Obero July 24, 1972 - 26B Illea

02 Track 2.mp3
ANUAK PROJECT / ILLEA / Large Man Central in Crowd Scene

Recording #26B

Place of Recording: Illea

Date of Recording: July 24, 1972/July 25 - #4

Performance: Soloist, drummers and villagers/Olok Okae from Cham #4

Informant: Agwa Alemo

Date of Transcript: January 20, 1973

  1. Agwaga.

Information: Drum beginning, soloist and villagers. Trumpet on top of sound. Weak singing by villages. A war between Illea and Peno village. Illea defeated Peno. They fought from morning until midday. They chased away all the villagers and captured women and girls. A very old song. The yong boys and girls are not singing it very clearly. Only the old men are singing well.

Text: If our chief agreed to go to war, we will never be defeated by any village.

  1. Obero.

Information: Swore they would not eat something until they killed the elephant. When they did, they made a big party and this song was sung at the party. Party: marching first, starting at 8 AM till mid-day with only marching. In line with girls in front. Then they will bring beer, drink and eat food the whole day. Marching and eating. Evening dancing, modern dancing in the evening and cultural dancing the next day. (When we swear: choose a man who is trusted in the village. He will be the leader. The boys and girls will work for him. And then when will tell them when to go and hunt. He will go with them and show them how to shoot, he is not in their age group but older than that. Asmara is known to the Anuaks because there ae many Tigrinean in the Gambela area and also know to the old men because of the Italian invasion in the area.

Text: Because we killed elephant, we are the first people ever. Baro River. Because we killed the animal that we swore for. (the best people known ever the Baro river). Nobody will compete with us. When we went to look for the elephant, we saw the big elephant with his wife together. The big elephant left his wife alone and he ran away. In other villages they can hunt for 3 or 4 months but in our village, we hunt for 2 or 3 days and we killed the big elephant. The ball that we shot was heard by the people of Gok. Because we have killed a big elephant with his wife together, we realize that our village became the known village. (Illea is divided into 2 parts: the young boys and girls came together to join in the party. The old men and women in the village remained because they are not able to walk. We better send a message to the older people to tell them we have done our party nicely and happily. Called QUOICHLACK he is not the chief or the second in command. Our swearing is respected by everyone beause we have done what we said we would do. Our town is just like Asmara town. Those who complete with us (a small animal like a cat) They have killed a very small animal looking the size of a cat. But we have killed a big elephant with his wife together.

  1. Obero.

Information: Recorded before. Trumpet with song. No audience singing. In the village he didn’t trust his age group boys that they would give him something. Only the old men. (In Gilo area, if the singer is very young, may girls will love him. For this reason, all the young men will be against him.

Text: Praising the Nikou. No one will find fault with the way you help the chief with leadership. The village is very large to be led by such a small chief. A young chief. I’m still requesting something to be given to me. A man called CHAM OLAL praising him. You are the foundation of the village. All the singers of the Anuak village became rich beause you have given them something. (Except me. Because I was not given) Praising the Nibur…If you cooperate together with Nike and chief, I hope I can have something from the 3 of you. Mentions something about himself. Continuation of song: When I was called to bring beer with the group of young fellows, I saw many young fellows looking at me seriously in the corner of the house. The chief of the village was called by the Ethiopian government to go ASWAR STATION to pay taxes. I went with him without eating anything but I wrapped my sheet around my stomach. Then he was given a gift. Then, I didn’t take anything. When I put my hand in my pocket, and touched the thing that was given by my chief, I felt very glad. It seemed that I had taken something to eat. Praising his friend. Perhaps this friend was angry with him because of dispute over the girls in the village. He said, I’m asking you, what have I done in the village. Praising another man in the village. You look my friend that my cousin’s son is doing to me. This may be my bad luck. When I first came into the village people accepted me very happily. As long as I stay in the village, they will start hitting me and desiring that I be away from the village. Speaks: I’m Odiel Okele living with the chief of Illea called Obung-Cham.

    1. Tape is blank. Sounds of the steamer from the Sudan.


Information: This King was compared with a lion. He was terrible in the village. He used to kill people. But he heard of one king. If I meet that king, the bad king will see me. This song was sung because of the competition between the two kings. The man sent a message (the owner of the song sent the message) saying, you tell my message to this king seeing don’t compete with this king because he is terrible. (In this part is like a prayer: they don’t say the meaning of the word directly but indirectly. Not understood by AGWA.) Compare this translation with the one made by Paul N on August 4th.

Text: Praising his friends. Sung especially for the King. (when the group that helped the King, they have special respect. Not called according to their name but according to the animal name. this was mentioning the people by their animal names. The man who was wanting to compete with the bad king, he has the message sent by this singer. When he hears the message, he was afraid and hid himself like a woman who bore a child. And went back to his home called ADONGO. A dispute came up between the villages of NIKANE. (a group of villages together are given a common name. POPENO, ALOROW, GILO river group. Nikane group) A dispute between Nikane and Odongo people because of the corn and cows. The king of Nikane village, said I don’t want a war to start because of cows or corn. (he’s the cruel king) are the people of Odongo mad or what? What happened to them? We sent a message to them saying we don’t want a war started because of the corn or cows, but they are still stealing our cows and insulting us. If we agree to make a war with them, they will never face it. Starting many years ago, we were known by many people that we were warriors. And we refused to make a war with other villages because we were blamed by many villages of killing many people in other villages. The king of the village is called AGWAR our chief keeps our village in peace and we control many villages from the hunger, even beause of Mussolini and Italian invasion, we were the people who fought seriously. They fought against the Italians. People of our village were divided because of dispute between them, not because of the attack of some other villages but during Italian invasion, we chased them away many times. And we captured many things from them. Song is Incomplete because tape runs out.

ANUAK Project: FIELD NOTES – July 24, 1972

Retyped: June 12, 2019

9:15 Paul comes to the house and after all arrangements are taken care of, we finally leave by about 10;30

10:30 Leave Pokwo for illea by boat with Paul, Mark, and an old lady and fellow who is learning how to drive the boat.

11:00 We arrive, walk through the saw grass and stop under the meeting place of the men. Here we wait. This place is so important to the men of Anuak villages that when each passes by, he puts his right arm behind his back grasping it with his left. This is a sign of respect for the place usually under a large tree where the skins are set out and the men sit or lie and talk.

Today we wait quite a while and very little seems to be happening. Eventually the chief comes out. He is the young man I met several weeks ago on our first visit into this area. He has just come back from being in detention for several weeks to get more taxes out of the village. They had paid $4.00 apiece earlier, but because there is no place for these people to keep such receipts as they have no boxes I the village, they are at the mercy of the government to extract more taxes, whether previously paid or not. So, this time, they got 3 dollars more per head.

Action is very slow and so Paul says we came the first time and you said to come back and you would be ready. We came the second time and you were not ready (because of a death in the village). Now we come the third time, and still you are not ready. What’s the matter with you fellows!? At that, the chief gets up and goes to his house and soon a man brings out his chair (he is the only one in the village allowed to have a chair). This is placed in the center of the area facing us. The men immediately move to the sides and a very respectful distance. Then the drums are brought out and then the children and women begin to appear.

12:00 Action begins with the women and children sitting to our left, the soloist in the center in front of the drums, the drums in the center, the men to the right and what dancing is done takes place in the far center, out of the shade of the tree, a perfect place for good shots over the action of the drummers. The leader is strong, expert and responsible for the composition of many of the songs sung. He is also the composer for several of the villages in the area, making his living as a composer of songs for several of these places. He travels around considerably and his songs sung today are from several places.

We use up 3 and almost 4 rolls of movie film as follows:

J 151736

J 086664

J 153064 All Kodak.

The following camera shots rerecorded:

Picture 12 4 – 2.8F 16’ 125x shot of man singing.

14 4F 16’ 125x drums and men dancing.

15 & 16: man singing and drums. Dancers. 125x

17 5.8F 50-60’ 125x General area.

18 2.8F 30’ 125x Close up of general area at different angle.

Mark Riemer makes the following report:

There are several drums going “full stick”. The singer sings the same words in Somali (or so says Ocwer). It sounds like a dialect of Arabic. There are about a million kids sitting around. The man singing is the composer of all the songs he’s singing. There are several exchanges offs with the drummers. When the men sing, he holds his hands to his temples. Some other middle-aged men get up and start dancing (about 8 or so). A woman joins them a little later. They have a variety of get-ups. One stuffs grass in his belt. Another man carries a burning log. Others have a variety of sticks, etc.: one has a kid but drops him when the kids start crying. After leaping up in a series of straight legged jumps and imitation hunting scenes, they sit down to listen. After listening to the recording just the man sings.

Picture 19 5.6F 30x 17’ Shot of singer with telephoto.

The singer’s name is Odiel Okelo.

The first two sides are continuous with little opportunity for stopping. Therefore, no song by song description appears here.

Side 1: Tape 2 for the day:

000 1 Short portion of song written for illea.

008 1 Song for general dancing. A solo for Ping Mala village.

050 3 Obero for the chief Opodni Abulla from Ping Mala.

100 4 Ebago; village. Composed for this village.

132 5 A song for general dancing for Ebago.

161 6 A song for general dancing for Ebago. This is a love song.

279 7 Agwaga: bugle blown for the chief, for illea. Bugle blown any time they feel like it. Speaks about how good he is. Built a school.

Picture 20 11F 17’ 30x Shot of drummer and singer in action.

Picture 21 and 22: 2.8F 25 and 10’ of bugler.

388 8 Love song for the chief. (Somali influence in spots)

Side 2: Tape 2 for the day.

000 1 Agwaga very old for illea against Pena village. We’re fighting them at this time. Sung by Jwalik Ogwoli

060 2 For an oath to kill elephant: made the song when the elephant was killed Made when they were young. The elephant was found near this area. Sung by Ogwoli.

115 3 Obero for the new chief of illea (sung by the lead singer)

2:40 The action stops, we discuss with the young chief the financial settlement and then pay the village $20.00

After making arrangements for the singer of tomorrow, we arrive home by 4:15. A full and very rich day. We worthwhile.

Recording #26B 2

Place of Recording: Pokwo

Date of Recording: July 25 - #4

Performance: Olok Okae from Cham #4

Informant: Paul N

Date of Transcript: August 4, 1972

1 000 Agwaga.

Information: From Cham (Cam) An old song. Several Agwagas from Cham. Special songs from 11 villages. Old songs. Against the Italians 1944. Invasion of Ethiopia. Cham acted against the invaders when the Italians were ruling this area, they acted badly to the villages. Took anything by force, food, ladies, did anything. The people were not to be oppressed. Made songs against the invaders to let the Anuaks know that we were the only village that refused the force of the Italians. Cham was the only village that refused Italians. Not too many Italians were in this area. Only those of high rank. The others were black people whom they employed in this area. In the fight in Cham there was only one Italian in the fighting. All others were black. The captain remained alone and all of his forces were completely destroyed. Cham is on the border. On the Acobo river. When the captain found that he could not do better he escaped by night to the Gilo river where he remained for reinforcements This was before the Sudan government acted. They delayed. The second time when the man got the reinforcements, during the dry season, he was trying to get that village. Brought many soldiers to Cham. Then they captured the Sudan Side. They were on the Ethiopian side in the first place and then crossed the river to the Sudan side. Defeated Cham the second time and then crossed the river over the border. Not long from then, the Sudan government acted. At that time ruled by Egyptian and British empire. The Sudanese forces. Uganda’s and Congolese troops were sent in, then were divided. From Acobo the other unit came through NYIKANI along the River Acobo. Contains Tedo Cham and Ojallo. And another unit came from Nasir to Gambela. The whole force went through this way to attack Gambela the stronghold of Italian troops. The Gallas and the Amhara’s and the Anuaks fought on the side of the Italians at that time. They were convinced by the Italians they gave much clothes, money to the people. They joined the Italian force, got enough money, what they wanted, food, bullets. With arms, the Anuaks agreed to fight. They feared when they have nothing but will fight when they have arms. Even now, when asked that they neglect the movement in the South Sudan. When at the same time they had previously supported the Italians. They said that they didn’t know that the Italians had evil intentions. Italians treated them badly, a slight wound was ignored, died. The care of the wounded was ignored. They were just left. Even Sent to Jimma but would not reach Jimma. Instead killed before they reached Jimma. Italians made a very bad revenge on the village of Cham. The King that fought the Italians was Cham Akway. He was not killed.

Text: They said that my arm would not be twisted. Refused the force.