Salia Koroma: “How The Centipede Stings! It Won’t Bear You To Lie Down”
The last time I posted a Salia Koroma song on Youtube (Gbongay Ti Ho, 06/02/2012) I did so without an accompanying entry here in the Notebook, an omission that I hope is a one-off.
Konigui (The Centipede) is our next Salia Koroma offering.
It sometimes happens that two things, two ideas, seemingly completely unrelated end up establishing a correspondence, an affinity even. When this occurs the tendency is to resist, to attempt to bring rational thought to bear on the nascent alliance. In vain.
A couple of years ago (or thereabouts) I was reading a Chad Finer post on Sierra Leonean native textiles when for no apparent reason at all I saw some Salia Koroma compositions in the patterns and textures of the cloths in the photos in the posts. ‘Don’t force it,my friend’ was my natural reaction. It’s common for those commenting on a song or a story to talk about the narrative “threads” running through those artistic productions. We see the story as an almost tangible, physical object. Every story is therefore a fabric, the storyteller a weaver.
The storyteller, like the weaver, blends threads dissimilar one from the other and binds them into a just so pattern. But the woven material is more than a unified pattern fashioned out of threads of clashing hues.
The finished fabric is both open and closed. In the case of the story, it is open to diverse themes and to the passions and appetites of its characters.
But these themes and the characters are articulated within a closed frame, a structure with defined selvedges. So that whilst the story or song is contained within a specific form, this song, this story deploys within it many varied themes, all of them open to different interpretations. It is these variations that give texture (call it graininess) to the material.
This is exactly how I’ve been looking at Konigui, as a song with an intricate pattern of interwoven themes. Konigui is a very busy piece of work in which paradoxical aphorisms, cultural clichés (and the questioning of these clichés) all lie side by side and crisscross each other. Conveyed through couplets, tercets, quatrains and other forms, the apparent chaos of the song reveals the complexities of life. Despite what can come off at first hearing as a rather complex song, we can discern the overall structure that holds everything together.