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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

English Lyrics For Two Late 1950s Nigerian Jùjú Songs: J. O. Araba's "The Swamp" & J. O. Oyesiku's "This Is The Matter, In Abundance".

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a a two part pancocojams series on Nigeria's Jùjú music.

Part II presents some history of Jùjú music and quotes an excerpt from the 1990 book JuJu: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music by Christopher Alan Waterman. That excerpt provides information about the mid to late 1950s stylistic branch of Jùjú music called "Toy Motion" and includes two English translated lyrics of songs from that branch of Jùjú music: J. O. Araba and His Rhythm Blues "The Swamp" and
J.O. Oyesiku and His Rainbow Quintette, Excerpt from "This Is The Matter, In Abundance".

Note that J. O. Araba, the composer/performer of one of the songs that is featured in one of the showcased YouTube examples in Part I of this series, is also the composer of one of the songs that is showcased in Part II of this series.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2017/12/some-information-about-five-youtube.htmlfor Part I of this series. Part I presents some general information about Jùjú music and showcases five YouTube examples of that music.

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

Thanks to J. O. Araba and J. O. Oyesiku for the for their musical legacies. Thanks to the founders and all other innovators and performers of Jùjú music. Thanks to Christopher Alan Waterman and all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

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INFORMATION ABOUT JUJU MUSIC
From https://www.allmusic.com/style/juju-ma0000002646/songs
"Juju has been the most consistently popular musical style in Nigeria over the last half of the 20th century, with roots in the traditional, mostly drum-based music of the Yoruba (one of Nigeria's largest ethnic groups). In its fully developed form, juju is a dance music played by large ensembles centered around guitar and percussion: several guitarists play interlocking, complex melodies over a thundering wall of rhythm, led by traditional Yoruba talking drums (whose heads can be tightened or loosened while they're being played, in order to change the drum's pitch and more closely mimic human speech patterns). Lyrics are important as well, drawing upon the large storehouse of Yoruba oral tradition -- poetry, proverbs, praise songs -- and the inherently musical qualities of the language, in which the meaning of some words changes with different pitches.

Early juju music, which emerged as far back as the 1920s, was essentially an intersection between Yoruba drumming and the socially oriented, string-based palm-wine style, which developed in the drinking houses at the time and influenced highlife music as well. Pioneers like Tunde King and Ojoge Daniel made the first juju recordings during the early '30, but while they achieved a measure of popularity, juju didn't really become a sensation until after World War II, with the advent of electric amplification. Tunde Nightingale was the first real juju star, and during the mid-'50s, he was eclipsed by the legendary I.K. Dairo, who greatly expanded the ensemble (from four musicians to around ten) and became the first juju artist to feature talking drums, electric guitars, and accordion -- essentially shaping the sound of the music into its most widely known form.

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Ade both began performing around the mid-'60s, and the rivalry that developed between the two during the '70s became a period of intense creative fertility for juju music. Releasing several albums per year, each constantly attempted to outdo the other by expanding their bands, adding new instruments (including keyboards and Hawaiian steel guitars), and increasing the lengths of their songs (each new innovation was dubbed a different "system," spawning hundreds of imitators around Yoruba territory).

At the dawn of the '80s, both Obey and Ade brought their music to the international stage, the former with his 1980 album Current Affairs, and the latter by signing to Island for 1982's Juju Music. In contrast to the more conservative Obey, Island hyped Ade as the inheritor of Bob Marley's populist mantle, but when Ade's follow-ups Synchro System and Aura failed to perform up to commercial expectations, he was dropped from the label. Although Ade and Obey continued to command sizable audiences, the mid-'80s brought a general decline in juju's fortunes. Young Nigerians had begun listening to juju-influenced pop music, and the more percussion-oriented fuji style had begun to capture a share of the market as well. Both Obey and Ade continued to record into the '90s, although on a smaller scale and with less regularity (partly due to an increasingly strict governmental regime)."
-snip-
This complete article was reformatted for this pancocojams post.

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EXCERPT: "JUJU: A SOCIAL HISTORY AND ETHNOGRAPHY OF AN AFRICAN POPULAR MUSIC"
by Christopher Alan Waterman (The University of Chicago Press, 1990)

[page] 96
"Toy Motion
Toy Motion was another important stylistic branch of juju, popular in the mid-late 1950s. “Toy” (also a term for marijuana) drew upon earlier traditions such as prewar juju and palmwine guitar music. Two Yoruba musicians, members of the skilled African work force established in Lagos during the interwar period, were particularly important in its development. Julius Oredola Araba (born in Lagos, 24 May 1922) and Joseph Olanrewaju Oyesiku (born in Abeokuta, 17 November 1913) were the sons of Christian mission-educated families; and both became skilled technicians for the colonial railway and members of the oldest effective labor union in Nigeria. They were cosmopolitan, educated men approaching middle age, with rich life experiences derived in part from their mobile occupation. Oyesiku served in the Nigerian Forces, traveling to East Africa and Burma, and resided in London for a period in the early 1960s,; Araba’s career included a lightweight boxing title, from which he derived the nickname “Speedy”.

These men didn’t rely upon musical performances for their subsistence. Their musical ideology combined the carefree attitude of the stereotypical palmwine guitarist (“Life is a temporary appointment,” as Araba puts it) and the disciple and refinement of the skilled artisan. Musicians such as Tunde King and Ambrose Campbell, early member of the Jolly Orchestra who left Nigeria for London during the 1940s, and whose songs

[page] 97
are described by Araba as “superb”, functioned as role models for the Toy Motion players. They regarded the juju groups formed by recent Yoruba migrants as technically inept, and composed primarily of illiterates motivated by economic rather than aesthetic considerations.

The juju music produced by an expanding population of “overnight musicians” in Lagos and other Yoruba cities was measured against memories of the clarity and grace of the Jolly Orchestra and the articulate “sermons” of Tunde King. Araba and Oyesiku both appear to have regarded the new juju style as symbolic of undesirable social change.

[...]

Another point of difference between Toy and the dominant large-

[page] 98
ensemble juju style was related to the ambivalent status of praise musicians. While the new juju bands working in Lagos and other cities sang praise lyrics in return for cash donations from their upwardly mobile patrons, Toy musicians regarded the praising of nouveau riche Yoruba patrons as a form of begging. The proper role of the musician, from their perspective, was not to pander to the wealthy, but to provide philosophical commentary on everyday life, and reveal the misdeeds of flawed characters. One Yoruba highlife musician, interviewed in 1967 by Charles Keil, stated that Araba and Oyesiku were “big men with other jobs” who did not have to play at urban hotels and only took a few engagements a year. His admiration for Toy Motion was based upon two criteria: their use of “correct scales”, as opposed to most juju guitarist, who “only tune their guitar to their voice”; and, second, their refined “compositions”, a term associated with Western musical practice (Keil 1966-67: 151-153).

The two following texts illustrate the ethical focus of Toy Motion songs:"

[Pancocojams Editor: In this book these English translations were given after the Yoruba words. I'm showcasing the English translations because I'm unable to properly type the non-English words. Those lyrics -without the accent marks- are given below in the Addendum to this post.]

"J. O. Araba and His Rhythm Blues “Poto Poto” (The Swamp) recorded in Lagos , 1957, Phillips 82911.2

[pages] 98-99

The swamp has crossed the road, anyone who gets splashed
with mud should forgive us , oh
The swamp has crossed the road, anyone who gets splashed
with mud should forgive us , oh
These words are like the proverb of the elders, please forgive us, oh.

If you have money, if you have money
Don’t follow the prostitutes in Lagos town.
If they eat with you, if they drink with you,
If the money runs out, they will say, “Leave, friend!”
If they eat with you, if they drink with you,
If the money runs out, they will say, “Leave, friend!”

If you have money, if you have money
You are a wealthy man in Lagos town, you are the leader of a
Muslim association in Lagos town
If the world eats with you, if the world drinks with you,
If the money runs out they will say, leave, friend”.
If the world eats with you, if the world drinks with you,
If the money runs out they will say, leave, friend”.

The swamp has crossed the road, anyone who gets splashed
with mud should forgive us, oh!"

[pages] 99-100]
"J. O. Oyesiku and His Rainbow Quintette, Excerpt from “Oro Re O Repete: (“This Is The Matter, In Abundance”), Recorded in Lagos, 1958, Phillips 82050

This is the matter [i.e., the topic for discussion], this is the
matter, this is the matter, in abundance
This is the matter, this is the matter, this is the matter, in abundance

As she was gossiping all over the place, as she was gossiping
all over the place
The wind came and carried her head-tie away, the wind came
And carried her head-tie away
The money fell and got lost, then the earrings fell and got lost
The the cloth [tied around the woman’s body] fell and get lost,
the baby fell to the ground.

This is the matter, this is the matter, this is the matter, in
abundance
This is the matter, this is the matter, this is the matter, in
abundance

In gossiping wife, there is no enjoyment at all
It generally brings misfortune.
It generally causes a house to fall into ruins
It generally causes one to be ashamed
It generally spoils the house

This is the matter, this is the matter, this is the matter, in
abundance
This is the matter, this is the matter, this is the matter, in
abundance"
-snip-
Pancocojams Editor's Notes:
All of the words in this text are as they are found in Christopher Alan Waterman's book, including the author's lyric explanations which he placed in brackets.

According to what I've learned online (in articles, comments, and certain YouTube videos), the Yoruba word "oh" at the end of a sentence is used to emphasize what was said, and doesn't have the same meaning as the English word "oh".

In the second song, the first word that is given as "the" in the line "The the cloth [tied around the woman’s body] fell and get lost" is probably a typo for the word "then".

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ADDENDUM: THE NON-ENGLISH WORDS TO THESE FEATURED SONGS
Pancocojams Editor's Note:
These words are given without the accent marks etc. as they are given in this book.

I attempted to translate these words using Google translate's feature, but the results were mostly gibberish. I wonder if these words are both Yoruba and Nigerian Pidgin English.

Here are the non-English words as I attempted to copy them from JuJu: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music by Christopher Alan Waterman.

J. O. Araba and His Rhythm Blues “Poto Poto” (The Swamp) recorded in Lagos , 1957, Phillips 82911.2

[pages] 98-99

"Poto-poto daanon l’abata, enti da si l’ara k’o forijin wa-o-e
Poto-poto daanon l’abata, enti da si l’ara k’o forijin wa-o-e
Oro yii wa dabi owe eyin agabagba, e jowo e forijin wa-o-e

B’o ba l’owo l;owo, b;o l’owo l’owo
Ma tel asewo ilu Eko
Ti won b aba e je, ti won b aba e mu
T owo ba ton won a ni ki-o “jade pre!”
Ti won b aba e je, ti won b aba e mu
Ti owo ba ton won a ni ki-o “jade ore!”

B’o ba l’ owo l;owo, b’o ba l;owo l;owo
Olola ni e ni igboro Eko, saraki ni e ni igboro Eko
B’aye b aba e je, b aye b aba e mu
T’ owo ba ton won a ni ki-o “jade ore!”
B aye ba ba e je, b aye b ba e mu
T owo ba ton won a ni ki-o “jade ore!”

Poto-poto daanon l’abata, enit aa si l’ara k o forijin wa-o-e"

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[pages] 99-100
J.O. Oyesiku and His Rainbow Quintette, Excerpt from “Oro Re O Repete: (“This Is The Matter, In Abundance”), Recorded in Lagos, 1958, Phillips 82050

"Oro re o, oro re o. oro re o repete
Oro re o, oro re o. oro re o repete

Nibi t o gbe nse ofofo kiri, nibi t o gbe nse ofofo kiri
tegun wa fe gele lo, ategun wa fe gele lo
Owo ba ja bo sonun, yeri wa ja bo sonun
Aso waa ja bo sonun, omo ba ja s’ ile

Oro re o, oro re o. oro re o repete
Oro re o, oro re o. oro re o repete

Ninu ofofo sise iyawo ko si igbadun rara
Ibi lo maa nkoba ni
O ma nso ile di ahoro
Oju lo maa nda ti ni
O maa nba ike je-o

Oro re o, oro re o. oro re o repete
Oro re o, oro re o. oro re o repete"

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This concludes Part II of this two part pancocojams series.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

5 comments:

  1. I'm not going to attempt to provide any analysis of these two featured songs, but I welcome others who are familiar with Yoruba culture to do so.

    I will, however, say that I chose to highlight these two songs out of other song lyrics given in that 1990 book on Juju music because I like these lyrics- unfortunately, I've not been able to find the songs themselves online.

    I particularly like the "deepness" of J.O. Araba's lyrics "The swamp has crossed the road, anyone who gets splashed with mud should forgive us."

    Also, as something of an aside, the line "This is the matter, this is the matter, this is the matter, in abundance" in J. O. Oyeshiku's song really reminds me of the title "This Is A Serious Matter" that is one of the signature songs/chants for the first historically Black (university based) Greek lettered sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

    Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/08/alpha-kappa-alpha-sorority-inc-this-is.html for a pancocojams post about that song/chant. But, other than that title & repeated words and the fact that they both offer social commentary, Oyeshiku's juju song and the AKA sorority song have nothing in common.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Greetings and thanks for such a brilliant write up. I've had Prof Waterman's book for about 20 years and in my opinion, it's the most detailed study of Juju music anywhere. It's a work of genius and love. I'm also a native Yoruba speaker and even for me some of the lyrics are pretty deep. I understand them and know quite well what they mean but unfortunately, they also require context. The context relates to knowledge of Yoruba culture, history, religions and social mores. It's a tough thing for a non native speaker to fully grasp. In fact, some native speakers also don't get the full effect of the lyrics. Anyways, both Araba and Oyesiku were amazing musicians and chroniclers of their time. I've been researching African music for a minute and there are tons more to be explored. Cheers

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Anonymous.

      I'm glad that you found this blog post. I'm glad that I happened upon this book in one of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's public libraries (in the Homewood neighborhood, an almost all Black population community).

      I hope that you will share more information about African music here or elsewhere online (and then share the link here). I and other people are interested in learning about the rich musical cultures in Africa.

      One love and keep on keeping on.

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    2. Fantastic. I'm actually in contact with Prof Waterman and i've been sure to let him know how influential his book has been in my life. I will chime in every now and then to share whatever knowledge i have. If you have any specific questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I'd be happy to contribute. Cheers.

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    3. I mentioned that I found a copy of Professor Waterman's book on JuJu music at a Carnegie library in a Black neigbhorhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there are copies in some other branches of Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh-especially in the main branch which has a very good music section.

      Please give my regards to Professor Waterman. I was very impressed with his book.

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