Anywaa Pop Music – Oman “Tararangga”

Today, we’re going to take a brief break from the series on Anywaa religious music to feature some popular music from Gambella, courtesy of the brilliant Anywaa artist, Oman “Tararangga,” from Gambella town. (Interesting fact: Oman used to be a basketball player, and often the ball would hit the rim of the hoop when he threw it, making a sound like ta-ra-ran-ga—thus how he got the nickname.)

Oman is proficient in Anywaa traditional music, reggae, hip-hop, and Afrobeat and writes songs in both Anywaa and English. He knows a lot about Anywaa culture and traditional music from talking to Anywaa elders. “I used to ask the old men about the history of traditional music,” he said. “I used to take my time asking them, that’s why [I know so much about Anywaa tradition].”

Oman cleverly integrates Anywaa cultural elements into his original songs. His single, “Odoola,” for example, uses a particular rhythm that was used to announce the arrival of Anywaa kings. “Historically,” he said, “when a king moved from place to place, there was always a drummer following the king, playing odoola by hitting it with one stick to signal that the king is on the way, coming. [It was] to give information to the people, to give warning to the people that the king is on the way…And they will prepare themselves to honor the king.”

This beat is played with one stick and the hand, as Oman describes in the following audio clip:

Now, let’s have a listen to how Oman uses it in his single:

Oman wrote this song for the Ethiopian Nation and Nationalities Day that took place in Gambella town last December [2015]. “The Prime Minister of Ethiopia was here,” he said. “So, to welcome him, to show great respect and admiration, I used odoola. Because, in our kingship, odoola is a drumbeat we use to signal that the king is on the way, coming. So that’s why. The prime minister is on the way coming…The lyrics [say that] the day is coming, so, all of us, let us go to the stadium, Gambella stadium, to celebrate the Ethiopian Nation and Nationalities Day together.”

Oman has another original song out right now that is incredibly popular in Gambella town called “Cii Mari.”

Oman provides us with some explanation, translating the bridge and chorus:

 

“Cii Mari, Cii Mari,” as Oman said, means roughly, “Go away, leave us.” This phrase comes from traditional beliefs. The Anywaa believed that evil spirits brought diseases, but the coming of the full moon was a time for new life and restoration. To get rid of the epidemics and evil spirits, they shouted “Cii mari, cii mari!” while beating on drums and animal skins (these animal skins are called po, which you’ll hear in the song lyrics) when the full moon appeared, a plea to Jwok Nyi-ngala Bwuuo (God the creator) to chase away the evil spirits and restore the health of the people. In the context of this song, this can be interpreted as restoring the culture and status of the Anywaa people.

Here’s a full translation of the song, provided by Ojho:

These days po is not beat up (4x)
Go away, go away (4x)
The evil spirit is upon the community, there are always diseases and suffering
Go away, go away, go away, go away, and go away
Po will be beat up, and the evil spirit will go away, and people will live a healthy life
This is what I know from Anywaa culture, from ancient times
These days po is not beat up (4x)
Go away, go away (4x)
All youth come and listen (2x)
Come, all of you (2x)
We have kind of culture of unity that can eradicate all these diseases from our villages. Go away, go away, go away, go away, and go away.

Oman plans to record a music video for this song. “[I want] to let the people, the rest of the world, know that there is a culture and tradition of the Anywaa tribe. There is a very important culture like this, like cii mari. So, to show that, I need video…a good music video that shows real culture.” Oman is currently working on raising the funds to do this, which has been difficult. He says there is little support from the government or companies for the youth, but, “To achieve, I need to be faithful, to be hopeful. I don’t give up. That’s what I decided.”

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