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Salia says…Something Weighty Billows Across The Sky

rain clouds

Rain clouds gather, but only, for they will not break.

They will not break at all; only the Society is passing by.

Something weighty billows across the sky, hemmed in by rain clouds.

A Know-nothing may see it but will not, foolhardily, give it away

If you blab on about it you will not be back when you go.


Salia Koroma: Love & Misadventures In The Hinterland

Don’t think you’ll improve yourself and expect not to be the subject of gossip.

Even as I do this they go on about me. What did I do?

They say because I’m wandering about.

But who is it in the world that doesn’t travel?

A self-serving question, surely? A peripatetic life will keep tongues wagging, especially when a story told with a knowing wink caps each tour. So what do we have here?

1) Salia goes to Kayima, in Kono country. He strikes up with an unnamed woman, who leaves him penniless.

The one and only bobani she gave me/Is what I came and pawned for a drink.

But the nameless woman here will put in a proper appearance, complete with a face and back story, in another song.

2) He leaves Jimmi Makpe with nine yards of shirting and arrives in Bauya. In Bauya Salia hands over threes yards to the local tailor, who goes on to sew the tightest  fitting shirt ever. The pocket “was under my arm.” The shirt hung on him while he cried out in pain. Salia implies that Saffa, the tailor, has kept some of the cloth for himself. He complains to anyone who would listen, but the common reply is: Saffa’s a freeborn (mahalo, literally meaning “a chief’s child”).  Salia goes on to play on the name of the town: Bauya means Salvation, Haven. “Teh nya bawo Bauya” (They wouldn’t save me in Bauya).

The vagrant is always at the mercy of his hosts. Perhaps this is what Salia Koroma was saying, that the fact that he was himself a freeborn (a complicated, delicate question in old Mende) didn’t matter in a strange town where the locals accrue to themselves certain obscure advantages.

Salia Koroma: More Than She Bargained For

I shall be writing a post on Salia Koroma and his spoken introductions. For today, though, I’ll limit myself to a specific introduction to a particular song.

The song here is Kpomuma-Jekele. I’ve three versions of this song, one of them without an introduction. In my opinion both introductions are superfluous, as the song (s) by itself/themselves tell the story quite well.  In the introduction I’ve posted, it’s a simple story of a middle-aged wife who gets more than she bargained for when she seeks a co-wife and helper in a young girl. The other introduction presents a story of jealousy.

Kpomuma-Jekele, the sobriquet that the older woman gives the girl, refers to the manner in which the latter sits on the log bench at the farm hut. (Jekele is an adverb that can be roughly translated as daintily. Kpomu is a name specific to a log bench at a farm hut. Ma is a postposition, as we don’t talk about prepositions but postpositions in Mende.) My translation of the title has placed the emphasis on the character of the girl rather than on how she sat.