By Carl Llewellyn

African music has become popular with choirs in England and Wales in latter years, and over a period of time various African choirs have appeared at Llangollen International Eisteddfod. This platform gave them an opportunity to demonstrate their musical and dance culture. The audience, whether in attendance at the venue or viewed the event on the TV, were able to hear the African music, giving them an appreciation of the lyrical melodies. Richard Attenborough’s film “Cry Freedom” is another prime example of African mantras.

Darya Brill Williams, the choir’s Musical Director recently chose one African song, originally brought to choir by former Musical Director David Last. It is called “Nigerian Highlife song”. The melody was composed by Robert Bucknor and arranged by Mike Brewer, and became famous in the 1960’s by Victor Uwaifo. It has rhythmic energy that propels the music and stirs the human spirit, enhanced by the clapping of hands and occasional gestures of pulling arms towards the torso.

It has always been a characteristic of mine to understand the music and what the lyrics convey to the listener. Regarding the “Nigerian Highlife song”, I was mystified; my conversation with David Last managed to some what allay my inquisition to a degree, and although English is the official language in Nigeria, the words of the song come from the Yoruba language spoken in the western part of Nigeria.

An explanation of the translation enlightened my curiosity:

“O-re-mi” means a “Friend”

“Jek a jo” means to come dance with me rhythmically

“Baba mi”, refers to my father

“Aya mi”, refers to my world

Using a poetic licence, my inclination and interpretation of the song describes an invitation from a person to a friend to come and join them in a dance, and participate in the rhythmic shindig, praising their Friend, the almighty Father, and lastly the World.

Picture if you will a tribal gathering, a late night bonfire glowing, and rows of tribal men, calling upon their compatriots, friends, or fellow warriors to come unite in dance, as they enter into the spirit gestures of the hands, displayed in unison.

I noticed Mike Brewer’s arrangement uses the musical term “Round”, when sections repeat a verse following on from another section of the choir, similarly a continuous musical circle.

Keep a look out for the Choir singing this soon…

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