African Poems

Oral Poetry from Africa

Tag: Love Poems (Page 1 of 2)

More Somali Balwo

Another group (see Balwo) of love songs from Somalia. Balwo means ‘sorrow’, and the subject of this type of song is invariably unhappy love which is described briefly in striking and unusual images. These songs are immensely popular in Somalia and are regarded by the orthodox as blasphemous (see no. 1: “let not now the imam / drive you from your song”). Abdi Simino, b. 1920s, is credited with having devised and popularised the form.

Since, when you die, delight
By earth’s silence will be stilled…

Serenade II

This is another version of the much-loved Swahili love song from the east African coast (see Serenade), probably the best known and most widely admired of all Swahili poems in translation. Like My Mwananazi, it is associated with Liyongo, the epic hero. There are interesting differences from the former version. Here, for instance, she is advised to listen, not to sing, to her suitors, and the ‘passers-by’ are not supposed to hear anything of what is going on.

O lady, be calm and cry not out but attend to your suitors patiently,
listen patiently to them who have climbed up to your window,
lest those passing along the road may see…

My Mwananazi

This is a well-known Swahili song, a version of which we posted previously without the vernacular text (see Mwananazi). This is an older, longer version, sung in praise of a dutiful wife in the Islamic tradition. It was first recorded in the 1860s, but is still extant in slightly different versions. The translation (slightly revised) was by Hamisi wa Kayi…

Lime of the Forest

A love song, translated from Amharic, the language of government in Ethiopia, spoken originally by the Amhara people of the northern and central highlands. Theirs is a Christian community of great antiquity, the land of the legendary Prester John, its ruling house claiming descent from Solomon and Sheba. The poem combines natural, religious and courtly imagery in praise of the loved one.

You lime of the forest, honey among the rocks,
Lemon of the cloister, grape in the savannah…

Eye of the Calf

A Rukiga love song, from the Abakiga “people of the mountains”, who straddle the border between northern Ruanda and southern Uganda. As so often in these poems, the images are drawn from the cattle they rear, the bananas they grow as a staple crops, and the natural life of their region.

Eye of a calf
Neck like the crested crane’s…

Her Lover

A love song from Somalia.

Oh, you are like a kilt which a young dandy set out to choose,
Oh, you are like a costly ring for which thousands were paid

Close To Her Husband

An Acoli lament from Uganda. According to Acoli custom, a feast called Guru Lyel is held many months after the funeral of the deceased.

Nyagumbe Refuses

A Chopi song from southern Mozambique. It may be sung at weddings but has also a more general popularity. The argument of the song is that the bride must learn to acknowledge her love for Nyagumbe.

BRIDE: Nyagumbe!
Nyagumbe!
Why do you refuse?

Balwo

Ten separate love songs from Somalia. Balwo means ‘sorrow’, and the subject of this type of song is invariably unhappy love which is described briefly in striking and unusual images. These songs are immensely popular in Somalia and are regarded by some as blasphemous.

Woman, lovely as lightning at dawn,
Speak to me once even.

Mwananazi

A Swahili poem, well known along the East Coast of Africa. The poem is a husband’s praise of his wife Mwananazi.

Give me a chair that I may sit down
And serenade my Mwananazi,

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African Poems