Thursday, September 30, 2010

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PRAISE POEMS OF THE MASEKO AND JELE NGONI

  • Thursday, September 30, 2010
  • Samuel Kadyakale
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  • By Margaret Read.
    Excerpt from 'Songs of The Ngoni People'.

    Praise songs of chiefs and great men are so well known in South Africa that it is unnecessary to explain them at length here. In Nyasaland the Ngoni are unique in possessing praise songs, some of which go back seven or eight generations. These praise songs are today " chanted " on state occasions before the chiefs, and the tradition persists of handing them on. The izibongo, or praise songs proper, belong to a group of songs which have no music but which are " chanted " in a kind of recitative, which only a few people know how to do. Other songs in this group are the izithokozo or thanking names, and the izigiyo which the warrior shouts when coming forward in his own solo dance during the umgubo dance. All people who have any claim to distinction possess izithokozo and izigiyo, but the izibongo appear to be only for chiefs of the royal house and a few other distinguished nobles whose houses in the past were near to, if not actually, royalty.

    There are certain features in these praise songs to which it is worth calling attention in order to make comparisons with the similar group of songs in the south. In the first place, the phrasing and the words of the praise songs of the line of Paramount Chiefs vary in different districts. In Mwambera's country for example, one "pattern" of praise song is heard in Ekwendeni, another in Elangeni, in each the pattern being standardised unless a very brilliant umbongi or praiser added a phrase from his own isifua. In the second place sarcastic or even insulting remarks are sometimes found in praise songs. I am told they were permitted because no one could possibly believe them, "that is, it was, a form of high praise to say ludicrous things about a chief which could not be true. In the third place, some of the praise songs were " telescoped," praises of an earlier chief being included in those of a later one. As however this is the first time any of these praises have been recorded in writing, this " telescoping " may be a fault of the recorder.

    I am including here four sets of praise songs, in three of which there are alternative forms. It is interesting to see what a degree of variation was reached, and it may be possible in comparison with praise songs in the south to find out some principles of composition of these praise songs with their variations. It may be on the other hand that, "the spirit bloweth where it listeth," and isifua must have its way, and eloquence its own poetic licence.

    The arrangement of the sentences will be familiar to anyone who has listened to praise songs. The beginning of each sentence (marked with a capital letter) is on a high note, generally rallentando, and the notes descend to the end of the sentence, and are held again on the last note.

    (I) Ngoni : " Izibongo zikaNgwana1 kaGoqweni "

    Bayethe baba !
    Bayethe Nkosi !
    Bayethe Gumethe !
    Inkosi yelizwe lonke
    Wena umzukhulu kaNgwana, kaGoqweni
    Wena kaSongobe zamakhanda, kuyâmbatha amashoba ezinyamazana.
    Wena wadabuka kwaShaka ebenkundla zitha, amachamani ngesidaba soluthuli.2
    Wena wakwaMdladla uBanjwa, oBanjwa ngaMasokani.
    Umzukhulu kaNaNqongwane3kaGoqweni
    Wena okwenda okumnyama.
    Wena osilo sabantu.
    Wena ingudlangudla4inkunzi yamalanga.
    Owaphuza ubende lwezinkomo.
    Owabekwa ndawonye nezintaba.
    Liyasha, liyasha ungenampendulo.

    English : " Praise of Ngwana son of Goqweni."

    Hail father !
    Hail Chief !
    Hail Gumethe !
    Chief of the whole country.
    You the grandchild of Ngwana son of Goqweni
    You the son of Songobe of the military villages, clothed with armlets of wild animals.
    You who came from among Shaka's people. Shaka who was the milking place of his enemies, the calf skin for the kilt of Lutuli.
    You of the Mdladla who was captured, who was captured of Masokana.
    The grandchild of Na-Nqongwane daughter of Goqweni. You whose marriage had sad omens.
    You the wild beast of the people.
    You the biggest of all other bulls.
    You who drink the blood of cattle.
    You who wast placed together with the mountains.
    The sun is blazing, is blazing, and you do not answer.

    (2) Ngoni : " Izibongo kaNgwana, kaGoqweni noGoqweni."

    Wena owajub' imithi wajub' imiyomo5
    Wena ontethe vuyana wahlom' izinsiba zezintethe.
    Owaya phansi wakhwela phezulu, wayokuthabath' inkwenkwezi yokusa.
    Hamba wena lokhu bakwalakho, uyokuthabatha amashoba ezinyamazana: ezinkomo anombeyebeye.6
    Wena ukumbuyana umyandana wakadeni.
    Kuyehla wayehla ndawonye nezintaba.
    Wena wasel' ubende7bezinkomo.
    Wena waqhamukana naboShaka, uShaka kaMbelebele.
    Wena waghamukana naboNyathi ekaMashaane : eladuma lasibekela.
    Izinkomo ezapheya ngamaganyazana.
    Wena wadabukana8 naboMzilikazi
    Wena wadafiukana naboMpakana kaLidonga
    Wena wadaBukana naBoNdwandwa.

    English: "Praises of Ngwana son of  Goqweni and of Goqweni."

    You who cut the trees and who cut the mouths,
    You the locust, who fixed in your hair the feathers of the locust.
    Who went below, and climbed up, and went to bring the morning star of the dawn.
    You go, since you are rejected ; you go and bring the armlets of wild animals ; those of cattle will be much disputed.
    You who remember the fault of long ago.
    In descending, you descend together with the mountains. You who drank the blood of cattle.
    You who separated from the people of Shaka, Shaka of Mbelebele kraal.
    You who separated from the people of Nyathi the son of Mashobane ; it thundered, it was cloudy.
    Thou resemblest cattle which were finished by wolves.
    You who originated with the people of Mzilikazi.
    You who originated with the people of Mpakana son of Lidonga.
    You who originated with the people of Ndwandwa.

    (3) Ngoni : " Izibongo zikaGomani kaTshikusi."

    Bayeth' nkosi
    Wena umzukulana kaGwaya
    Wena umzukulana kaNgwana
    Umabanda tshembuzi tshenkomo tshinombalo
    Wena owadla muntu lapha kuboNgala.

    English : " Praises of Gomani9 son of Tshikusi."

    Hail Chief
    You the grandchild of Gwaya
    You the grandchild of Ngwana
    One who carries a goatskin shield, because he knows a shield of cow skin brings envy10
    You who ate a man there among the Ngala people.

    (3) Ngoni: "Izibongo zikaZwangendaba11 kaHlatshwayo."

    UZwangendaba omnyama ngabomu ophik' eziyakhanya
    Obej' amehlo wabej' imiyumo
    Ophuz' ingazi zamanye madoda
    Indima azilingani nabakwazi kulima
    Ivila elidl' amabele okulinyelwa
    UMcethuli wezigodo nasekhaya uyacethula nakubafo uyacethula
    Owel' UZembezi ngezinyawo
    Bath' UZembezi aluwelwa luwelwa ngezinkonjane zimadada
    Ohlangane ngengwe emahlabeyeni
    Wathi ingwe izongiyamuyeya kanti ingwe izith' ezinye
    Nango, nango, umbonaphi?
    Umbon' emagumeni abonina.

    English : Praises of Zwangendaba son of Hlatshwayo.

    Zwangendaba whose intention it is to be black, whose wings are shining
    Red as to the eyes12 and red as to the lips.
    Who drinks the blood of the other men.
    The plots (which he hoes) are not equal to those of the people who know how to hoe.
    An idle man who eats grain which is hoed for him.
    Clearer of the stumps (which are in his way) ; at home he is clearing them13, and in the enemy country.
    Who crossed the Zambezi by foot.
    They say the Zambezi is not crossed, it is crossed by swallows like ducks.
    Who has encountered a leopard on his left side14.
    He said : the leopard will help me whereas the leopard is some enemies15.
    There he is, there he is, where do you see him ?
    You see him in the fences of his mothers.


    (4) Ngoni: "Izibongo zikaZwangendaba kaHlatshwayo."

    UZwangendaba omnyama ngabomu ophike kwakhanya.
    Muka simuke wena owaliwayo
    SingaNtungwa siyishashazi lapha abantu bafa ngokhulaphaya.
    Ngqaba dlan' abantu shiy' izinkomo.
    Ngqaba kuLushwana kwaba uluthuli.
    Nango, nango Bambonaphi ? Bambon' emagumeni abonina. 
    Mathukuthela zaluke namathole.
    Iqili elikhulu elega amaseko ezinyanga.
    Ngenyuko ngaza ngazazu ulubombo.
    Siyenzwa ngenkani inkulu yaManqumayo.
    Uyabona amalembe akuhlalele amalembe angalembel' ukulinywa.
    Wakubon' inkotha wadladlama.
    Wakubon' udonga wafaka unyawo.
    Yena owashaya amanzi ngomshiza kuZembezi.
    Owakhumhul' inkomo zabalunjana.

    English : "Praises of Zwangendaba son of Hlatshwayo."

    Zwangendaba whose intention it is to be black16 who denies it to be light.
    Go away, let us go, you the rejected one.
    We are like a man of the Ntungwa17, a fat one; there the people die as fat ones.
    Ngqaba you must eat people. Leave the cattle.
    Ngqaba son of Lushwana there was confusion.
    There he is, there he is, where do they see him ? They see him in the fences of his mothers.
    One who is angry because the cattle have gone with the calves. 
    His great cunning overcomes the magic stones of the doctors.
    I have gone away until I have seen Lubombo Mountains.18
    We are suffering on account of the great dispute with the Nqumayo19 people.
    You are seeing the hoes which are waiting for you, the hoes which cannot be used for hoeing.
    He saw it, the short grass, he was biting it hastily.
    He saw it, the ditch, his foot slipped into it.
    He who divided the water with a stick at the Zambezi. 
    He who remembered the cattle of the Balunjana.

    (5) " Ngoni : Izibongo zikaHlatshwayo20 kaMagangatha"

    UGubazi ngokwambath' ingubo enzima
    Umanunk' onjengokaLongqola
    Umkhulana ngokubiz' ezizzweni
    'Sandla saphath' inkomo zaphalala
    EzikaNdlembe ngezikaNdlembe wakuboMfekane
    Bathi ubuhlalu kabulingani entanyeni
    Ingani kobodade babo buyalingana

    English: " Praises of Hlatshwayo son of Magangata."

    Gubazi by putting on a black robe
    Who smells like the son of Longqola
    Who is great by calling the tribes
    The hand that touched cattle and they multiplied
    Those (cattle) of Ndlembe, they belong to Ndlembe of Mfekane 
    They say the beads do not fit on his neck
    Whereas on the necks of his sisters they are fitting.

    (6) Ngoni: "Izibongo zikaHlatshwayo kaMagangatha."

    UHlatshwayo omfishane anganyatheli ingubo
    Ingani abade bayazinyathela
    Inyama idliwa ngemikwa yamazembe
    Ingadliwa ngezinsungulo ibolile
    Hlatshwayo isihlahla esibenyana kulllatshwayo waMandulo 
    Utshani wentongoza awushi nokusha, usha nyasisitheka usha using' intonteya.

    English: " Praises of Hlatshwayo son of Magangata."

    Hlatshwayo the dwarf one21 who cannot trail his cloth 
    Whereas the tall people trail their cloths
    Meat eaten with knives of axes
    If it is not eaten with forks it is rotten
    Hlatshwayo whose bodily vigour is finished off compared with Hlatshwayo of former times22
    Grass of deep red colour is not burned with burning ; it burns very slowly; it burns drop by drop.

    Below is a video of Ngoni languages praises for Inkosi yamakhosi Gomani IV




    Footnotes

    1.uNgwana was leader of the Maseko group of Ngoni when they left the South. He is the great-great grandfather of the present Paramount Gomani.

    2. The meaning of this phrase is very obscure and is just a guess.

    3. Na is the honorific prefix for important women in Gomani's country, taken from Chewa.

    4. This is obscure too but the meaning is said to be " grazing,"

    5. Probably imiyonzo yempi = advance guard of the army.

    6. Armlets of cattle would involve taking cattle, someone's property, and would cause dispute. Wild animals no one can lay claim to.

    7. Ubende is really cooked blood, but I am told that it is used here poetically for uncooked blood igazi.

    8. I am not sure whether ukudabuka is used here in its meaning of " to originate " or " to break away." Either is common usage.

    9. This was the father of the present Paramount Gomani.

    10. In dividing a cowskin for making shields a more honoured person receives the- right hand side. Hence disputes arose when chiefs gave skins for shields A goat skin is not divided

    11. Leader of the Jere group when leaving the south. Great grandfather of the present Paramount Mwambera.

    12. He was said to have blazing eyes like a man who smokes hemp.

    13. Refers to his way of getting rid of rivals and those suspected of witchcraft.

    14 The vulnerable side.

    15. A possible reference to Basa who killed Zwangendaba's wives.


    16. This may be a reference to the well-known black skin of the Jeris, sometimes jeered at by certain lighter skinned families.

    17. Considered to be a superior people.

    18. Meaning quite obscure uLubombo (= Lubombo Mts.) is said to be fontanel 

    19. Zwidi Nqumayo was Paramount Chief of the Ndwandwe; even the Jeres were under him.


    20. Was father of Zwangendaba

    21. He was known to have been a dwarf.

    22. A reference to his alleged impotence.
        

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