Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Carriacaou (Caribbean) Big Drum Song & Its Possible Igbo Translations

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post features excerpted comments from a (Nigerian) discussion forum about the possible African sources & meanings of words that are found in a Carriacou Big Drum song.

This post also includes background information about the Big Drum song & dances. A video of the Big Drum song/dance that is referenced in is also featured in this post.

The content of this post is presented for historical, etymological, and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to all those who are featured in the video that is showcased in this post and thanks to the publisher of that video on YouTube.
A participant in that discussion extensively quoted this 2014 pancocojams post "Temne And Ibo (Igbo) Nation Dances & Songs From The Carriacou Big Drum songs and dances".

Click for the related pancocojams post "The "Woyo Wo Yo Yo Yo" Lyrics In Bob Marley's "Buffalo Soldiers" Song & Other Songs".

"Carriacou is an island of the Grenadine Islands located in the southeastern Caribbean Sea, northeast of Grenada and the north coast of South America. The name is derived from the Carib language Kayryouacou.

Carriacou is the largest island in the Grenada Grenadines. It is also the largest island in the Grenadine Islands (Vincentian and Grenadian Grenadines)...

Carriacou is home to 8,000 people. The capital city is Hillsborough, the only town or city on the island. The rest of the island settlements are very small villages."...

"Big Drum is a genre and a musical instrument from the Windward Islands. It is a kind of Caribbean music, associated mostly closely with the music of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Music of Guadeloupe, Carriacou in Grenada and in the music of Saint Kitts and Nevis...

The inhabitants of Carriacou perform the "Big Drum" or "Nation" dance which celebrates their West African ancestors that were brought to the island during slavery. These Big Drum dances are usually performed at "Maroons" village festivals or fetes, where food and drink are prepared. They can also be danced at wakes and tombstone feasts in honor of dead relatives or marriage ceremonies, tombstone raisings, fishing boat launchings and in the case of ill-health or ill-fortune.In each occasion, the main focus is twofold: remembering lineage and respecting ancestors. The music consists of singing and chanting typically joined by three drums, shakers and maracas. [5]"

SELECTED COMMENTS FROM "Can Any Ibo or Yoruba Speakers Help Me?" March 25, 2015

[Pancocojams Editor: I've numbered these selected comments for referencing purposes only. Words given in bold font or in italics were written that way in those comments.]

Comment #1: Can Any Ibo or Yoruba Speakers Help Me? by Carriacou1985(f): 4:06pm On Mar 25, 2015
"I live in England and my Mother is from a small island in the Caribbean called Carriacou. Carriacou is known for holding onto many African traditions but of course after thousands of years these have probably changed from the African traditions brought by their ancestors.

It is known that the people on the island of Carriacou originate from the Ibo, Akan and Temme tribes. We have a tradition that has been past down from our ancestors brought to the island from the slave trade, known as the big drum dance, this is usually done for weddings, deaths ect, in order for the ancestors to bless the ceremony.

I am particularly interested in what we call the Ibo nation dance, a song they sing and dance to is called: Ibole Ibole woy yo

The lyrics are as follows:

Gongo banan plantain me wo yo
Ibole Ibole woy yo
Hele bu Legba wo yo

I wanted to know if any Ibo speakers know if this actually comes from the Nigerian Ibo language?
Just curious about understanding my culture better and hope someone can help, any answers will be appreciated.... Thanks in advance"

Comment #2: ezeagu(m): 9:15pm On Mar 25, 2015
"Hello Carriacou1985.

This is a stretch, but after reviewing the words and twisting them into something intelligible I've transliterated the words into what it could be in Igbo then I've given the English translation. You're correct about the amount of Igbo and Akan peoples to your island and the Leewards Islands. It's funny because Igbo people are also known to wear those imported 'madras' (or "tartan" ) cloths the ladies are wearing in your post.

So here are the proposed translations (question marks are unintelligible):

Gongo (?) Banana, Plantain mu ewoh yo!
Igbo lé! Igbo lé! Ewoh yo!
Hanile bú Legba ewoh yo - or - Hé lé bụ Legba ewoh yo!

Gongo (?) my Bananas, Plantains, ewoh! (ewoh is an expression like 'oh my god', or 'lord god')
Igbo nation! Igbo nation! ewoh yo!
All of them go to Legba (vodou deity) ewoh - or - They are all Legba ewoh yo!

Conclusion: to me this is an offering to Papa Legba in the Igbo language of plantains and bananas possibly, from a brief search on the net, Papa Legba indeed is given offerings of sweet fruits including plantains and bananas. Vowels at the beginning and end of words often blend in Igbo so in 'me wo yo', the 'me' could be 'mu e[woh]' = 'mewoh', if you see what I mean.

Also, in Haiti (who also have Legba) there is a song of the Igbo nation called Ibo Lele.

Interesting. Hopefully this helps. By the way Ibo is the older (European) way of spelling Igbo just for future reference."

Comment #3: bigfrancis21(m): 9:48pm On Mar 25, 2015
"I do know that the dance was created in remembrance of their Igbo ancestors. In Haiti, they have a native dance done in remembrance of their Igbo ancestors called 'ibo lele'. There is also a drum popular in the caribbean used in creating beats and tune pattern according to the beat tune called 'ibo udu' drum.

On deep inspection of the lyrics, the lyrics look a lot Igbo. There are a lot of Igbo words in it such as he', 'bu', 'le', 'ewoh' (or 'awoh' as used in Jamaica - another area with a huge percentage of Igbo-descended peoples). 'Le' and 'ewoh' are Igbo words used for expression. If you watch Nigerian Nollywood movies that portray mostly Igbo culture, you would hear 'ewoh' a lot. Take for example, 'he has died. ewo!', 'i just bought a car. ewo!' I see a lot of 'wo' in the lyrics, probability elongated over the years to 'wo yo', as common with language evolution over time. Examples of 'le' in Igbo: nne m le (my mother le), O biala le (he/she has come le) etc.

Igbo Translation:
Gongo banan plantain me wo yo: goro banana na plantain m ooo (buy my banana and plantains oo)
Ibole Ibole woy yo: proper in modern Igbo orthography as: Igbo le Igbo le [e]wo oo = a chant mentioning the Igbo ancestors expressively.
Hele bu Legba wo yo: proper in modern igbo orthography as: he le bu Legba, [e]wo oo = this is Legba, ewo oo.

Coincidentally, 'he' is commomly spoken in southern igbo, where majority of Igbo slaves were taken from, for 'this thing', compared to 'ihe' used in upland Igboland.

'bu' is the Igbo word for 'is'.

The lyric is exceedingly similar to Igbo language. However, I'd like your interpretation of the lyrics in creole to be able to finally balance both meanings. And if both meanings match, this would be great evidence of the survival of the Igbo language in the Caribbean after over 300 years."

Comment #4: ezeagu(m): 10:57pm On Mar 25, 2015
Hele bu Legba wo yo: proper in modern igbo orthography as: he le bu Legba, [e]wo oo = this is Legba, ewo oo."

Coincidentally, 'he' is commomly spoken in southern igbo, where majority of Igbo slaves were taken from, for 'this thing', compared to 'ihe' used in upland Igboland."

[end of quote]

I was wondering about 'he le', sounded familiar. Do you also mean 'this is Legba' as in these are Legbas offerings?

Also, Carriacou1985, I think we can confirm that 'wo yo' is ewoh and that 'Ibole' is Igbo lé.

And I like that you also noticed Jamaicans say awoh. Cha may also be Igbo related."

Comment #5: Nobody: 11:07pm On Mar 25, 2015
"It does sound Igbo to me. Corrupted, but still possible to make some sense of.

But I suspect that as most Afro-Caribbean cultures are syncretic, some at least of the words could have come from somewhere other than Igboland.

Legba, for example, is a Beninios-Togolese deity, and not Igbo.

Ezeagu and Francis have attempted translations. This is my attempt (not too different from theirs).

Gongo banan plantain me wo yo (Ngwongwo banana na plantain mu-ee, woyo)
Ibole Ibole wo yo (Igbo le Igbo le, wo yo)
Hele bu Legba (He le bu Legba)

In English:

My loads of bananas and plantains, wo yo
Igbo le, Igbo le,wo yo
They are all [for] Legba.

Wo yo being a meaningless onomatopeic expression. Igbo chants typically use such expressions at the end of a line to keep the rhythm.

And 'le' being a commonly used interjection in the Southern Igbo axis. [See bigfrancis' comment for further explanation of the use of 'le']."
The sentence in brackets is a part of the comment.

Comment #6: Nobody: 12:05am On Mar 26, 2015
"Thank you Radoillo for you interpretation, I agree with you that the language in the song is possibly made up of different languages from the various tribe, so not sure why it is called Igbo nation dance."

[end of quote]

"It is probably called that because the original dance, tune and lyrics were imported by Igbo slaves. With the passage of time, other elements crept in (eg. the reference to Legba)."

Comment #7: by bigfrancis21(m): 3:03am On Mar 26, 2015
"@bold...From language similarities, the song can be definitely said to be Igbo language in line with its dedication to the Island's Igbo ancestors, with an adoption of 'Legba' (being a god) over time. Radoillo's rendition of its meaning seems to be the best. However, note that languages borrow words from each other, especially in Africa. Yoruba borrows from Hausa, Igbo borrows from Yoruba, Yoruba borrows from Igbo, Igbo borrows from Hausa, etc. It does not come as a surprise if ancient Igbo slave speakers adopted 'legba' into their lexicon, especially when a worship of the god was widespread on the Island.

And yes, there is an 'Ibo lele' song in Haiti also in remembrance of the Igbo slaves of Haiti. Haiti was one of the first non-african countries to recognize the republic of biafra (made up of mostly Igbo, Ibibio and Ijaw peoples with majority Igbo) in a symbolic extension of ancestral ties to the Igbo people. Jamaicans practice a form of Igbo native doctoring system called 'obeah' (obia/dibia in Igbo) but the belief system has a great part of it originating from the Akan of Ghana).

They also have an 'Ibo dance' in Haiti, I hear."

Comment #8: absoluteSuccess: 11:37am On Apr 06, 2015
..."wo in Yoruba is to move in one accord from place to place in celebration, it is iwo lu or iwode (e-war-day).

But if your pronounciation is Wo as in Woe, that stands for a shout of joy.

Legba is a Fon culture, the Fon ethnic group of Benin republic and Togo, go figure."
This commenter was criticized for suggesting that words in that Caribbean song might have Yoruba sources Here's one of those comments.

Comment #9: by pazienza(m): 5:01pm On Apr 06, 2015
..."the Op specifically mentioned that the people have Beninoise influence, he never mentioned any thing about Yoruba, you are the one forcing the issue, cos as we know, Yoruba is but a tiny minority in Benin republic, the likely hood of Beninoise influence being Yoruba is so small, but that won't still stop you from pushing it now, would it?
AbsoluteSuccess' entire response to this criticism follows:

Comment #10: absoluteSuccess: 5:16pm On Apr 06, 2015
"I am partly Fon, partly Yoruba.

I did not force post is as clear as noon. I am not telling you my conclusion or 'fabrication' as you put it is 'absolute truth'. I am wrong as you can see, but look at the thread and topic, it is open to both Yoruba and Igbo. The thread is not a trophy, but linguistic exercise.

Legba is shared between Fon and Yoruba, another example of such is Ofa (Ifa), Sango, Duduwa (Oduduwa), Gu (Ogun) and Sapata, (Jakuta). Elegba(ra) is Yoruba for devil or Esu, as the Yoruba would say "Ko b'esu b'egba".

I can't say I am right with my interpretation, I don't know what the song sounds like, but as to the written words, you can see I point the Yoruba aspect of the sounds out. I have greater material to offer the public, I don't know why I should be jammed in this duel."

Comment #11: bigfrancis21(m): 9:16pm On Apr 06, 2015
You are absolutely right bruv, my approach was to call attention to dual nature of the song and before I say jack, it has become an ethnic recrimination as if I've stolen the Island of Comoros from world map. God! nairaland is nairaland indeed, every dot is fiercely contested. Yoruba is the second largest group in Benin Rep.

Unfortunately, yorubas were not among the slaves taken to Carriacou. Igbo, Akan and Temne slaves were mostly the ones moved to Carriacou. The op also confirmed this for himself. How the song would suddenly be Yoruba is ludicrous.

The fact that 'legba' is a borrowed word from Fon doesn't make the lyrics Yoruba. The word is a borrowed word from 'Fon'. It was called Ibo nation dance for a reason, not Yoruba nation dance. The same way you would want to hold on to 'legba', you've conveniently chosen to ignore 'ibo' that is all over the song? English language has borrowed several words from spanish, french and latin, that still doesn't stop it from being the language it is. And it acknowledges the fact that it borrowed some of its words. Radoillo, Ezeagu and I all acknowledged Legba is a borrowed word not from Yoruba but from Fon. How you conveniently choose to shorten elegbara to legba just to conveniently claim something not attributed to Yorubas is quite baffling.

Or maybe go ahead and twist some yoruba origin of the words 'unu'/'una' used in Jamaican patois/Nigerian pidgin, or 'awoh', or red ibo etc. used in Jamaica just to satisfy your insatiable quest."
Big francis then extensively quotes my pancocojams post [link given above]

The last comment in this discussion thread features the YouTube video that is embedded below and asks is this the video that the OP (original poster) mentioned in his (or her) comment.

SHOWCASE VIDEO: . Ibole Ibole Woy Yo (Ibo Nation Song)

Cultural Equity Published on Jul 29, 2013

Boula, Elias Mitchell; kòt drum, James "Laka" Moses; Anthony Douglas, foule
Chantwèl, Phyllis Duncan, with chak-chak

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