Nuba Songs

I slept and I had this dream

If the government come from Kadugli, they stay in Kaloco.

If I take my shield, when the government comes from Kadugli.

They take their guns, I hold my shield tight.

If the bullet hits the side, it will bounce away from me.

If it comes to the centre, it will kill me.

* * *

You may say he's dead but I'm not dead

that's for the spirits to say.

If they say I'm dead then I die.

They tell me if I'm a real singer

I must go to the top of the mountains so everyone can hear

But if I'm not a real singer I should sit where I am.

* * *

I'm not a real singer. I only do this to eat.

I sing so they'll give me money and I can eat.

If I don't sing I don't eat.

If I sing like this then perhaps you will give me food.

* * *

Today this day there are many people here.

All these people are here

It's a big sibir. And they are happy.

They are celebrating because today is the day of the sibir of those who died a
long time ago

Because today is the day the spirits have said

We will celebrate the dead.

Today I will rise above the mountains, like a bird, and I look down,

And I see everyone in the world is celebrating.

Today all the people have come, the old and the young people,

They come with guns and spears and carpet beaters

And they will go around and around the house until night,

And they will stand in a circle and in the dust in the circle

Will be men with spears.

* * *

Go and get the horn because there is one man

Who knows it better than all.

There are starving people in the rainy seasons

and they go late at night to the cornfields.

If you are really starving eat the roots

of the corn and the young plant,

But if you are not starving leave the plants

so they can become tall and there will be a good harvest,

If I am a poor and starving man

and the day brings no food, will I steal?

I will not. I will say God is generous.

Perhaps tomorrow.

And if the next day brings nothing will I say God is generous?

Perhaps tomorrow?

Perhaps someone will give me food as I sit here?

I will not steal.

And the next day?

* * *

If you travel early like the wind,

If you meet an eagle coming from the east,

It is because the rains are following him,

Thanks be to God to see the rain

the gorab bird promised.

There are those who think God is in the

shape of a bird. The rains come early,

early, before we have woken, heavy rains.

We hear the cry of the gorab in our sleep.

The gorab comes from there, far away.

But this time the rains do not follow.

But far away, there are rains in the distance.

Three people die due to the rains.

The rains brought deaths. We open the graves.

All the earth is in darkness, there is no light.

What should we do now but pray?

After we pray we give thanks,

The light returns.

* * *

"And the rains we saw yesterday were out of season

Where did they come from?" they asked.

I told them those were not rains

but the spears of the Anyanya.

The world becomes bad.

There is one man who doesn't want to go to the wars

If you want me to fight, you must take me by a rope

around my neck and pull me there. I won't go.

If you tell me to fight, go and take my spear

and cut my throat with it

because then you will be content.

If you cut my throat, and you are content,

the spirits will watch you.

If I die the spirits will watch you,

and perhaps they will kill you.

And your mother will weep as mine has.

If I die the people will weep,

and my mother and father will call all the people

and we will mourn with our hands outstretched

because I have no life left,

The spirit has gone from me.

* * *

I walked through the night from Angolo.

When I came to Toroji I heard the cock crow.

If anyone tells you to go—do not go.

Sit in your house. When the next morning

comes, then go. For there are those in

the road who will make trouble for you.

For there are those in the road who will

kill you as you killed their cousin.

If they want to kill, let them take guns

and kill me from far off.

For if they take sticks and we fight close

they won't kill me.

Now I must make the circle alone for the

sibir tonight. But it is already morning

and now it is too late.

If you are a coward, why do you go to make

the circle for a sibir?

Transcribed and translated by Arthur Howes and Amy Hardie, 1988