Um Ba Ya Oh [Song]

Uploaded by TheSocaMan

By Merchant

I dream I was in Africa and I was a warrior
Hunting lion and tiger, brave like my forefather
And when the darkness gather, we sit around a fire
Telling of the bravery and courage of our great ancestors.

And we chanting...
[Um ba ya ya oh] Oh woh oh oh oh oh
[Um ba ya ya oh] Oh woh oh oh oh oh
[Um ba ya ya oh] Oh woh oh oh, oh woh oh oh

Beauty and freedom surround me, food and wealth in a quantity
If I could go back to Africa, then I could be a great hunter
Running, swimming, climbing or 'round a fire dancing
Women washing and singing, you can hear they voices echo in the wind.

They chanting...
[Um ba ya ya oh] Oh woh oh oh oh oh
[Um ba ya ya oh] Oh woh oh oh oh oh
[Um ba ya ya oh]

One day the village fell in grief, was the death of the tribal chief
The chief had a son named Mutuba who was to take over
But then came another warrior, who claim to be the next ruler
They tested their skill in a battle and Mutuba was the winner.

So the crowd chant...
[Um ba ya ya oh] Oh woh oh oh oh oh
[Um ba ya ya oh] Oh woh oh oh oh oh
[Um ba ya ya oh]...

Source: The lyrics posted on this blog are often transcribed directly from performances. Although it is my intention to faithfully transcribe I do not get all the words and I have a knack for hearing the wrong thing. Please feel free to correct me or to fill in the words that I miss by dropping me a message via e-mail. I'd be forever grateful. Thanks in advance!
"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!


Maximilian C. Forte said...

Interesting song, not easy for me to understand. On the one hand, I thought that all of the things Merchant associates with freedom and being back in Africa could be achieved in Trinidad, if Trinidad were remade in the image of freedom that he imagines. Having to go away to gain freedom is almost fatalistic, like deferring salvation to the afterlife, never here, never now.

Then the final section, about infighting, which does not seem to fit the other two that precede it. Why do you think he took that detour?

Guanaguanare said...

Thanks for visiting and the comment. I really had not thought about these observations that you've made and I am certain that others would have other ideas about what inspired Merchant to sing this song.

In my opinion, I don't think that he is saying that he cannot realise his potential in Trinidad and Tobago. I think that this is just a dream about Africa and I welcome it because it is a refreshing counterpoint to all the negative associations about that continent, some expressed even by the descendants of migrants [whether forced or voluntary] from its shores.

I don't know if the dream is just an invention and I do not know if Africa comes to persons who are not of its diaspora but I have had two such dreams in my lifetime. Since Africans are among my ancestors, I assume that there is a tie that had not been broken and I accept Merchant's dream as plausible.

I don't think that Merchant is romanticising Africa but I do get the sense that he is acknowledging that his present existence is more removed from the closeness to nature and community that his ancestors might have known. I get this from his references to the bountifulness of the land and the stability of a situation where women and men seem to have clearly defined roles. Maybe he is comparing this to our present situation where, unless we are descendants of First Nations, the rest of us are not quite yet at the stage where we naturally see T&T as our "ancestral" home. Africa was clearly that for his ancestors.

I don't know if the chant that he uses in the chorus actually means something in another language but it is the unifying thread that runs through the song, whether celebrating the hunt, expressing the joy of living, celebrating conflict resolution and the promise of stability. The "infighting" is just a part of power-seeking which is to be expected when a vacuum is created by the death of the chief. As I said, I could be missing some context that would give this song some deeper message.

I really like the simplicity of this song and its clean energy and these qualities reflect a way of living that has not moved too far away from attending mostly to the necessities of life.

Thanks again for your thought provoking comment.