A song from the Kalela Dance of the Zambian Copperbelt. The original language of this song is a form of Bemba spoken on the Copperbelt and easily understood by other people working in the mines. Most of the songs comment satirically on life on the Copperbelt.

The Watchtower were trying cunningly to convert me on Saturday, (1)
That I should go to their meeting-place at two o’clock on Sunday.
We also have gospels – the drums,
We who dance kalela.
God hates nobody!
To Heaven we shall climb,
We shall go and live at Lucifer’s place
In his stockade.
We shall go with our drums:
Even in Heaven you will hear them roaring.

You women who are at the dancing pitch,
You should go before it is too late.
You should go and eat beforehand
And you should tell those who have remained at home

That they should also come after they have eaten.
Those who want to wash clothes, let them wash them,
Those who want to iron, let them iron,
Those who want to bathe, let them bathe,
Those who want to dress up, let them dress up
Because of this day’s dancing!
Copperbelt! The drum!
The whistle-boy is there, The line-boy is there, (2)
The spectators are coming from Lambaland and other distant places.
Why are you beating the drum? At two o’clock it begins.

The song is finished, mothers, go away.
Today, someone will be beaten with a stick, (3)
But don’t you blame us, saying,
‘I die because of you kalela dancers!’

Professor C. Mitchell,
from The Kalela Dance
Manchester University Press (1956)


Footnotes

  1. Watchtower is the church of the jehovah’s Witnesses.
  2. The Whistle-boy and the Line-boy are the referee and linesman (as in football).
  3. Today, someone will be beaten means that some women will be punished by their husbands for watching Kaleta instead of doing the housework.