An Igbo fireside song from eastern Nigeria. The first half of the poem describes an act of kindness to a small bird. The second half describes a reverence for life which is its own reward. We are not sure what the chorus “Ngalama” refers to, if any Igbo readers could enlighten us please get in touch.

I was working quietly in my own farm
Ngalama
A small bird came flying in
Ngalama
Told me to dip water for it
Ngalama
I took the drinking horn of Dwa Ololo
Ngalama
Dipped up water for the small bird
Ngalama
The small bird drank and drank
Ngalama
Drank the horn to its dregs
Ngalama
Daughters, ah, they are the moon
Ngalama
The moon which shines in the father’s compound
Ngalama
Men are fine yams
Ngalama
Fine yams which danced in the square
Ngalama
Ee ee ee Nwa Mmeo, son of Are (1)
Ngalama

from The Content and Form of Yoruba ljala (1966)
S.A. Babalola


Footnotes

  1. Nwa Mmeo: A flowing wide-sleeved robe.