” A Child Doesn’t Trifle With The Wonde”

And here for your listening pleasure, you the Happy Few, is Ngombu.

“O Sonjo, Ngombu Nya Lima Bia”
(“O Sonjo, Ngombu has been hard-hearted with me.”)

Ngombu is one of many Salia Koroma recordings borrowed from the Wonde Society repertoire of songs.  The Wonde Society, though a tradition of  the kpa-Mende, spreads its cultural influence to other Mende groups, if only musically. Its repertoire,  for those who do not know, has been ( and continues to be) the musical inspiration for many Sierra Leonean popular recording artists and many spontaneous village celebrations(1).  Big Fayia ( listen), Afro National ( here, and here), Super Combo Kings (this as well ), City Rollers ( but not least),  each has found the rollicking and easily recognisable rhythm of the Wonde song irresistable.

This shows  that as far back as 1947, Salia Koroma recognised  the Wonde “songbook” as a potential wellspring of creativity for the artists of our Sierra Leonean modernity. He was the first (as far as my reasearch shows) to record a Wonde song, the first to bring his own creative powers to bear on the Wonde repertoire. The younger generation were to follow closely in his footsteps.

The “Ngombu” in the title of the song is short for Ngombuwa, the penultimate title that a Wonde member can take. The narrative in the song isn’t linear, and we are left to piece the story together with the help of a little bit of cultural background information; but overall the song is a recrimination against the mercilessness of a ngombuwa. During its once every fifteen years initiation session, the Wonde suspends all laws and social norms, though offences committed during this period can be retrospectively brought before the chief for redress.  In the Salia version, the middle portion of the song is a fair amount of ad libbing on the original lyrics.

I hope you enjoy Ngombu.

(1) ” Music of Sierra Leone: Kono Mende Farmers’ Songs,” Folkways Records/Smithsonian Folkways, 1981. Tracks 4, 8, and 11 of the album, recorded in a chiefdom that straddles Mende and Kono countries, are Wonde songs, as the liner notes make clear.


Posted on September 1, 2012, in Salia Koroma and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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