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Friday, January 13, 2012

Various Interpretations Of The Song "Ise Oluwa"

Edited by Azizi Powell

"Ise Oluwa" (e-shay o-loo-wah) may be the most widely known African religious song among non-African people throughout the world. Here are eight renditions of and comments about that Yoruba (Nigeria, West Africa) religious song.

An English translation of lyrics to that song is included towards the end of this post.

FEATURED EXAMPLES
[Updated October 13, 2014]
These examples are not given in any particular order.

Example #1: Solomon Ilori And His Afro-Drum Ensemble - Ise Oluwa (God's Work Is Indestructible)



Uploaded by 1blue1 on Aug 12, 2011

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Example #2: Ise Oluwa [The Work of the Lord] by Godwin Sadoh



Uploaded by Godwin Sadoh (gsadoh007) on Dec 31, 2008

Ise Oluwa is a Nigerian Christian Song. There are various settings of this Yoruba song. I have another version for SATB with piano accompaniment published by Wayne Leupold Editions, 2006. Godwin Sadoh--Piano accompanist.
-snip-
Here's a comment from that video's viewer comment thread which was written in response to a post that said that "Ise Oluwa" was a Yoruba folk song:

"Ise Oluwa" is not a folk song. It is actually a Yoruba Christian song composed by one of the pioneers of Yoruba church music, that is, choirmaster and organist, in the early 20th century. There are several arrangements of the tune for vocal and instrumental ensembles by Nigerian professionally trained composers such as Samuel Akpabot, Laz Ekwueme, Joshua Uzoigwe, and Godwin Sadoh.
-Godwin Sadoh (gsadoh007); August 2010 http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=7sidvWh2csw
-snip-
Here's some information about the impetus in the mid 19th century to translate the Yoruba language to English:
http://www.nigeriandictionary.com/language.php?lang_id=68
"Yoruba has over fifteen dialects and standard Yoruba is the written form of the language and the standard variety learnt in school. Standard Yoruba has its origin in the 1850's, when Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the first African Bishop, published a Yoruba grammar and started his translation of the Bible to Yoruba."
-snip-
I've added this information for the historical record. However, given Mr. Sadoh's comment that "Ise Oluwa" was composed in the early 20th century, the composer of that song couldn't have been Samuel Ajayi Crowther.

[UPDATE 9/14/2012]
Godwin Sadoh posted the following response to my query for more information about his statement quoted above:
"Thank you for your fine comments and for posting this video on your blog. This song has been arranged by several composers and arrangers that it is extremely difficult to pin down the original composer of the tune. Best information I can give you is one of the oldest settings of the song for SATB and piano/organ by Dr. Thomas Ekundayo Phillips [1884-1969], a.k.a. father of Nigerian church music. For more info on Phillips, read my book on him on iuniverse website."
-snip-
Here's a link to that book: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000121997/Thomas-Ekundayo-Phillips.aspx Thomas Ekundayo Phillips The Doyen of Nigerian Church Music by Godwin Sadoh

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Example #3: Good Earth Singers--Yoruba Greeting--"Ise Oluwa" Chant's History



Uploaded by RobertCReady on Nov 12, 2010

the work of God (will not be destroyed)
-snip-
The man speaking/singing introduces himself in the beginning of the video, but his name isn't written in the video summary. I believe that he said "Olele Oluwa", but I'm not certain that is correct.

Notice that he pronounces the words "Ise Oluwa" as "e-shay oh-lu-wah".

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Example #4: Ise Oluwa for the It Gets Better Project.m4v



AMASONG: Champaign-Urbana's Premier Lesbian/Feminist Chorus took a few minutes out of rehearsal in December to record a musical message for the It Gets Better Project (itgetsbetterproject.com).

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Example #5: LETTA MBULU MANY RAINS AGO [OLUWA]



SuperXavier30Uploaded on Oct 24, 2009

Deeply Emotive Song From Letta Mbulu,Who Perfomed This In Both English & In The Native Nigerian Language,Yoruba.

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Example #6: 'ISE OLUWA' by One Nation



Uploaded by TPHmedia on Jul 29, 2010

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Example #7: Lara George - Ko le Baje Ise Ti Oluwa Se - Nigerian Gospel Music - [www.Naijan.com]



Uploaded by etopedia on Dec 7, 2010

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UPDATE 2/9/2013
Example #8: Sonnie Badu - ESE OLUWA - Colours of Africa (Recorded Live in London)



Deliciouswinfred, Uploaded on Feb 7, 2012
-snip-
Notice that this spelling is "Ese Oluwa". Those words are pronounced a-shay oh-lu- wah".

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AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF THE SONG "ISE OLUWA"
From http://groups.google.com/group/yorubaaffairs/browse_thread/thread/79ffc64ba38572da?pli=1

Solo: Ise Oluwa

God's work (Sometimes rendered as "Ohun Oluwa se" What God has done)

Chorus: Ko le baje o

Cannot be spoilt (Could also render as It is permanent as in not changeable)

Solo: Ise Oluwa

God's work (Sometimes rendered as "Ohun Oluwa se" What God has done)

Chorus: Ko le baje o
Cannot be spoilt (Could also render as It is permanent as in not changeable)

Solo: Aye fe ko baje o, k'awon ba yo

The world wants it spoilt so they may be happy (May also be rendered as People want it spoilt so they can rejoice)

Chorus: Ko le baje o

Cannot be spoilt (Could also render as It is permanent as in not changeable)

Solo: Esu fe ko baje o, k'awon ba yo

Satan wants it spoilt so they may be happy (May also be rendered as Satan want it spoilt so people can rejoice)

Chorus: Ko le baje o

Cannot be spoilt (Could also render as It is permanent as in not changeable)

Solo: Ise Jehofa, ise Emi Mimo

Jehovah's work, holy spirit's work (Sometimes rendered as "Ohun Jehofa/Emi mimo se" What God has done)

Ise ti Baba wa ti se

The work that our father has done

Chorus: Ise Jisesi, Ise Emi Mimo

Jisesi's work, holy spirit's work

Ise ti Baba wa ti se

Work our father has done

Aye fe ko baje o, k'awon ba yo

The world wants it spoilt so they may be happy (May also be rendered as People want it spoilt so they can rejoice)

Ko le baje o

Cannot be spoilt (Could also render as It is permanent as in not changeable)

Ase. Amin o

Amen. So be it or so shall it be.

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11 comments:

  1. Thank you, this was great!! We have been singing this song for years, but never really knew the meaning of it. I really appreciate all the different versions of the song in the videos, my favorite one is the Jazz rendition, though I like the Africans singing, cause it helps to hear the pronunciation.I posted this information in my blog, I hope you don't mind. I gave you full credit... but I am sure you know that sharing, giving and receiving is where the true blessings lie...

    Peace & blessings,
    Nana Baakan

    ReplyDelete
  2. Greetings, Nana Baakan.

    Thanks for your comment. I'm glad that this poston the beautiful song "Ise Oluwa" was helpful to you. And I'm delighted that you are sharing it on your blog.

    I plan to visit your blog.

    Peace!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sarah Patterson UKApril 30, 2015 at 6:54 AM

      Yes, lovely to hear all these different takes on the song. Appreciated it as I'd heard mostly one. Also there's a website called Ebola Call and Response which is encouraging different groups round the world to video themselves singing and raise money and awareness. It's great that songs of spirit can do this.

      Delete
    2. Greetings, Sarah.

      Thanks for your comment about the Ebola Call & Response project. I didn't know about that website and those videos before your comment.

      As a result of your lead, I plan to publish a pancocojams post about this project soon and will publish its link in this comment section.

      Delete
  3. Thank you somuch for this. It blessed my soul. God Bless you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Linda, Austria.

    Thank you for sending in your comment.

    I apologize for taking so long to respond but I just saw this comment this morning.

    "Ise Oluwa" is such an uplifting song. I'm thankful to whoever composed it. It's no wonder that so many different performers worldwide love singing this Nigerian religious song.

    God bless you also and Peace!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello, and thank you so much for this post. I haven't been able to listen to the music because my computer just shows black boxes. Can you please tell me what format the videos are in? I think I must need to download another program.

    We have been singing this song for many years. It's one of my favorites. Today another singer told me that a friend of hers was told by her Nigerian friend that Ayo Bankole was the original composer. It certainly seems possible, but I hesitate to put an attribution in our song book without another verification. I'm wondering if you have been able to find out the composer's name. I see that earlier in the post you said that you had not yet discovered it.

    Thanks so much and many blessings.
    Marian

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greetings, Marian L Shatto.

      I'm sorry that you are unable to see these videos. I have Adobe Flash and use the reposting codes used on YouTube to repost the videos that are found on pancocojams and my other websites. I've noticed that when for some reason I don't have Adobe Flash, I can't see or hear any YouTube videos. I hope this information helps you.

      With regard to the original composer of the beautiful song "Ise Oluwa", I'm still unsure of the name of that composer.

      I will refer you to the uploader comment that I reposted after Video #2. I visited that comment thread again, and the uploader's name gsadoh007 has been revised to composer Godwin Sadoh.

      I refer you & other readers back to Godwin Sadoh's comment posted above. He mentioned that this song was first composed by a "pioneer of Yoruba church music who composed "Ise Oluwa" in the early 20th century."

      Here's information from Wikipedia for Ayo Bankole,
      "Ayo Bankole (b. Lagos, May 17th, 1935; d. Lagos, November 1976) was a composer and organist from the Yoruba ethnic group in southwest Nigeria...

      He wrote a great deal of Christian liturgical music, and his compositions show elements of both traditional Nigerian music and Western classical music."
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayo_Bankole:

      -snip-

      If Sadoh's comment is accurate, and I see no reason why it isn't, a person born in 1935 wouldn't fit the description of composing music in the early 20th century.

      I have posted a comment to that video asking for the name of the original composer. I'll add that information to this post if I receive a response from Mr. Sadoh.

      Thanks again!

      Delete
    2. Here's a response that I received on 9/14/2012 from Godwin Sadoh:

      "Thank you for your fine comments and for posting this video on your blog. This song has been arranged by several composers and arrangers that it is extremely difficult to pin down the original composer of the tune. Best information I can give you is one of the oldest settings of the song for SATB and piano/organ by Dr. Thomas Ekundayo Phillips [1884-1969], a.k.a. father of Nigerian church music. For more info on Phillips, read my book on him on iuniverse website."

      Delete
  6. Very informative write up. I have two interpretations of the song on Youtube as well. Check out these links and I thank you in advance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBTY-Vx_cyQ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWLTH-6mn5Q&feature=youtu.be

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks Tosinger for alerting us to your interpretation of the Nigerian Yoruba song "Ise Oluwa."

    I tried to add the hyperlinks to that sound file and that video, but for some reason, they weren't accepted.

    Best wishes!

    ReplyDelete