Featured Weedduu

The Work Song (Solidarity Song)-‘Weedduu Hujii’

Oral literature as human product must serve the interest of the people who produced it. Its effective function makes it possible for them to come in terms with the new direction of the world in which they find themselves. One of the major purposes of any form of literary work is that it offers pleasure or what we call mental solace. I say solace because it relieves us of various social pressures, stresses and tensions. As far as the physical condition of work is concerned, the cooperative song (daboo or jigii) helps to create enthusiasm for the work and lift up the spirits so that the members will be relieved from boredom.

The solidarity song of the Oromo is obviously intended to make the work of the day more entertaining and delightful. If a society is to exist as a unity, its members must share values, which define the distinctive feature of that society. The Oromo emphasize the importance of collective work because it is believed to enhance a deep sense of friendship, social solidarity and common purpose. Through co-operative work, people develop collective interests and feelings.

This part deals with a special type of verse narrative, which has a specific purpose on certain occasions. The Oromo are known for their solid social and cultural ties and corporate identities, which are fundamental to them. Besides the material and ideal interests characterized by corporate affiliations, most activities in the society are carried out on a highly organized co-operative level. In pastoral nomadic areas, like the Borana, Gujii and Karrayou, the temporary settlements (godaansa) are organized by the relatives, lineage, or by the neighbour group (ollaa).

Likewise, among the agriculturist Oromo, ploughing farmland (qotiinsa) and harvesting (dhawaa/haamaa) are organized on a communal and co-operative basis. The popular Oromo saying, ‘jiruun koo jiruu keeti, jiruun kee jiruu kooti,’ literally, “my existence is your existence and your existence is my existence” depicts the sharing of common concern and values. The perfect social order and acceptable cultural standards are maintained through egalitarian patterning. Thus, in a work song, forging a bond of intimacy, brotherhood and corporate identity underscores the role-relationship.

The work poem is an expression of people’s collective character. It is sung during cooperative activities such as aramaa “weeding,” haamaa fi dhawaa “harvesting and threshing,” mana ijaarsa “building houses,” qotiinsa “ploughing,” etc., in rural areas where agricultural activities provide the special occasion for such work poetry. It is mainly aiming at creating enthusiasm for the work and to motivate members of the co-operative group. This is to say, it avoids monotonous labor and facilitates friendly competitive situation.

The rhythmic beat of work song not only keeps the verses together, but also creates a strong feeling of competition and excitement which help the members of the co-operative work keep their places and move forward together in balance without lagging behind or faltering. In this friendly way of mutual assistance and belonging together, any hard work will be easily done with excessive speed; and the members of the ‘daboo’ or ‘jigii’ (co-operative or joint work) themselves enjoy the importance of the song for the mere fact that it adds both efficiency and delight.  The daboo group will generally be more active and co-operative if the view of each member is taken seriously.
In the Oromo solidarity setting, there are singers who are also leaders of the daboo group, the soloist basweda;” and the song is sung in the form of chorus qabjala,”-the singer starts and then everyone joins in the chorus after each verse. The daboo occasion is quite interesting because it helps promote a sense of unity of purpose. It is an activity, which reinforces a sense of deep affection and understanding among the people. On top of creating a happy and friendly atmosphere, the co-operative members are served plenty of food and drink twice a day. Thus, the daboo occasion as a symbol of collective action is also euphoric period in rural Oromiyaa.

Basweda: gaafa iyyaa, oo’hoo

Qabjala: iyya fardaa fi lafoo (?)

Basweda: malkaan tiyyaa, oo’hoo

Qabjala: iyya fardaa fi lafoo (?)

Basweda: ani warroomaaf sihilee hin warwaattaa yaboo

Soloist: oh, on the day of a calling for campaigning

Chorus: a call for campaigning on horses’ back and on foot (?)

Soloist: oh, the riverbed is mine

Chorus: a call for campaigning on horses’ back and on foot (?)

Soloist: you are my relative, and so I am less severe with you; you will plead for

mercy, please

Basweda: Kurru Kurruu, oo’hoo

Qabjala: iyya fardaa fi lafoo (?)

Basweda: murruu hin turruu, oo’hoo

Qabjala: iyya fardaa fi lafoo (?)

Basweda: ani warroomaaf sihilee hin warwaattaa yaboo

Soloist: oh, Kurru Kurruu

Chorus: a call for campaigning on horses’ back and on foot (?)

Soloist: if we cut fast, we will not waste more time

Chorus: a call for campaigning on horses’ back and on foot (?)

Soloist: you are my relative, and so I am less severe with you; you will

plead for mercy, please

The repetition of certain phrases or words in Oromo solidarity song is meant for the intensification of meanings and emphasizing the core genres which reinforce their efforts. The choral singing in response to the protagonist figure (character) is common in the performance of such song and it appears to be a prominent feature of the solidarity poem throughout Oromiyaa. The choral response technique aims at motivating the audience and makes them participate more actively in the work.

“Emotions vary according to seasonal and atmospheric changes since all phenomena are mutually resonant. Things call to one another….Poetry is a response to this call and is seen as a literal reaction to the external world of which he is an integral part” (Koelb, 1988: 170). A poetry is a natural utterance having a timeless quality. It does not merely occur in a particular circumstance, but must be understood as being a response to that very circumstance. This means, in a critical literary discourse, like poetry, the social and historical context always encompasses the narrative in a particular occasion and the impulse of the poet here is to secure its permanent existence.

He/she does this by locating appropriately the image within the putative original. The daboo poetry is part of Oromo co-operative movement of the Gadaa tradition, which is viewed as the centre of perfect social harmony. It is the basis for solving social and economic problems and facilitator of national feelings and democratic outlook. In the above poems (1-2), the recurring humorous expressions, iyya fardaa fi lafoo, ani warrummaaf sihilee, and hin warwaattaa

yaboo are chanted to create competitive condition and show the necessity of co-operation in times of need on the one hand, to warn those members of the daboo group (members of the co-operative) who falter on the other. If a member of the daboo fails to demonstrate genuine endeavor and active participation in the work of others, obviously, he will not receive their generous help at the time when he organizes his daboo or jigii. Words such as iyya “call for/cry,” farda “horse” and lafoo “on foot” in the context of these poems reveal the urgent call for co-operative action.
In times of adversity as for instance during war and natural disaster, the Oromo have a unifying image known as iyya fardaa fi lafoo, meaning an emergency call for national solidarity. The folk artist reminds us of this historic event, the time when the people respond to the call either by riding on horses’ back or by travelling on their foot. During the ritual festivals such as the Thanksgiving Ceremonies, large public gathering usually takes place at the malkaa (riverbed), which according to the tradition allegorizes blessing, success, prosperity and unity.

It is, therefore, on the basis of its cultural prominence that the narrator has mentioned this central image which signifies collective success. The poetic expression gaafa iyyaa (poem one, line one) is alluded to the daboo day, which is a crucial day for the farmer; and the poet has used malkaa tiyya-“the riverbed is mine” (poem one, line three), shows the collective success, common good and the fruitful effort the members of the co-operative share.

Basweda: eegee, eegee leenca magaalaa, reeboo’hoo

Qabjala: reeboo’hoo

Basweda: eegii, eegii, darbadhu bonjaan hin waraanaa

Soloist: the tail, the tail of the brown lion, chase and catch

Chorus: chase and catch

Soloist: be watchful, be watchful in throwing so that the spear will hit the target

Basweda: abbaa duulaa, reeboo’hoo

Qabjala: reeboo’hoo

Basweda: eegee, eegee leenca magaalaa, reeboo’hoo

Qabjala: reeboo’hoo

Basweda: eegii, eegii darbadhu bonjaan hin waraanaa

Soloist: the leader of the campaign, chase and catch

Chorus: chase and catch

Soloist: the tail, the tail of the brown lion, chase and catch

Chorus: chase and catch

Soloist: be watchful, be watchful in throwing so that the spear will hit the target

Basweda: guchii Nuuraa, reeboo’hoo

Qabjala: reeboo’hoo

Basweda: eegii, eegii darbadhu bonjaan hin waraanaa

Soloist: the ostrich of Nuuraa, chase and catch

Chorus: chase and catch

Soloist: be watchful, be watchful in throwing so that the spear will heat the target

In poems 3-5, leenca magaala “brown lion” is a clarifying allusion that represents the dried crop or grain which is an interesting challenge of the day; whereas the term reeboohoo “chase and catch” stands for the movement and action of cutting. The recurring word reeboo is derived from the word reebuu (to attack or assault). The allusive language eegee “the tail” is a representation of a long stalk of the crops or grains. The statement, eegii darbadhu bonjaan hin waraanaa is used to emphasize the effort to be made for pacing up with the time and the accuracy of achieving the intended objective. It is an attempt to encourage the members of the cop-operative group to work hard in order to achieve the intended common purpose. The word bonjaa, literally “a big spear” as illustrating allusion is to refer to a sickle, which the daboo group uses as a weapon for cutting crops or weeds.

The use of the indirect reference guchii Nuuraa “the ostrich of Nuuraa” is an attempt to describe the protagonist actor of the day. The work song as a symbol of oneness is functionally different from other oral narratives in terms of relationship to the work they accompany. The joint singing in the daboo strengthens the unity of the members and organizes their collective work so as to encourage them feel and work as active members of the group rather than as a solitude individual.

The function of the recurring expressions, iyya fardaa fi lafoo, literally “a call for campaigning on horses’ back and on foot” and reeboo’oo “chase and catch,” is mainly to encourage collaboration, energize people to work hard and keep them fresh so that they move faster with strong feeling of excitement and interest. This is how the Oromo work song as part of the common good of the society plays an important role in creating pleasure and moral incentives for cooperative activities.

A co-operative activity is essential to effective community work. It facilitates more socialization process, harmonious relations, and promotes the spirit of belonging together to produce collective benefits. The same kind of mood of recreational and light-hearted enjoyment is evident in many Oromo work songs. Through co-operative endeavor people share common values, acquire unshakeable social life, learn how to accept others and develop a sense of genuine nationhood.

The above excerpt is taken from Eshete Gemeda’s PhD Dissertation : African Egalitarian Values and Indigenous Genres: The Functional and Contextual Studies of Oromo Oral Literature in a Contemporary Perspective, Syddansk Universitet, 2008

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