Poetry

Play Me the Kora: Poems by Unyierie Angela Idem

Original Image © Fotokannan via Flickr

Play Me the Kora

Play me the Kora.
Take me to heavenly heights,
The very essence of the
Strings plucked by the
Deft fingers of a thousand
Djelis rolled into one,
Recounting the history of
Kingdoms erased by time.

Take me to the lands of
Mali, Guinea, Gambia.
Take me to Senegal, Guinea
Bissau, Burkina Faso, Liberia,
Sierra Leone, La Cote d’ Ivoire,
To the lands of my ancestors,
Where the sun never sets, and
The ocean breeze warms my
dark skin.

Take me to the flowing banks
Of the Joliba, its precious
Pearls of rhythm wading
Through the sands of time.
Play me the Kora from
Timbuktu to Mopti; follow
The trade routes of Koulikoro
From Segou through Bamako
As the tides of Kangaba seek
The nurturing hands of
Tembakounda

Bathe me in the sweet sounds
Of Mandinka, Bambara, Dioula,
Malinke fused into wordless
Celestial notes.
Take me to the musicians,
To Jobarteh, Diabate, Kante,
Toumani, Kouyate, Sissoko,
Mamadou, Foday, Diawara,
Ballake, Ablaye, Jegede,
Sidiki, Susso, Sona.

Play me the Kora

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Mboppo

The virginal maiden executes a twist,
Sways her hips to the delight
Of the watching eyes.
Her heavily jeweled legs move
To the rhythm of the drums.
Her first outing since fattening,
To mark her rites of
Passage into womanhood.
The journey has been good;
Her crown of mirrors and
Golden combs tells it all.
Her rounded body, glistening
With years of molding and
Sculpting, completes the cycle.
A symbol of Beauty back in the
Day is now lost in the archives
Of ages forgotten.

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Sabou

Sabou, land of tall ancient minarets.
Echoes of the muezzins’ call to prayer.
Your scorching heat stings like a million
Desert fleas behind the borders of Niger.
Your narrow gutters overflow with
Dark frothy filth onto mud-patched streets.
See your ashen rag-clothed children!
Listen as they chant their daily rounds of begging,
While in stately durbar, turbaned royalty
Parade to the cheers of crowds revelling.
Hear the voices of the silenced at your walls.
Feel the pains of the maidens at your wells,
Touch the worn out hands that ring
The last drop of indigo at your pits.
Who shall restore the Star to its Sahel?

================

Mariama Hotel

A thousand pound bomb,
They said, dug that crater
The size of a football field.
Human flesh flung here and there,
Broken bones and split skulls
Mingled in the cauldron of blood
And earth as steel melted in the
Heat and fortified concrete blocks
Turned into pelting marbles.
Mariama Hotel! The hub of the
Rich and famous, lay in ruins
Of smoldering fire.

The crowd stood nearby,
Shocked and shaken at the
Perpetuation of human evil,
Too fearful to approach, lest
It too got swallowed in
The gaping, solitary abyss.
“Who gave them the right
To do this to us?”

Eyes misted in tears, the nameless
Woman crumbled.
Five mangled bodies were all
That remained of her children.
Had they not played on that
Narrow street by day?
Had they not chased each other,
Squealing with joy as their
Paper planes made somersaulting
Manoeuvres? Was it fate that by
Winged objects would they
Someday sacrifice their lives?

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Poems © Unyierie Idem
Original Image © Fotokannan

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7 Comments

  • I love PLAY ME THE KORA. Partly because I’m addicted to music from SENEGAMBIA. As I read, bbc is playing Salif Keita collabo with Black Mambazo to fight xenophobia in SA.
    Ah, pity you didn’t write me Salif and Man Youssou.
    Give me more…

  • Tindi,
    Thank you for your comments and observation. I wrote “Play Me the Kora” in dedication to the kora players of West Africa (especially the west and central parts). Therefore, I highlighted only those who play the instrument. I know that Salif Keita (Mali) is a famous singer/songwriter and Youssou N’Dour (Senegal) a famous singer and percussionist; I do not know that they are predominantly kora players. Of course, they do feature the instrument in their songs. Also, I left out some other names because one can only go so far with a poem. I picked those I thought would be readily recognizable by an audience that follows the kora tradition. Thanks once again for reading my poems.

  • Sola,
    Thanks a lot for reading my poems; I am glad that you like them. I guess it depends on how one defines “foreign audience”. Actually, all the poems, except “Mariama Hotel”, target an African audience and some specific groups within that broad audience. “Mboppo” and “Sabou”, for example, were written for a Nigerian audience, while “Play Me the Kora” was written for a West African audience (specifically of countries where the kora is a prominent cultural instrument). I would like to believe though that the poems would appeal to any audience, African or not.

    Thanks once again, and keep up the good work.

  • Interesting poems by a talented writer. Mboppo takes down memory lane on stories of the fattening room.