South African folklore songs?
I have stumbled upon a new folklore mystery: conversation-songs in South African folktales.
The various oral traditions in South Africa include a lot of song and music, which is not at all unusual. Lots of fairy and folktales have songs or verses in them, but when they’re being translated and written down they are often turned into normal prose. Because it is very hard to preserve the rhyme and rythm of another language.
I have found two stories that do include the songs, however, and they have a very distinctive use of name repetition for what I presume to be rythmic purposes. Both of these songs are laments, in which the heroine of the story tells of her sad fate:
I gave Gabakoane milk from the tree Koemongo.
Because he is the shepherd of our herd. Koemongo.
Otherwise he would not have led the herd to pasture. Koemongo.
That's why I gave him milk from the miracle tree Koemongo.
Now my father is angry with me. Koemongo.
And he brings me to the man-eaters. Koemongo.
From “The Miracle Tree of Koemongo” (Kosová & Stanovský, 1970), presumably South African, possibly ‘southern African’.
It is crying it is crying, the child of Sihamba Ngenyanga [nickname: the walker by moonlight].
It was done intentionally Sihamba Ngenyanga,
By people whose names are unmentionable. Sihamba Ngenyanga.
They sent her for water during the day. Sihamba Ngenyanga.
She tried to dip with the milk-basket, and then it sank. Sihamba Ngenyanga.
Tried to dip with the ladle, and then it sank. Sihamba Ngenyanga.
Tried to dip with the mantle, and then it sank. Sihamba Ngenyanga.
From “The story of Tangalimlibo” (Theal, 1886), Xhosa people.
But now I’m really curious to know how these were supposed to be sung! Is the repetition of the name for rythm and rhyme, meant to be incorporated in the speech? Or is the audience supposed to chant along when the name is repeated? Or, as my sister suggested, is it a call and answer motif and do the listeners answer the storyteller with the name?
It also makes me wonder if the few South African stories I know that do have a song but that have no repetition have had their repetition cut in the process of translation.
If anyone has more information on this storytelling element and feels like sharing, I’d be very grateful!
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