While looking for another album, I came across Tunula Eno by a Ugandan singer named Samite (Sæm ē tay) Mulondo. It came out in 2003, during the last year of his beloved wife Joan’s life. It is a lovely collection. But I have no idea how I came to own it. A present? Not from my wife. If I got it at a show, I don’t recall it.
The ninth song on the album is Yazala Abambuti. The tune is VERY familiar. In the liner notes, Samite recounts how he was in Syracuse in a restroom, singing this song. He discovered someone humming the tune. Samite asked how the man could know this Ugandan song. The man said it was a Christian hymn.
The tune is called Nettleton. It “was first published as a new tune without any composer listed in John Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second, published in 1813.”
I searched for Yazala Abambuti and the first item I found was a version by Will Ackerman on a Windham Hill Christmas album. The title translates to “she bore children” according to My Memory.
In the hymnal
Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing is then the English-language song associated with the tune, with lyrics by pastor Robert Robinson (1735-1790), written in 1757 or 1758.
The lyrics, which dwell on the theme of divine grace, are based on 1 Samuel 7:12, in which the prophet Samuel raises a stone as a monument, saying, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us” (KJV).
In the second verse, there’s the line “Here I raise my Ebenezer.” This always distracts some, who associate it with Charles Dickens. In fact, “the English transliteration of the name Samuel gives to the stone is Ebenezer, meaning Stone of Help.”
When my daughter and I went to the Presbyterian Triennium in 2019, the theme was Here’s My Heart. It comes from the third verse of this hymn, “Here’s my heart, O take and seal it.”
Listen to: Yazala Abambuti by Samite
Yazala Abambuti by Will Ackerman
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing – The Tabernacle Choir
Samite, last I knew, was living in upstate New York with his second wife.