Salia Koroma: “All That Stems From Poverty, My People!”

Next up from the 1947 recording session is Kpumbo.

If you should be pressed into accurately describing this track, call it a discourse on poverty. Salia Koroma’s peripatetic career for the greater part of  his life meant that he saw, observed, and was in a privileged position to comment on various aspects of life in a rapidly changing social and economic landscape. His songs and ballads are the very concurrence of different social strata: paramount chiefs, sub-chiefs, village headmen/women, and  ordinary men and women. Kpumbo casts these encounters in economic terms.

One should be careful, when listening to the song, not to conclude that it reproduces in any way the singer’s attitude toward the poor. Rather,  Kpumbo articulates Salia’s deepest fears about poverty, the sort that’s characterised by a somewhat comical exaggerated dignity, the sort that makes the poor rage impotently at the world, the sort of poverty that

smells worse than (high) pepi.


“Ah, I swear to God,” a weir-trap setter scolds his son.

“Ever since I gave birth to you, you’ve refused to work for me.

See your inheritance stretching out.

When I die someday, tell me now, with whom would you have to dispute it?”

This is the reason why he will always fall in behind the chief.  His cares are too many for him to waste time with the poor:

This stomach of mine is gone all soppy wet

I set it out in the sun but there goes the sun.

Let’s hot-foot it, let’s press on, my friend.

My affairs go to waste in my absence;

Even as I do this it foams over: it’s  (palm) wine right now.

I long to drink it, my people.


Posted on June 23, 2012, in Salia Koroma. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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