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Where Rivers Sing A Song: a Poem by Segun Akinlolu (Beautiful Nubia)


Song: I come from a world where rivers sing a song
And every tree has a name
We love the stars, the rivers and the hills
And we know who made them all.
Come into my village
Feel at home my friend
We’ll make you pounded yam
While you sip palmwine
Come leave behind your pre-conceived ideas
Into our world of love…

Come with me friendly stranger
What you wish to teach we already know.
I stand upon the sacred hill of Olumo.
Here valiant warriors baited in unwary enemies
And routed them with a mighty shout,
“Oh holy rock, come once again
To the aid of your children!”
We bathe the rock face with blood;
Let this valley of decomposing bodies
Be our latest offering
To She who watches unseen.
We worship not the silent rock
But the guardian spirit who therein dwells.

Chant: Eni s’oju s’emu (He who makes the eyes and the nose)
Orisa ni ma sin (It is the divinity I will serve)
A da ni b’otiri (He who creates as he wishes)
Orisa ni ma sin (It is the divinity I will serve)
Eni to ran mi wa ( He who sent me here)
Orisa ni ma sin (It is the divinity I will serve)

Listen curious stranger

To the drumming and the singing.
We worship not the squat wooden image
But Orisa-nla
The great spirit who moulds every head.
Oh great divinity, I court your pleasure,
You smile upon a clan and every one is healthy,
You turn away your face
And incomplete joy is the lot of many a mother.
We have come to the grove
Dancing, all in your white of purity.
Your special messengers gleefully gyrate
With a permanent back-pack or a limp,
We have brought your fresh water of the early spring,
All your bloodless meals
Your snails, bitter kola…
We worship not the stone mound
But the great one
Who spread the sand of the earth
And led the way to a new home of beauty.

Come with me to the house of Orunmila
And Ifa, his all-knowing gift to the world
The palace of wisdom
Is but a simple homestead
The seat of knowledge
A tray of sacred palm kernels
Iwaju opon maagbo, eyin opon maagbo
olumu lotun, olokanran losi
Pay attention, oh ye divinities
Serving on both sides of the Almighty!
The gates of heaven are open
At the centre of the divination tray.
Ifa never lies,
Ifa always tells the truth,
The past, the present and the future,
When Ifa speaks good,
The children burst into a joyous song.
Ifa olokun a s’oro eni dayo (Ifa who makes one happy)
Orunmila, great physician,
Heal all our infirmities,
Teach us the tenets of hygiene,
And the road to fulfillment,
To seek the joy of others
And be happy with our lot in the land of our fathers.
The Oracle never lies,
The Oracle is the truth,
The gates of heaven are open
At the centre of the divination tray.

Come, we will branch at the house of Ogun

Chant: Lakaaye, osin imole (He whose influence spreads all over the earth,
chief amongst the divinities.)
Onile owo, olana ola (Owner of the house of money,
owner of the road to wealth.)
Onile kangun-kagun ti mbe lode orun (Owner of the innumerable houses of heaven)
Ogun, even other divinities pay you homage,
You who cleared the way to the unformed world
And rules the path to every shrine.
Ogun bathes with blood,
Hot, flowing, spouting red blood;
May we not walk the road
On the day of your anger,
May we not loiter at the street corner
On the night of your vengeance.
Here great spirit, here is your dog…
We worship not the iron piece stuck in the earth
But he who guides and protects all,
The patron saint of the forge.

Chant: Esu ma se mi (Please Esu do not deal with me)
Omo elomi ni o se (Find someone else to deal with)
Onile orita, gb’ebo o (Lord of the crossroad, accept this offering)
D’oju ota bole! (Grind the enemy’s face in the earth!)
Sit down friend and listen!
Only the foolish stranger
Scorns the crossroads offering.
When the heathen overturn the pots and bowls of Esu,
It is not ours to avenge,
He who toys with Esu
Jokes with his sanity and his life.
Messenger of the Almighty
Criss-crossing heaven and earth a thousand times a day,
It is not your mischief we fear,
It is your awesome powers to unite or dissolve.
Esu, here is your palm oil,
Make us not the butt of jest
In the market place
Make us not material for empty banter
At the palmwine bar.

Come stranger, come with a true son

To the house of fiery Sango.
The evil tremble when the heavens roar.
We, the children of lightning
Sit in reverence of he who rides the rolling thunder
And with fury, hurls stones
At the liar, the murderer, the adulterer.
Our father with the bright shiny eyes none dares behold,
It is not your violence we revere,
It is your courage, your strength
And the cooling rain
That follows each bout of anger.
Sango olukoso!
Let everyone confess that the king never died
He has only transformed into a higher state.
Jakuta, hurler of stones,
The wrath of Olodumare,
May the earth be rid of every evil thought and deed.
Chant: Ile l’amu s’enia (The earth is used to make man)
Ile lo nmu’su jade (The earth brings forth food)
Ile yin na ni nj’enia (This same earth eats up man)
Ile iba re o (Earth, we pay you respect)

Tread carefully stranger

For every earthworm has a face
And every footpath its own tale.
We love the rivers, the seas,
The winding streams that feed every hamlet…
We worship neither the water
Nor the virgin bearing it to the shrine
But our mother who fills the deep
With her luminescence:
Oya, queen of the Niger;
Osun, giver of children;
Yemoja, goddess of waters;
Olokun, lord of the open sea
Whose gentle tread traverses
The rich floors of the ocean,
In your tender arms we lay to sleep,
At your bulging breasts we suck the fluid of life.

Now let there be quiet in this hall of jabbering voices,
It is time for worship!
We bring our offerings,
Sometimes bloody, often bloodless-
It could be cooked, roasted or raw-
Every divinity has his own preference.
We place them at the foot of the image,
The iron rod stuck in the soft earth,
At the mouth of the sea,
Or the crossroads where birds of prey prowl.
We dance joyfully in celebration,
This sacrifice is accepted.
We dance in celebration
Of our lives and our culture.
We love the hills, the valleys, the trees,
All the animals that walk or crawl or climb-
We love all the gifts of the earth.
We love the birds, the stars,
The wind, the rain-
We love all the gifts of the sky.
We love the fishes, the corals,
The crabs, the shrimps
And the fluid that gives life-
We love all the gifts of the waters.
We love the world and the heavens,
We love Olodumare, almighty creator
Whose breath gives life,
Whose light brightens a gloomy world.

Olodumare, Oluwa Olorun Alaaye

Ever living father
Who wields his mighty powers with kindness,
We stand in your circle of ash,
Our kolanuts reach to the heavens-
Bless our path father of all, guide our destiny.
It is not the wood we worship
But the reflection of your eternity,
It is you ruler of the heavens and the earth,
Master of the one thousand, seven hundred divinities
You, whose shrine is in our hearts.

The Oracle never lies
The Oracle always tells the truth
The gates of heaven are open
At the centre of the divination tray…

(c) Segun Akinlolu

Segun Akinlolu
Segun Akinlolu
Segun Akinlolu is a performance-poet, a singer who strums along to a guitar as he chants his poetry to audiences across continents. A graduate of veterinary medicine from the University of Ibadan, Akinlolu is the author of Waiting For The Bones (1997) and Thinking Big (2000). The latter is a recommended text for high schools in Lagos, Nigeria. Also known as Beautiful Nubia, a name under which he has recorded three music albums (Seven Lifes, Voice From Heaven and Jamgbalajugbu), he has been twice nominated for the South African Kora All-Africa Music Awards. A member of The League of Canadian Poets, The Songwriters Association of Canada and the Association of Nigerian Authors, he has been featured in several anthologies, including 25 New Nigerian Poets. He is also the author of a poetry CD titled On A Cold Evening.

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