Thursday, September 7, 2023
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Harrisburg, PA, USA

his music was originally written by Brent Dowe and Trevor Naughton. But many famous groups have since released various versions of it, including the Melodians. Sometime in the 1978, Boney M, the German-based band, released their popular version that sold millions of copies and was on the United Kingdom music chart for many weeks in a row.

Back in Nigeria then we fully embraced the Boney M version. There was hardly any youth gathering, with intent to socialize or dance(disco)where the music was not played. You would hear young ones, in our enclave, during parties clustered around the DJ, demanding - "tinyelum Boney M" meaning "put Boney M" and by “Boney M” they meant “Rivers of Babylon”.

It was my fresh years at the University of Nigeria school of architecture in Enugu Nigeria. From the rooms of many hostels, you would hear the song blaring. As I write, memories have come streaming into my head…. Beautiful memories, that is.

What many do not know is that the actual origin of the lyrics of this song is the bible. It is lifted from Psalm 137 starting from verse one. In the bible, it is talking about the children of Israel and their years of captivity in Babylon around 586 BC. They were asked by their captors to sing for them but the children of Israel lamented that fact. Here are the exact words of the children of Israel in Psalm 137 starting from verse 1- “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there, we hung up our lyres. For there, our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”

Anyway, this used to be a very popular song back in the day and still is for people that grew up in my generation.

It has always been one of my favorite songs so I decided to give it a try.

Here is the link to my version of the song –


Author of the books- 1. Nigeria: Contemporary Commentaries and Essays

2. Surviving in Biafra: The Story of the Nigerian Civil War