Defence Case: Exhibit B

Introduction: For the next piece of evidence pointing to Salia as the singer in Dr Little’s 1948 publication, I’m going to depend on the article itself and other Salia songs. I’m going to highlight some motifs in the translation and show that these are found throughout Salia’s work.

In the second instance I’ll point out what may be called discrepancies between the 1948 Man publication and the song I’ll be putting up. Expect me to counter such an objection with concrete evidence showing there’s no difference. I’ll demonstrate, with two little snippets, that these kinds of ‘discrepancies’ are found in various versions of Salia’s works, and that they don’t point to different composers.

The personal is always a feature of Salia’s compositions. His life was never out of bounds; the singer takes centre stage even when the stories he narrates show him in not very flattering light. In fact that’s the case with all the ballads. The stories are countless, and in each it’s his wit that ultimately saves him. In each song, he escapes to compose another song on another episode in “The Adventures of Salia Koroma.”

‘The Fast Woman’ is a permanent motif running through Salia’s work, to the point that a paean’s often sung to her wiles, her strength, and her insight. These unattached or ready women would’ve played a big part in Salia’s life as a man on the road; at least his songs give that impression. Dr Little translates “poegbua nyaha” as “prostitute,” but I believe that’s pushing the meaning of that word. The nearest meaning would be “loose.” “Poegbua” means to have an illicit affair, so that a married man or woman having an extra-marital affair would’ve “poegbuanga,” had an affair. In the version of the song I shall be putting up, Salia calls himself a “poegbua hindo” (fast fellow) out looking for a “poegbua nyaha” (fast woman). He wouldn’t be calling himself a prostitute looking for a prostitute, would he?

‘Patrol’: This word came up in my first Salia Koroma song, Ko Sao. Here it is in Little’s translation. It’s a recurrent word in the Salia body of work. There’s nothing more to say here.

Discrepancies? The song in Little’s translation is arranged differently from the one I’ll be putting up, but that’s nothing new in Salia’s work. As illustration, I’m putting up two abridged versions of the same song: “Fishing for Our Lord.” The older version, transferred from a hissing 78 LP, has about 35 seconds of poetic prelude before going into the body of the song. But scattered throughout that version are poetic lines. In the newer version,  Salia has gathered up all those lines and brought them to the fore. In the first version, the search lasts for 6 minutes; in the second version, it’s 8 minutes. The fishing itself lasts longer in the older version. In the older version, the specific body of water he wants- njagbo– isn’t defined and characterised until he crosses two rivers, whereas in the more recent version, we’re told what the njagbo stands for in Mende cosmology before the slave wades into any water in search of freedom. The older version has three movements. The newer version, on the other hand, has four parts.

“Fishing for Our Lord”– Older & Newer versions


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Posted on January 23, 2009, in Salia Koroma and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thank you so much. I fell in love with Salia’s playing and singing years ago and really value the chance to understand what the sentiments are of the Mende songs.

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