Oh, it’s the songs they sing

By Jeffrey Mane Febi

“We see; you’ve come with the flower of the mountain; that blossoms a pleasant red and dances in the wind while the stars look on. We see; you’ve adorned yourself with this flower and come with a determined purpose; and our attention you’ve courted. But before you tell us the reasons, let us show you where you’ll rest your head. Let us bring you firewood. Let us fetch you water. And let you rest for a while. For the night will be querulous and wearisome”, so sang the welcoming villagers.

“Oh so you’ve seen! Well, we cannot hide it, can we? The wind had spoken about it long before. And the earth has brought forth the dancer on the mountain. We came here for a purpose! We will tell when we’ve rested. We will tell when we’ve drank! We will tell when we’re fed. But for now we say thank you that this place may welcome us too”, sang the visitors in reply.

It was a pleasant surprise for Oromo, the tired and weary traveler, who stood and watched his fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters; all singing together in unison; chorusing a sound that captured his ignorant spirit. Not a word he uttered, not even a sigh. Mouth half open, he gazed blankly with his mind’s eye and listened attentively, trying to capture the lyrics; those words that were trampling all over his heart.

But it ended so soon; and ushered to a sitting spot, Oromo could not but wonder at those echoing words of the songs. He has missed a lot, he realised. Even the younger ones knew the songs; they knew these songs are usually sung only on such occasions. How could he have not known this kind of singsing existed? Did they do this just for him? People at home sing for different occasions; but this? Welcoming a visitor with a song, and then the visitor responds in song too, it was totally new to him. He glimpsed the world of his grandfathers that day and it found a place deep in his heart.

He was shamed by the younger ones; those cheeky companions. They knew things he did not know and his heart despite the fatigue, yearned for this precious knowledge and more. In these forgotten lands, where the government’s presence continued to remain on the distant horizon; the traditional treasures were truly valuable. And row upon row of dusty shelves and more rows had yet to see the light of day.

The darkness gradually set in and the fire’s glow became brighter. With every additional piece of wood shoved into the heart of fire, the hotter it became. Oromo turned and noticed the house was full; every inch of space taken up by inquisitive souls. Souls that had gathered with wide open
ears and welcoming hearts to listen and learn of things they did not know about.

Then a drop of sweat slid down over his eye lashes and he knew the place would get even hotter, but no one would feel it except him, for they were used to such gatherings.  People had been steadily filling up the house for the last hour or so. Fatigue and the soothing words of the songs had rendered him oblivious to his surroundings, lost in reverie, letting them take him where they would in this enchanted world.

It wasn’t long before a new song started. Abruptly; his heart woke from its hibernation and he prepared to savour whatever the night offered. He knew his educated mind needed this precious knowledge in order to be complete. He knew he had to learn fast to blend in. He knew that this was to be his first time to be in such a singsing. He knew it wasn’t an opportunity to be missed.

The hosts started singing praise for the flower of the mountain; detailing the adventures of many a dream that had failed to return with the flower. Many dreams had soared to the top of the mountain, only to find the flower unwilling to return with them. Many had waited for the moment; the time they would meet the flower. And how happy they were when it had happened. But the question is why?  Why come now?

Then Oromo tuned his ears to hear his tribesmen reply. It didn’t come! He grew anxious! Why didn’t they respond quickly; he couldn’t wait. His heart was pounding; he wanted to know what the answer would be. And they’d sing it to their host. As whispers continued, presumably discussing the response to the question, the wait seemed long and he steadily grew uneasy. And the heat that he had forgotten began to take its toll. “Water!” he whispered hoarsely to his closest companion. “Please hurry!” He gulped the water from a plastic container with determined haste. Then his throat closed suddenly on him. He coughed abruptly towards the fire and water from his mouth and throat went scurrying into the flames.

Then a voice; a familiar voice! High pitched and with authority; pierced the dimly lit and smoky interior. The thick lazy smoke hovering just above their heads seems to part as if to make way. The voice reminded him of his childhood. Those yesterday’s when he used to hunt lizards and insects with his tiny bow and arrows; those days when his papa would challenge him to a playful wrestle. Oh the unmistakably commanding, yet adorable voice of his mama. The one and only woman who best knew her son.

It echoed into the night while others waited for their turn to join in. Oromo too waited. He wanted to know when the others would join in the song. Then all his companions, old and young alike, joined in the chorus.

But his father’s voice, raised up from the dust ridden depths of his heart, was a mere whisper, drowning rapidly into the abyss of the chilly night outside.

“…so with your great voice, you’ve asked why! We have walked over hills and rivers. We have brought the flower of the mountain. To you now we present it! So tell the others about this. Tell the others about this”.

And on the two groups discussed; disputed each with other; then compromised on certain things; all in song, poetic songs only. And Oromo in his bewildering excitement, listening hard to learn as fast and as much as he could, dozed off into the wind and was carried to the mountain of the red flower.

When first light appeared and the sharpening orchestra of early dawn had begun the members of the two groups, having exhausted themselves, succumbed to their harassed bladders. It was time to depart for the next village. Pots of kaukau were brought in and served quickly. They must make haste in order to cross two fast flowing rivers and clamber over an ugly hill before the clouds started roaring and the rain began pouring.



About febijefwhispers
I love reading and writing poetry!

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