A Lomwe song, from the early days of the Lugella Company, which in 1915 opened a Sisal plantation in north-central Mozambique. The word ‘machila’ means cloth, and became by extension the word for the hammock in which Europeans used to be carried.

Four carriers, one at each corner, would run in step, singing to maintain their rhythm. Frequently, the songs made fun of the passenger, who didn’t speak the bearers’ language.

In this song, the commentary spoken between the lines of the chorus makes fun of the white man by mimicking his orders and commenting on them – as in “White men have come to be worked for – Heavy white men!”

You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

O – o,
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

O – o,
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

Pick it up, quickly!
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

Come quickly!
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

The machila must be carried along fast:
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

You’ll be helped now, you will:
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

You’ll be helped in just a moment:
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

Here, now, you’ll be helped
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

Servants! Where are you, you servants?
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

Tell the bearers!
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

This group must go to help the others:
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

You! Hurry up there!
(We’ll drop it!)
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

White people came come to be worked for!
(Heavy white men!
People have to work for them, that’s true.)
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

Come quickly, come quickly!
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

Sweep the yard! That one! Sweep the yard!
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

Those white men are coming here today:
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

Come quickly!
(It’s midday!)
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

At midday, we’ll arrive:
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

Hunger!
(Hurry! Hurry!)
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

The white men are eating!
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

Machila!
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

You must work at this job!
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

Bearer!
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

Keep your backbone steady!
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

Run!
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

At midday, well arrive at Mochema:
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

At Mochema, at Mochema! (1)
(Hurry! I’m going to drop it!)
You weep, you sleep stiffly,
when you are old!

Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

O – o,
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

O – o,
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Mwakuviheke!
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Mwakuveke!
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Machira anamochimakiwa:
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Munamoroliwa nyuwo:
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Vava hihano munamoroliwa:
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Munamoroliwa hihanovava.
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Amulejki! Muruwi amuleki?
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Mwalele amachilero!
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Epareyo yaworole akwaya:
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Mwakuveyo weTu!
(Kinamuriha!)
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Akunya yarwele olampwa!
(Olimela akuya!
Anamulapwa valiyai)
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Mwakuveke, mwakuveke!
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Nvele vate, nele vate vo!
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Akunya anarwa olelo yala:
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Mwakuveke!
(Mitiya!)
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Mitiya nampiya:
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Ntala!
(Mwakuveke. Mwakuveke!)
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Akunya vanja!
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Machira!
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Yarwele olampwa!
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Machilero!
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Wakisa murana!
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Otimaka!
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Mitiya nampiya vana Mochema:
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

Vana Mochema, vana Mochema!
(Mwakuve! kinamuriha!)
Munanlela okono muloka
muluvanle!

from Oral Poetry from Africa (1984),
Compiled by Jack Mapanje and Landeg White,
Longman


Footnotes

  1. Mochema was one of the Lugella company’s stations.