African Poems

Oral Poetry from Africa

Tag: Tanzania

Hunting Song (Wild Pig)

A Kisukuma hunting song from Tanzania, sympathising strongly with the animal which has been killed.

I killed a wild pig in the trap.
It cried,
Where is my father?..

Prayer to Ruwa

A Chaga prayer from Tanzania. Ruwa is the Chaga name for God and also for the Sun. He is described as their Chief, the Preserver, who united the bush and the plain and created men. The bull in line 6 is being sacrificed to Ruwa, and the prayer is for healing, for offspring, for unity and for security.

We know you Ruwa, Chief, Preserver:
He who united the bush and the plain…

The Invaders

Three poems of the Sukuma people of Tanzania, referring to the colonial invasions. The first two poems are songs of resistance, dating from the 1890s, when the German armies first arrived. Note the references helmets, wooden legs (i.e., long khaki trousers with tall boots) and rifles.

The third poem refers to World War I when British and German armies fought each other throughout East Africa, while the Belgians, with their reputation for atrocities, waited over the border in Zaire.

You my wife, Mama Mgumba, stop here:
Let us expel him out of our house!…

The Beni Dance

Five Swahili songs from the Beni Dance which is popular throughout East Africa. Beni first became popular in Swahili-speaking communities at the end of the nineteenth century. Its origins have been traced to coastal dance societies (see also Mwananazi), but Beni is also very much influenced by the rituals of German and British colonial forces and especially by their military bands and displays of marching.

The Nationalist Struggle (Tanzania)

A freedom song from Tanzania, celebrating the end of colonial British rule, popular on the verge of Independence in 1961.

Freedom and the Republic!
Colonialism will soon end,

Cattle Songs

Ten Masai cattle songs, this time from Tanzania. These songs are from the Baraguyu dialect, and reveal an intense love of cattle and enjoyment of raiding.


The Europeans of Kilosa are proud of the police there,
But we, we are proud of our chosen loibon,

African Poems