Thursday, March 30, 2017

Apoo Insult Songs From R. S. Rattray's 1922 Book "Ashanti"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of pancocojams series on anthropologist R. S. Rattray's documentation of Ghana's Apoo festival in his 1923 book Ashanti.

Part II of this series features examples of women's Apoo songs that R. S. Rattray transcribes in his 1923 book Ashanti. Information about R. S. Rattray is given in Part I of this series.

Click for Part I provides information about R. S. Rattray and reproduces a small portion of a chapter of Rattray's book Ashanti that describes part of the "Apo" festival that he experienced in 1922.

Also, click for a pancocojams post that serves as background for and an introduction to these pancocojams "Apoo festival" posts.

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

Excerpts from this hard to find books are reproduced in this blog in order to help preserve and disseminate that information and commentary. I encourage this blog's readers read that entire book, if possible.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to R.S. Rattray for his anthropological research and thanks to all those who celebrated Apoo as documented in this book.

Note: The spelling “Ashanti" was used up until the late 20th century when it was changed to the spelling "Asante".

The term "Apo" is spelled "Apoo" now.

Click for Part I of that series.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.


p. 155

"That afternoon bands composed entirely of women

p. 156
ran up and down the long, wide street, with a curious lolloping, skipping step, singing apo songs. Later, I got them to sing them into my phonograph. Space forbids me printing these songs in the original, so I give an English translation alone.

The god, Ta Kese, says if we have anything to speak, let us speak it,
For by so doing we are removing misfortune from the nation.

Your head is very large,
And we are taking the victory out of your hands,
O King, you are a fool.
We are taking the victory out of your hands
O King, you are impotent.
We are taking the victory out of your hands.

They know nothing about guns,
The Ashanti know nothing about guns.
Had they known about guns
Would they have let the white man seize
King Prempeh and Ya Akyaa (1) without firing a gun?

Ae! ae! ae!
Buabas is a proper fool
Since the Creator created all things
They (i.e. the kings of Ashanti) came from Adum, they who
were to succeed (to the throne of Coomassie).
They did no come from Pinanko who were to succeed,
But these days it seems that they come from Pinanko who are
to succeed,
Oh Buabasa is a proper fool.
He causes the nation to be destroyed (2).

Aframa (3) who bore ten children
Her song was Yaa Dwete,
Father eats his yams, but the people of
Nkoranza eat their cassava.
As for us, we eat our yams while the people of Nkoranza eat
their cassava.

Grandfather Ta Kora is like a cat,
He is not the pet of one person alone.

1. Ya Akyaa, the Queen mother of Coomassie, died in exile in the Seychelles.
2. Until the reign and banishment of King Prempeh (1896) all the Kings of Ashanti had lived in that part of Coomassie called Adum. When Prempeh was banished, I was informed, we put one, Buabasa (Opoku Mensa) to look afer Coomassie and he lived in that part of the town called Pinanko.

2. Aframa. The first Queen Mother of Tekiman.


Did I buy and give you to eat
That when they were leading me away
You should laugh at me?
These times have changed O Kojo Fojo,
O Kojo Fojo, these times have changed.

Ashanti, what do you here?
Do you taboo your own country?
Kon! kon! kon!
Your father and your mother. (1)

We made scaled for the Ashanti porcupines.
They only used them to cheat us.

We are casting stones at Ati Akosua (a god).
The leopard Gya, the King’s child,
We are casting stones at him.
How much more shall we cast stomes
At the child of the bush cat?

(From this song it would appear that even the gods come in for some of the general abuse.)

The Ashanti people may be the children of slaves.
The King of Ashanti may have bought them, but he did not buy us.

All is well to-day.
We know that a Brong man eats rats,
But we never knew that one of the royal blood eats rats.
But to-day we have seen our master Ansah (2), eating rats.
To-day all is well and we may say so, say so, say so.
All other times we many not say so, say so, say so.

Do you people know the child who is the head of this town?
The child who is head of this town is called ‘The helpful one”.
When he buys palm wine he helps himself to the pot as well.“

To-day he has risen up.
We are the Creator’s stars.
When we come out then some one of importance has come out.
(Song by the young ‘royals’.)

We are the useless sponges,
But we shall be called in the day of necessity.
(answering song by the villagers.)

[Notes] 1. Ta Kora, the great god of Ashanti. It must be remembered that the Ashanti conquered the Tekiman people; most of these songs are directed against the former. To adjure your father and mother would ordinarily be considered a terrible insult. In my entourage were several Ashanti from Mampon and Coomassie, and many of their songs were in their honour.

2. Mr. Ansah was my typist and clerk."

This concludes this pancocojams series.

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