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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Nigerian & Ethiopian Examples Of The Highlife Song "Sawale"

Edited by Azizi Powell

[Revised 6/2/2012 to include an additional example from Nigeria, and an example from Benin.]

This post showcases one sound file & four videos of the highlife song "Sawale" or songs with another name that are based on "Sawale". This post also provides information about the song's composer, Nigerian Cardinal Rex Lawson, and information about the music genre "Highlife". The lyrics for the song "Sawale" with English translation & explanations about the song's meaning are also provided in this post.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes. The copyrights remain with their owners.

My thanks to Rex Lawson, and the other performers of this music. My thanks also to the producers of these videos, the uploaders of these videos, and the bloggers whose comments I quote in this post.

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FEATURED EXAMPLES
Example #1: Cardinal Rex Lawson - Sawale (Audio)[Nigeria]



Uploaded by planetolusola on Feb 19, 2009

The late Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson (c.1930 - 1971).

Cardinal Rex Lawson Article by John Beadle culled from www.onlinenigeria.com/music/Rex

Until his untimely death in the 1970s, Erekosima (Rex Jim) Lawson was a standard-bearer of the Nigerian highlife scene whose tunes achieved popularity across Africa. Of mixed Kalabari and Igbo parentage, he was born in the town of New Kalabar in present-day Rivers State, and got his start in Port Harcourt's Starlite Melody Orchestra, led by "Lord" Eddyson...

By 1960 he was leading his own group, the Nigeraphone Studio Orchestra of Onitsha and had played with the "big names" of Nigerian highlife - Bobby Benson, Roy Chicago, Victor Olaiya and others. With his second group, the Majors Band of Nigeria (variously called the "Mayors Band," and in later years the Rivers Men), he scored innumerable hits over the sixties and early seventies, notably "Jolly Papa," "Adure," "Ibi na Bo," and many others. Of these, the biggest was "Sawale," in pidgen English, which has become an African music standard and been remade numerous times by various artists. Lawson's fluency in various languages and dialects has only enhanced his appeal across class and ethnic lines in West Africa...

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Example #2: Flavour N'abania - Nwa Baby (Ashawo Remix) [Nigeria]



Uploaded by officialflavour on Jun 22, 2011

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Example #3: Baba Ken Okulolo & Kotoja - Super Sawale [Nigerian & American musicians]



Uploaded by babateye on Mar 3, 2009

Putumayo Presents Baba Ken & Kotoja

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Example #4: New Ethiopian Music Ziggy Zaga ft.Teddy Yo -Sawa Sewalegn 2012 [Ethiopia]



AddisLiveMusic, Published on Mar 9, 2012

http://www.addislivemusic.com/ AddisLiveMusic The Best Ethiopian Music Collection Website !
-snip-
This quote is from another video summary of this song:
"This is the Ethiopian (Amharic) version of the most popular African music of the time Sawa Sawa Sawale(Nwa Baby)(Ashawo)... This music popular in Addis and has took Addis clubs by storm. And now, it is reversed to Amharic... Enjoy and share it :)"

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Example #5: Stan Tohon - Ashao [Benin]



Uploaded by africouleur on May 7, 2009

Ashao est un des derniers singles du grand chanteur africain béninois Stan Tohon.

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LYRICS AND COMMENTS ABOUT "SAWALE"
(with English translation)- Flavour N'abania's version

Nwa baby, nye me fege (7x) (Baby girl, give me your 'thing)
Nwa baby, o kwa Nabania (Baby girl, it must be this night)
I don hammer no be small, now it's
time to chop money
Somebody say Nabania (Somebody say 'this night')
Na takwa ne fe omo wania (All this girls, enjoy yourself)
See the girls them plenty
Waka waka baby (oh yeah), wuru
wuru baby (oh yeah)
I go tell my mama, (oh yeah) I go
tell my papa (oh yeah)
And I go tell am say (oh yeah)
You be waka waka baby (oh yeah)
You be wuru wuru baby (oh yeah)
Corner corner baby (oh yeah)
Sango sango baby (oh yeah)
Para rara baby (oh yeah)
Oh baby sawaley
Sawa sawa sawaley (2x)
Ashawo
Kpokpotom kpomkpom, kporokotom
kpomkpom (2x)
Kpakolo kpa (3x), kpomkpom
Ojari kpokpo, ukwu nwa baby
Achukwu rege, kpom kpom
Ashawo, awusha
Awusha, ashawo
Ashawo, awusha, kpom kpom
Eh eh eh eh eh eh, kpom kpom
Oh baby Sawaley
Sawa Sawa Sawaley (2x)
Ashawo
Nwa baby, nye me fege (7x)
Nwa baby, wa Nabania
Na soso walka I come dey go
Everywhere I go, anai ti fe (Everywhere I go people will be Being Intimate)
All my guys where una dey
From here to saloon hotel
See the girls them plenty
Waka waka baby (oh yeah), wuru
wuru baby (oh yeah)
I go tell my mama, (oh yeah) I go
tell my papa (oh yeah)
And I go tell am say (oh yeah)
You be waka waka baby (oh yeah)
You be wuru wuru baby (oh yeah)
Corner corner baby (oh yeah)
Sango sango baby (oh yeah)
Para rara baby (oh yeah)
Oh baby sawaley
Sawa sawa sawaley (2x)
Ashawo
Kpokpotom kpomkpom, kporokotom
kpomkpom (2x)
Kpakolo kpa (3x), kpomkpom
Ojari kpokpo, ukwu nwa baby
Achukwu rege, kpom kpom
Ashawo, awusha
Awusha, ashawo
Ashawo, awusha, kpom kpom
Eh eh eh eh eh eh, kpom kpom
Oh baby Sawa lele
Sawa Sawa Sawale (2x)
Ashawo
Ala de no de, no de
Ala ala de no de, de no de, Ala
Ema na ala de no de, no de
Ala ala de no de, de no de, Ala
Ala mama
Wera kagi ji de a ala
Ala mama
Wero noge me jaya ala

Source: http://koralyrics.com/text.aspx?id=2579

-snip-
Comments from YouTube comment threads.

WARNING! YouTube comment threads may contain profanity, racist language, sexually explicit references and other language that is inappropriate for children.

The song is performed purely in Kalabari (Eastern Nigerian dialect) and pidgin English. The beat itself may have a trans-african flavor, since African highlife music of the 60's borrowed heavily from latin-cuban rythmn popular throughout the continent.
- planetolusola; http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=DBOXi3bJ7ug ; 2012

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"I do not speak Kalabari, but there is enough West African pidgin in there for me to pick up that he is admonishing a wayward girl who has become an Ashawo (prostitute). Corner Corner baby! Wuru Wuru baby! Suku suku baby! I will tell your mom! She will tell your dad! I will tell your sister etc."
-jimbimedia; http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=DBOXi3bJ7ug ; 2012

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From http://www.nairaland.com/nigeria/topic-589179.0.html

[Editor: I added spacing to make this comment easier to read.]

Re: What Is The Nwa Baby Ashawo Song By Flavour N'abania Talking About?
odumchi (m):

« #4 on: January 21, 2011, 02:39 PM »

"Adamma means beautiful first daughter.

The lines "I go tell my mama, oh yes, and I got tell my papa, oh yes, and I go tell am say you be waka waka babe, oh yes, wuru wuru babe, " basically mean that she is a corrupted and bad girl.

-snip-

Here's an excerpt on the same thread from http://gfpanorama.com/tag/nwa-baby-ashawo/
Check dis out!

There is a popular Igbo Nigerian song on YouTube by Flavour N’Abania. It is called Nwa Baby. Anybody who has been listening to the increasingly amazing dance-worthy beats that are now emerging from Nigeria on a constant basis would not fail to have heard this particular song. Now, a lot of what Flavor and his friends were saying on the track were in the Igbo language, and while that has not stopped a lot of non-Igbo listeners from appreciating the song, I felt compelled to give a full translation of this song to English for the benefit of those who might be wondering exactly what was being said....

Oh baby sawa lee, sawa sawa sawa lee (2ce)… ASHAWO {the word “sawa’ or ‘sawam’ indicates the act of walking, or movement of the feet as in a dance. Here, Flavor is indicating that the girl in question is light-footed—walking around easily from place to place or of nimble gait. He concludes that she may be a call-girl with the word Ashawo}

Kpomkpotom kpomkpom; kporokotom kpomkpom; ikpomkpotom kpomkpom; kporokotom kpomkpom; kpakolokpa kpakolokpa kpakolokpa kpomkpom; ojarikpoko, ukwu nwa baby, achukurege kpomkpom {Here Flavour goes off the chain. Not finding words to adequately convey the height of his excitement, he lapses into a series of onomatopoeic renditions designed to communicate the supposed elegance of a seductively dressed temptress of a woman. These sounds are supposed to communicate the rippling movements of the girl’s body as she walks or perhaps dances—bosoms bobbing up and down; her buttocks jiggling as she walked or danced; the movement of her thighs; the swaying of her hips in movement etc}

Ashawo Awosha Awosha Ashawo Ashawo Awosha kpomkpom {the word Ashawo means call-girl or an escort. To differentiate a call-girl from a LovePeddler or a whore (akwuna), a call girl’s client makes an appointment usually by telephone. They (call-girls) are not usually randomly picked from street corners like LovePeddlers. A call-girl may be gainfully employed or may be in school, and then renders her intimate services discreetly to her clients in exchange for money or some other material incentives.

Here, Flavour twists the word Ashawo around artistically by saying Awosha. The effect was to remove some of the negative sting or punch from the word}
Eh—Eh—Eh—Eh—Eh—Eh kpomkpom {Yes—Yes—Yes—Yes—Yes—Yes. Clearly, if the girl he was addressing his song to was dancing or walking, Flavour appreciates the spectacle in front of him. He recognizes the silky sophistication of this Babygirl (Nwababy) even though he likens her charm to that of a call-girl’s.
And the baby sawa lele eh, sawa sawa sawa lee (2ce)…ASHAWO = And this baby is light-footed or nimble with her gait(2ce) as to be regarded a CALL-GIRL"....

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From http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=-rLa03jU2-Y,
Most people don't realize that the beat to this song, including flavour's version came from an old Cuban roots rhythm called 'EL MANICERO - PEANUT VENDOR'. Search for it on youtube. Rex lawson, the original Nigerian composer of the 60's 'ASHEWO' hit borrowed heavily from latin/cuban influences. Flavour Nabania's SAWALE was a cover of Rex lawson's 60's version. I love this Amharic version also, untimately contributing to the dynamic history of a popular African musical style - HIGHLIFE.
-planetolusola; 2012

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From http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZ7pzY4vQZ8

"Another tune of the same kind is in Zambia called " shala shala shalale."
-chalimanga81, 2012

-snip-
I haven't found that video on YouTube yet. If anyone knows that link or knows of any more YouTube videos of additional versions of "Sawale", please add a comment below. Thanks!


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A number of the comments on the viewer comment thread for the Ethiopian remix of this Nigerian Highlife song included the colloquial references for Nigeria and Ethiopia ("Naija" and "Ethio"). These informal referents are also found on other Nigerian and/or Ethiopian video threads. I just wanted to note it for the record (no pun intended).

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INFORMATION ABOUT HIGHLIFE
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highlife:
"Highlife is a music genre that originated in Ghana in the 1900s and spread to Sierra Leone, Nigeria and other West African countries by 1920. It is very popular in Liberia and all of English-speaking West Africa...

Highlife is characterized by jazzy horns and multiple guitars which lead the band. Recently it has acquired an uptempo, synth-driven sound"...

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Viewer comments are welcome.

8 comments:

  1. Hey! it's not an Igbo song. It's a mixed of both Igbo and Yoruba,.It was a quite common practice when this song was release because people wanted more unity.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Anonymous August 16, 2012 for your comment.

    I appreciate that information about that song.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for this page just discover this song and I love it. I've heard it in Caribbean Soca beats now I now where it came from. Love Flavour's version the best.♥

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I appreciate your comment, Carol.

      I'm glad you found this page & this song.

      Delete
  4. I enjoyed listing to every rendition. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Anonymous June 25, 2013 for your comment.

      The first rendition of "Sawale" tnat I heard some years ago was by Kotoja [given above as Example #3]. For that reason, that rendition has a special place in my heart.

      Delete
  5. The music is basically in Igbo and pidgin Engish, the only Yoruba word in it is "sawa le". almost every song in any language has one or two wards of another language in it and therefore do not make the songs multi lingual because those single or two words alone do not convey the full meaning of the song. so in this case, it is correct to say that it is in Igbo and pidgin English. An Igbo and pidgin Engish speaker will not ask for the interpretation of this song but a Yoruba speaker( who understand pidgin English) will surely need the interpretation of the many Igbo lines in the song.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Anonymous March 25, 2014.

      I appreciate the information and opinions that you shared.

      Delete