hofmeyr.
February 18, 2020

Desert Sun by Hendrik Hofmeyr

Choral Composition

Desert Sun is based on the virtually extinct culture of the Bushmen or San, once found throughout Southern Africa.

Today only a small number still live in the traditional way as hunter-gatherers in the Kalahari Desert.

The work is in the form of a prayer-like hymn, and describes the setting of the sun, the darkness, cold and fear of the desert night, and the return of light and warmth at daybreak.

It makes reference to some Bushmen beliefs recorded by nineteenth-century ethnographers such as Bleek.

Sung by the Kamēr Choir of Latvia・Directed by Māris Sirmais


O Sun! O source of light, o source of life, o Sun!

You warm us, you comfort us, you make us strong!

O well-fed one, o shining face, o Sun!

But when your daily task is done,

under the earth you seek your rest.

The world grows cold and dark again,

as long ago, before Hare threw you into the sky.1

Now Lion, Lynx and Leopard wake,

and prowl the desert plains.

The Stars say "Tsau! Tsau! Tsau! Tsau! Tsau!"

in envy of their glistening eyes.

Cold, fear and hunger rack our quivering limbs;

we pray for your return.

At last the stricken Moon grows pale;

at last the glowing embers

in the ashes of the firmament die out.

Alone on high your herald gleams:

Heart-of-the-Daybreak, first of stars!

We turn to where you will appear,

we welcome you with covered eyes.

Your fire flames across the sky,

it strikes the crimson of the dunes.

Shine out, shine out, o source of light and life!

O warm us, feed us, make us strong!

O well-fed one, o shining face, o Sun!

Listen to Genesis by South African Composer Hendrik Hofmeyr