Category Archives: Yohmie (Ballad)
The fourth portion of the song Yohmie is now up. And just when we started to forget how entertaining Salia’s stories are, we get this juicy bit. The ‘video’ is self-explanatory. The storytelling technique is unequalled. That Salia Koroma, what a bounder!
You Lucky Few! Salia Koroma’s the gift that keeps on giving, to use a well-worn expression. Today the third instalment of the Yohmie comes online.
A recap: the first instalment was the lyrical prelude. In the second part, our narrator fell in with the rather conniving Saffa, the Koranic teacher.
This new instalment features Salia escaping the teacher and running into the destitute Syrian trader, Badawiya (or Badawea) in Bo. The ne’er-do-well trails after Salia from Bo to Kolibondo, and then to Sumbuya, where another chapter opens in the narrative. (By the way, there really was a Badawiya in Bo in the 1930s and 1940s. My source told me he lived on what’s now Tikonko Road, close to the then-railway station. His shop used to be where the Mano Motorpark is today. Salia Koroma pronounces Badawiya “Badiway” in the song.)
In rapid, descriptive brush strokes Salia paints a canvas with very lively characters: the leech, the insolvent, the lazy, the alcoholic who can barely hold things together, the faithless, those with little grasp of what it means to be moral and upright. They’re restless, searching and finding little to fulfill their hungry hearts. They’re very much like the fireflies in the song itself drawn to the hurricane lamp, energised both by its beauty and thrill and by the ever-present danger it clearly is. Is it the rollicking dance or the mesmerising light that’s keeping them so agitated?
In short, Salia Koroma paints his society as it was: the hardworking and the feckless. The ethnologist will find what they want in Salia’s depiction. But in the end it’s a single person’s view, his fixations, some might say. Do we conclude that those preoccupations/views speak about broader social and cultural interests and norms? Very much so. But only if we trust the artist to show accurately his society.
In any case, enjoy the ballad.
For the uninitiated, the Salia Koroma vignettes are, with a few exceptions, mostly culled from longer songs and narratives. In their way they demonstrate that a recording is no different from a live performance. There’s always an audience, present or imagined (targeted); the artist is always performing, and they adjusts their “acts” accordingly. In this case the “audience” was the recording company, not necessarily the Joe Vamboi who was going to lay out his one- ‘n- six (or whatever the amount) for the record. The circumstance (sitting on a veranda or in a recording studio) will influence the content to varying degrees, as will the person (or entity) hosting the preformance.
They also show that technology places its own demands on the artist. For someone used to long night sessions with his patrons it must have been very demanding to be asked to edit a 30-minute song to 3 minutes or less. But the final products are just delightful, absolutely so. What’s not so delightful about them are the title. Let’s just say they leave a lot to be desired.
The first such vignette by Salliah and his Accordian (sic) that I’m posting (the second, really. Ko Sao was the first) is entitled Yaumu Sukui. What in the name of God is that? In any case we know what Decca was going for: Yohmie School/Class/Tutorial (if we take the word “sukui” to be from the English “school”). Compare this short version to the longer one I posted last February. The differences aren’t that great to be highlighted. Unless, of course, I’m in a nitpicking mood, which I’m not. The vocal play is amazing. And the timing! And the enunciation! The lyrical confidence!