Martin Devlin: What "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" and the Haka have in common

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 19 Jun 2020, 1:10PM

Martin Devlin: What "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" and the Haka have in common

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 19 Jun 2020, 1:10PM

Ban the song, in fact ban EVERY song. I'm totally onside with England's Rugby Football Union who are going to conduct a review into whether or not they axe the singing of "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" from all future Pommy rugby tests. And, of course, while we're at it we should ban that very same "P" word I just used to.

The origins of "Swing Low" are both contested and murky. The man who wrote it, Wallis Willis, is often described as a Choctaw Freedman.

These people, indigenous to North America, were officially adopted into the Choctaw Nation sometime around the 1860s when it's generally accepted the song was written. The Choctaw, confusing and embarrassingly so, were also allied with the confederate states during the American civil war.

Which by definition means they fought on the side of maintaining slavery.

Even more significant is that they also have a tribal history involving conquest  and the enslavement of rival tribes themselves. So good luck to the review crew  now charged with untangling all that mess and deciding whether an annoyingly catchy tune called "Swing Low" is appropriate or not for English rugger fans to sing  at Twickers.

Because there is no absolute right or wrong going on here. It is merely,  and clearly, a matter of personally held opinion derived from what version of whoever's history you prefer to believe. Coincidentally the same accusatory fingers could also easily be pointed towards the (unofficial) All Blacks anthem, ka mate. 

The haka, so intrinsic to every encounter we're in, is now 100% as much a marketing tool for the ABs as it is an inspirational kickstart to each individual test match. In fact the haka is now owned  as much by our global sponsors as it is the team, the money men insisting on its performance as part of the overall "entertainment" package (Barf!!).

The reason I'm raising this is because ka mate is not and never was a nationally popular choice, in fact  many tribes abhor its use given the history of the man behind it Te Rauparaha.

So if anything needs a review and a subsequent ban then maybe it's us? Or at least have the same discussion the Poms are having.

Sorry, I meant the English. My bad. This is a debate to be watched with much interest given that the outcome will undoubtedly provoke as much argument as the issue itself.

All I know is that there is no easy answer nor one that will be universally accepted -  and there never will be. And that's simply because re-writing history doesn't also mean history is necessarily re-righted. If you get my drift.