Of Cattle-Keeping and Oromo Heroes: “Wedu Horrii”

Today, we’re featuring another Oromo song, “Wedu Horrii,” recorded in Nekemte last July. This particular rendition is offered by Diriba, a singer with Nekemte’s cultural troupe. Diriba grew up in a rural area, where he was surrounded by music on a daily basis, and he credits his background for his proficiency in Oromo songs and musical styles. “When working together, you learn from each other, from others,” he said.

“Wedu Horrii” does not have a known author and is likely pretty old (although, based on the names in the text, I would place it sometime in the latter half of the Imperial era or later). The lyrics span two topics: cattle herding and Oromo nationalist heroes. These subjects seem a bit of an unlikely pairing, but, such is the nature of songs: they tend to have a life of their own, passing from person to person who each adds his/her own lyrics, leaves out lyrics, forgets lyrics, et cetera. It is also possible that this may have had some sort of double meaning, like “Iyasee.” I welcome anyone else to weigh in who is familiar with this song and its history.

Oh, my cattle, oh, my cattle, everybody sings for you, everybody shouts for you, but my song is special
Why am I singing the whole day? I must take them to graze
Let me take my black cows out to graze
With the other cattle
I’ll herd them the whole day and take them home
With their calves
Until the corrals are full of cows
I will milk them until my bucket is full
“May the bulls fill your corrals,” is a blessing from our fathers
“May the morning Itete bless you with many cows,” is a blessing from our mothers*
I’m introducing these blessings to my people
So, stand and bless me (3x)
Children of my country,
Let us sit together
Let us hear from each other

Ishoo!
Ishoolee, Dangashe**
Kashashu kashashu, Dangashe***

Gogorri of the forest
My lovers, my friends, Dangashe,
Three of them, three of them, Dangashe
The bulls of our area, Dangashe
You know, Filee Mondo, Dangashe****
The one with the meat, Dangashe
You know, Bishee Garba, Dangashe
Who kills many on his way, Dangashe
The one whom Garba raises, Dangashe
Who kills many enemies, Dangashe

The big Dangashe on the top [above the rest], Yaadangashe
Ishoolee Dangashe

Leka will not damage the caree, Dangashe*****
But rather saves them for the future, Dangashe
A friends’ story cannot be finished [people won’t get tired of the Oromo heroes’ story], Dangashe
It will be new every morning, Dangashe
You know, Bokii Jambee, Dangashe
Mekonen Jambaree, Dangashe
He starts [fighting the enemy] on Monday, Dangashe
And stacks the dead bodies together on Friday, Dangashe
You know, Dhuge Jaldoo, Dangashe
Dhugumaa Jardessoo, Dangashe
You know, Abdisaa Aga, dangashe
The monster to his enemies

The big dangashe on the top [above the rest], yaadangashe
Ishoolee dangashe
Ishee ishee
Ishoolee dangashe

Dangashe, Borana, Dangashe
You know, Filee Mando, Dangashe
You know, Tadee Biruu, Dangashe
The one from Ambo, Dangashe
My Agarri Tuluu, Dangashe
It is Agarri Tuluu, Dangashe
Who burned the enemies, Dangashe
Like boiling maize, Dangashe
You know, Waqoo Guttu, Dangashe
If they see his eyes, Dangashe
The enemies die where they stand, Dangashe

The big Dangashe on the top [above the rest], Yaadangashe
Ishoolee Dangashe
Ishee ishee

My calves, my white calves
My calves, my tri-colored calves
Let us go home, my black cow
Let us go home, my white cow
Enemies are quick to go home
Please, follow the line of cows home
Instead of going home
It’s better going home
I’m walking downhill
I don’t want to trip
I’ve killed mother and son
I pray that I haven’t sinned

Ishee ishee

I can’t sleep, I will not
I’d rather lay down and see things
I will not behead you [my cattle]
Rather, I will protect you
Emoo yaa, black cattle******
Let’s go home, my black bulls
Let’s go, my black bulls
What are you waiting for in the forest?
Let’s go and sit inside the Ilfinyi*******
I don’t need you to be tired in the desert
I will take you to the top [politically; you’ll be in charge]
I don’t need you to walk by foot
That is why I carry you on my head
The heroes’ families cannot hate them
But enemies do
Hate knows those who are not sad when you are sad
When I get out of my house
My cartridge becomes empty,
the cartridge in my gun
When I kill and get home,
My family welcomes me
My family is those who are my [fellow] citizens
The traitors among my citizens hate me
My groomsmen sing for me
So, you also sing for me
If you don’t know me, hate me…observe this, my children
If you know me, sing for me…I said this and left home without telling anyone
Hiding from everybody that I am going

* Itete is a spirit from indigenous beliefs
** Ishoo is a sort of interjection, could be translated “yes.” Dangashe is a name
*** An onomatopoeiac device, imitating the sound of the gogorri bird stepping through dry grass
**** Filee Mondo is the name of an Oromo hero; this song calls out the names of several heroes throughout
***** Leka is the name of a place. Caree is a type of bead that a man gives to a woman’s family as part of the bride price; it is a symbol of Oromo culture
****** This is a nickname, term of endearment
******* Ilfinyi is a place where respected people sit

I asked Diriba some of his thoughts about this particular song, and he responded, “The main thing is this song keeps the unity of Oromo. The second thing is it keeps our tradition of keeping our cattle safe and honoring our heroes from one generation to another generation.”

Oromo songs such as this one have, indeed, been part of building a pan-Oromo consciousness and unifying the Oromo peoples. As we have discussed before, Oromia is a big region with fairly diverse people groups, and they didn’t really start to come together until the latter part of the twentieth century. The main factor that in unifying the Oromo was the oppression of their culture and language during the Imperial Age. Nothing brings people together like a common enemy, as they say. Oromo nationalist songs by the likes of Ali Birra and Zerehun Wedajo no doubt have reflected and shaped a pan-Oromo sensibility. Still today, songs like Belfaa’s “Denaboo” appeal to all Oromia, and Belfaa also told us that the different Oromo subgroups are exchanging their music with each other: Oromo from Wellega are teaching Oromo from Shewa their musical styles and vice versa. No doubt such exchanges have become easier with technology.

References

Mollenhauer, Shawn Michael. 2011. “Millions on the Margins: Music, Ethnicity, and Censorship among the Oromo of Ethiopia.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of California Riverside.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s