An Embu pounding song from north eastern Kenya, close to Mount Kenya. Pounding songs are sung by women using mortar and pestle to pound grain to flour, the thud of the pestle providing the songs’ rhythm (see also these poems). In this poem the singer pounds malted-millet grain to be made into millet beer for her husband, Mwaniki.

Let me pound beer, pound it for Mwaniki:
He is the one who drinks dilute beer.
Let me pound it for the elders of the council:
They are the ones who will drink murara. (1)
I’ll pound it with a mwiria pestle for a muringa pestle breaks. (2)
This beer will not be pounded tomorrow, much as it is,
I would rather pound it over a night and finish it.
The mortar is echoing like Kirinyaga during the season of thunder!

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


Footnotes

  1. murara: A type of millet beer, the earliest brewed and hence the least strong.
  2. mwiria: A type of wood used for making pestles, stronger than the muringa wood she goes on to mention.