Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ol Cook Pot

Ibrahim spent a morning last week installing a screen door on my mud hut- a Peace Corps mandate, this screen door thing. Last year I coveted the screen doors of all my PCV neighbors (helps keep out flies and rats and such beasties), so when mine was dropped off I was pumped. But then I decided not to put it up, and it's been sitting inside my hut for a year. Occassionally I'd prop it up against the doorway and use it to keep dust and wind out during storms, and with the onset of the new rainy season I decided that a more permanent situation was in order. So, while Ibrahim mixed the cement and mud bricks to hold the door in place, I sat nearby and played music for him off of my Ipod.

I tried to pick music that he'd like and recognize. Ali Farka Toure- a Tuareg musician, was a big hit. Bob Marley- Ibrahim knows reggae from his days on work exxode. Sideways Portal- he hadn't heard this before, but got a kick out of knowing it's my Dad's group.

Then Narba joined me, and the two of us resumed watching Ibrahim work. I looked over my music, thinking of songs that Narba would relate to and enjoy. Right away I thought of a song by the Duhks that I like- 'Ol Cookpot- and I put it on and translated the lyrics to Hausa. 'Ol Cookpot is a rocking folksy soul song about a woman with five mouths to feed, no husband to help out, and a big empty cookpot that she's got to bargain with to provide just a little more food. Narba, if you can guess, now loves this song as much as I do. It totally translates- the words, the idea, the shittiness of the whole situation. Narba shook her head in sympathy for the lady and sang along with me. Later, I caught her explaining the song to her daughters-in-law and her nephew-- "This poor woman, she has nothing to put in the sauce, and she has five kids and her husband is off in prison or working or somewhere, and can you imagine? What is she supposed to do?"
There aren't a lot of things that translate so easily from English/the United States to Hausa/Niger. But some things, like working to feed your family, need no explanation.

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