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Friday, November 11, 2011

The Funga Alafia (Fanga) Song - Part 2 (Lyrics)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is the second post of a three part series on the "Funga Alafia" song and the Funga (Fanga) dance. This second post showcases lyrics to the "Funga Alafia" song.

Part #1 in this series focuses on the history of the Fanga dance and the "Funga Alafia" song.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2011/11/real-history-of-funga-alafia-fanga-song.html for that post.

Part #3 of this series showcases seven selected YouTube videos of the "Funga Alafia" song and/or dance. Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2011/11/funga-alafia-fanga-song-part-3-videos.html for that post.

The information in this post is presented for folkloric, sociological, educational, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

This post does not purport to be a comprehensive presentation of all of the versions of the song "Funga Alafia". Nor are the sources that are cited in this post the only sources online that contain these lyrics.

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PART 2 LYRICS OF FUNGA ALAFIA
The word "funga" is a folk etymology version of the word "fanga". Although the term "funga alafia" is less authentic than "fanga alafia", I usually use the title "Funga Alafia". I do so partly because that's the title I'm most familar with, and also because that title is the one that appears to be most often used for that song.

With those prefacing remarks, here are three examples of the "Funga Alafia" ("Fanga") song/chant along with information about their lyrics.

VERSION #1 (Example A)

(composed by LaRocque Bey*, 1959, or the early 1960s; to the tune of the 19th century American song "Li'l Liza Jane")

Fanga alafia, ase, ase(2x)
Ase, ase, Ase, ase
Fanga alafia, ase, ase
Ikabo alafia, ase, ase (2x)
Ase, ase. Ase, ase
Ikabo alafia, ase, ase
Eleba (or Elegua) alafia ase , ase (2X)
Ase, ase. Ase, ase
Eleba alafia, ase, ase

Source: http://www.reynders-bonhagen.nl/ritme/funga_baba_olatunji_per_list_member_.html

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VERSION #1 (Example B)
http://www.paulnas.eu/wap/fanga.html
"Fanga is rhythm, from Liberia that has been thought [sic] by Babatunde Olatunji, a West African Percussion teacher who, with his lessons and personality, inspired many Djembe players in the United States. The transcriptions are from various email exchanges throught the Djembe-L mailinglist. The song he used to sing to accompanie [sic] the rhythm is in the Yoruba language."

Fanga Alafayia, ashé ashé (4x) Ashé, Ashé, ashé, ashé.
Asé, Asé, Asé, Asé
Ikabo A Lafiya Ashé Ashé (4x) Ashé, Ashé, ashé, ashé.
Asé, Asé, Asé, Asé
Eluga A Lafiya Ashé, Ashé, ashé, ashé.
Asé, Asé, Asé, Asé
-WAP-pages / Paul Nas / Last changed at 30-04-2004

-snip-

I believe that the A & B example of Version #1 is likely the same or very similar to the one LaRocque Bey composed because descriptions of that song are said to include Yoruba words.

Here's some information about the non-English words in that song (given with United States pronounciations):

FANGA
"Fanga" is a Vai (Liberia) word. I've usually seen "fanga" used as the name for the rhythm and accompanying dance which are based on a traditional Vai (Liberia, West Africa) welcome dance. However, it should be noted that the authors of The Dance That Claimed Me: Biography of Pearl Primus by Peggy & Murray Schwartz indicate that drummers and dancers in different American companies didn't perform "Fanga" with the same tempo or in the same way. http://books.google.com/books?id=DbsxMmONyIsC&pg=PA91&lpg=PA91&dq=the+dance+that+claimed+me+primus+fanga++drumming&source=bl&ots=xPGkQ2cvGR&sig=BGwsXvv0l9gBPMDRPRyN2ZbRap0&hl=en&ei=pkO9Tu_0LaTk0QHKjIW0BA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false, page 91.

To date, I've not found any online source that definitely indicates the meaning of the word "fanga" in the Vai language. There are words in other African languages that are spelled the same and may be pronounced the same as the Vai word "fanga". However, that doesn't mean that they necessarily have the same meaning. For instance, here's an excerpt from Hillary Sargent's website: http://www.fanga-music.com/myFanga:
The word FANGA! Originates from the West African Mandingo lingo.

Literally it translates: Power! - It hits you to the core, in its multifaceted, powerful meaning: everybody has his or her own FANGA! - To me it is resilient, not only powerful, in essence the African rhythm in FANGA! inspires me with a spiritual enlightenment which has become the matrix of my soul identity.

Also, Taafe-Fanga is the title of a highly acclaimed film from Mali, West Africa. The film is produced "in Bambara and Kaado [languages] with English [language] subtitles", and the title means "Skirt-Power". http://newsreel.org/video/TAAFE-FANGA. Presumbably, the word "fanga" also means power in one of those African languages cited above. Another example of the use of "fanga" is the French afrobeat group by that name. Here's information about that interracial group's name from http://cd1d.com/en/artist/fanga:
Fanga means 'Force' (spiritually speaking) in Dioula, one of the numerous dialects of Western Africa. This French group of 7 musicians, deeply immersed in Afrobeat - a musical language pioneered by Fela Kuti in the 70's, combining African music, jazz and funk - was born from an encounter between the hip-hop programmer Serge Amiano and the rapper Yves Khoury (aka Korbo) of Burkina Faso.

Given those three examples, I believe that it's likely that the Liberian word "fanga" also means "force" or "power".

ALAFIA (ah-LAH-fee-ah)
A number of online sources indicate that the word "alafia" is a greeting word used by Yoruba people of Nigeria, West Africa. The colloquial meaning of the word is "Hello". From the 1970s to dat afro-centric African Americans have used "alafia" as a greeting word. In the context, "alafia" is said to mean "peace". That custom dates from the late 1960s or early 1970s USA when I believe that "alafia" was first used as a shortened form of the Arabic phrase "A salaam alaikum" (Peace be unto you).

The word "alafia" originates from the Arabic word "alaafiyah" meaning "health" or "good health". It entered the Yoruba language by way of the Hausa (Nigeria) modification "lafia la". In New York City, and other places within the United States "alafia" has been used as a greeting among American followers of the Yoruba religion "Ifa", and other African Americans. The fact that "alafia" has Arabic roots isn't always taken well among some followers of Ifa. Click "http://newafrikanvodun.com/alafia.html and http://brotherpeacemaker.wordpress.com/2007/04/23/alafia-does-not-come-from-africa/ for two articles and comments about the use of that word. Here's a comment from the latter site:

I am Nigerian. Born and raised in Ibadan, a Yoruba city. Alafia or Alaafia IS a yoruba word. My mother uses it. My grandfather uses it. People in Nigeria use it. Just because it might have its roots (even thats debatable) in arabic doesnt make it non-yoruba. There are a lot of english words that have their root in latin or french. But they are still english words. Same with Alaafia. Its a yoruba word.

Another quote from that site indicates that the word "alafia" is also used in the West African nation of Togo:

Alafia is a standard greeting/response in the Kabye region of Togo. In the Kabye language alafia in very general terms can be translated to the equivalent of ca-va in French, being both a question and a response (although in strict terms the question should be alafi’we). The spelling is debatable but the pronunciation is alafia.

I have also read that "alafia" is a greeting in Liberia, but I don't recall where I read it or which Liberian language it's from. For the record, in 1997 I gave my (now inactive) non-profit cultural organization the name "Alafia Cultural Services" and the children's group that was a component of it was named "Alafia Children's Ensemble".

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ASE ("àṣẹ" =pronounced ah-shay, and usually written "ashe")
Ase is the Yoruba term for the energy of creation; the spark of life. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoruba_mythology ; hereafter given as "Wikipedia: Yoruba Mythology"

**
From http://asheselah.wordpress.com/about/whats-an-asheselah/
Ashe ( ah-SHAY, also Ase) – A Yoruba word meaning power, command, and authority. The ability to make whatever one says happen. Often summarized as “so be it”, “so it is”, or “it definitely shall be so”.

**
Colloquially, "ashe" is often considered (in the United States anyway, as meaning the same as the Bibilical word "Amen".

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IKABO (correctly given as "Ekaabo" or "Ekabo"; I'm unsure of the pronounciation since I've never heard this word used)

"Ekabo" is a Yoruba word that means "welcome".

From various sites including http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=H5-08U6q7Bc comments for video "Fanga by Alafia"

I am not sure that Fanga is a commonly known word in the Yoruba language. It might be something that Mr. Olatunji might have created or re-definition from another language, but i do not believe it to be a word from the language of Yoruba. E kaabo is the word for "welcome" in Yoruba. Alafia however is a Yoruba word that does mean "peace".
-OluvTosin; 2009

Like many others, that commenter incorrectly assumed that Yoruba percussionist & recording artist Babatunde Olatunji composed "Funga Alafia". Although incorrect that assumption is easy to make since "Funga Alafia" has several Yoruba words and because Olatunji & his company sung that song in the beginning of many of his performances.

**
ELEBA [Correctly given as Elegba or Elegua]
Elegba (e-LEH-bah) [also known as Ẹlégbara (e-leh-BAH-rah); Eṣu (e-shoo); Elegua (e-leh-guah)]
From http://www.ileorunmilaoshun.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=37&layout=blog&Itemid=65 [Hereafter given as article: Orisha Worship]
Esu the Divine Trickster
Esu is the Divine Spirit of Communication, the well-spoken orator who speaks all languages. Esu translates messages between humans and Orisha. Without Esu our prayers would not be understood in heaven and we would be unable to understand the language of Orisha or our ancestors (Egun). Esu is the guardian of the crossroads, as such he opens and closes all doors and ceremonies.

&&&&

VERSION #2
(to the tune "Li'l Liza Jane"); composition date uncertain, but after Version #1)

Call-Fanga (or Funga) Alafia
Response-Ashé Ashé
Call-Fanga (or Funga) Alafia
Response-ashé ashé
[repeat both call and response several times]
Call-Ashé Ashé
Response-Ashé Ashé
[Repeat both call and response several times]
Source- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTWySGpPVv0 Baba Olatunji Plays Fanga [This is video #1 on Post #3 of this Pancocojams' series.]

These words can be considered the "chorus" of Version #1, and this song/chant is the one that is used by most dance companies before the Fanga drum beat and dancing begins.

This same chant is used in Video #2 of that same post. After that drum & dance performance, the hostess "translates" the chant as "Funga Alafia Ashe Ashe. That means "Welcome. Blessings. Amen Amen."
[end of quote] Although this isn't those words' etymological meaning, it may be correct to say that is what the chant means since words have the meaning or meanings that people assign to them, and those meanings can change overtime or change depending on the context within the same population (and different populations) at the same time.

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VERSION #3
(To the tune "Li'l Liza Jane"); composition date uncertain, but after Version #1's composition & probably also after Version #2's composition)

Call: Funga alafia
Response: Ashay ashay
Repeat as necessary.

Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay. Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay.
Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay. Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay.

Drum solo and ¼ turns around in a circle.

Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay. Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay.
Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay. Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay.

With my thoughts, I welcome you.
With my words, I welcome you.
With my heart I welcome you.
See, I have nothing up my sleeve.

Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay. Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay.
Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay. Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay.
cakes4africa; 2008
-Source: http://answers.yahoo.com/activity?show=AA11326712 “What are all of the verses to the African song Funga Alafia?”

The line "Drum solo and ¼ turns around in a circle." obviously provides performance information and is not vocalized. From watching numerous videos of this song, and from my direct experiences observing dance groups perform this song, it appears that the “(See)I have nothing up my sleeve" line is often omitted from renditions of this version of "Funga Alafia".

Without question, this version of "Funga Alafia" is the one that is most often performed in the United States and elsewhere by non-dancers, regardless of their races/ethnicities.

The lines "with my thoughts (my words; my heart) I welcome you" are usually performed in a call & response manner. It appears to be quite common for group singing this song to stand in a circle and just perform the gestures that fit the words (both hands touching the side of your head for "with my thoughts" (which I've also seen as "with my mind"); hands touching the side of your mouth for "with my words"; hands crossed and touching your heart for "with my heart". It appears that the standard movement for the group response "I welcome you" is to extend both arms out in front in front of your waist. Instead of standing in one place while singing these words and performing those gestures, I've also seen videos of children (especially pre-schoolers) walking around in a circle and stopping in place to make those gestures, and then after saying the "with my __" starting walking around the circle again. Note that the participants are walking and not dancing or strutting, or gliding around the circle while singing or chanting this song/chant.

My sense is that this rendition is most common because the movements are far easier to do for all ages instead of performing dance movements. However, I'm concerned that people who teach these movements and songs and those they teach it to would think that this really is the traditional way that Fanga was performed, or that it was the way that African Americans orginally choreographed that traditional African dance. For instance, when the blogger cakes4africa shared the above lyrics she (since she chose an icon of a female) also wrote “Fungu Alafia is a traditional song from Western Africa (Nigeria) sung in the Yoruba language and means "welcomes and blessings". Funga Alafia, a West African Welcome Song".

Let me be clear- there's nothing at all traditional about any version of the "Funga Alafia" song. "Funga Alafia" (or "Fanga Alafia") is an American song. It's ironic that so many people worldwide consider this song to be African. "Funga Alafia" is only African in as much as it was composed by an African American.
The "with my words I welcome you" etc lines were composed to correspond to the dancers' movements. There is no known composer for that version.

And with regard to the obvious mime gestures that some folks do while standing & singing or chanting "Funga Alafia", I believe that Pearl Primus would probably cringe were she to see what has been done to her dance that performed that way, isn't even a dance.

But these words & gestures didn't just materialize out of thin air. Instead they have their bases in the program notes that were written in at least one dance program that Pearl Primus performed in 1951:

Then Fanga was performed ([Pearl] Primus, [Charles]Blackwell, [Geoge] Mills,[Charles] Queenan), with the program note “I welcome you. My hands bear no weapons. My heart brings love to you. I stretch my arms to the earth and the sky for I alone am not strong enough to greet you."
Source: http://books.google.com/books?id=DbsxMmONyIsC&pg=PA264&lpg=PA264&dq=the+dance+that+claimed+me+meaning+of+the+word+fanga&source=bl&ots=xPGkQ2euFS&sig=NWewIa9Aki-BwHifcXYzrcJeAdU&hl=en&ei=CUu9TpCHFInV0QHU6ZWsBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCQQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

I recall dancers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania performing this dance facing in different directions (East, West, North, South) and extending their arms out and then heavenward, which brings up another point: It's interesting that the description of this dance as an "invocation to the earth and the sky" is seldom used and instead this dance is described as a "welcome dance". Of course it could be both, but it's certainly easier to mime a welcome dance than it is to mime an "invocation to the earth and the sky". Few people nowadays-including me-even know what "invocation" means.

VERSION #4
(To the tune "Li'l Liza Jane"); composition date uncertain, but after Version #1's composition & probably also after Version #2's composition; I believe this version is sung or chanted much less frequently than Version #3).

Fanga Alafia*
Funga Alafia Ah-Shay Ah-Shay

Funga Alafia Ah-Shay Ah-Shay

Peace be with you and all thse [sic]you meet

peace be with you and all those you meet
-HaloTnt104; 2009
Source: http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=SmJfBJZURH4

* These words are probably given as the title of the song and therefore aren't supposed be sung.

This version focuses on "Funga Alafia" as a welcome song, emphasizing the definition of the word "alafia" as "peace" (be with you).

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10 comments:

  1. Thanks so much! I enjoyed reading this and found it quite helpful. Alafia!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for your comment, Boundless Gratitude.

    I appreciate knowing that this post has been read.

    Alafia to you too!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Endlich! Nach 4 Stunden Recherche habe ich gefunden, was ich suchte, die Übersetzung von ashe.
    Fange-Alafia-ashe!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for all of your research. I first learned this song at a music therapist meeting several years ago and have been using it in my groups ever since. The man who taught it pronounced it "foon-jah", and when I looked it up on the internet later I could find very few references to the song, other than that the correct pronunciation was as you wrote. I am glad to have it validated.
    The sources I found before were also dubious about the words even being of African origin, so it's nice to have that cleared up also.
    I taught this to one of my preschool groups this morning and they loved it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greetings, Sue O!

      Thanks for your comment! I appreciate it.

      I'm glad that groups & individuals are learning this song "Funga Alafia" & also are learning the interesting African American/West African history of this song.

      Best wishes!

      Delete
  5. Sarah in MinneapolisSeptember 13, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    Thank you!! I have learned SO much from these posts. We sing this song at a ceremony marking the beginning of the school year, and I am fascinated by the rich and complex history of the transformations of the traditional dance rhythm.
    I will try to pass on what I have learned to my students!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sarah in Minneapolis!

      I like these kinds of posts because I learn so much through my research.

      I'm glad you're sharing this research with your students.

      Delete
  6. I found a book called "An Annotated Glossary of Vai Musical Language and Its Social Contexts" which seems to indicate that a fanga is an hourglass shaped drum.

    http://goo.gl/uBBjQP

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, anonymous.

      Yes, I have also read that the fanga is a drum.

      Delete
    2. Sorry, I meant to continue with that "Fanga" is also a particular traditional rhythm played on that drum.

      But the "Funga Alafia" songs aren't traditional to the Vai people or to any other Africans, but were created by African Americans to celebrate African culture.

      Thanks again for your comment!

      Delete