The performance of the Kom nuptial or birth songs (njangwain)

, Mon 10th, Apr 2017, 10:07

By Ernest Timnge

All Cultures in the world including the Kom culture is defined in terms of its language, customs, religious beliefs, cuisine, Music, dance, social habits or social heritage, ideas that are accepted within an organized community or society. In the light of the above definition, the traditional Kom society like any other traditional society is considered to be a literary community whereby, some form of oral tradition (orature) or oral literature is performed all year round.

According to Tosah, (2009), “the sum total of the various traditional practices of an entity constitutes its culture; (chighnii). These traditional practices are built into rites of passage which have to do with birth, marriage, title acquisition, succession, enthronement/dethronement not and never in Kom anyway and procedures and finally death. Culture/economic development can focus on the factors that relate to the actual acquisition of wealth or factors that relate to the wellbeing of a people”.

In this paper, I will talk specifically on the Kom nuptial or birth songs (njangwain).  Njangwain is composed and performed by the Kom women during special events like birth celebration (born-house), traditional marriages, and during other special events like the Kom annual cultural dance festival that takes place yearly. Njangwain falls under oral poetry and expresses itself in songs, rituals incantations and praise or salutation to the gods of the Kom land.  The lead singer during the performance of njangwain is known to the people as ntzui-njang (performer) is either a professional or an amateur. Whatever the case may be, the Kom oral artist during the performance of njangwain aims at establishing a relationship with the creative piece which he or she realizes through performance? 

In spite of the social change which the Kom culture  other cultures has experienced in recent years as a result of this computer age, and is still going through, the Kom tribe continued to maintain its intimate relationship with the Kom culture. The Kom oral poetry has remained in tack as part of the cultural heritage making tremendous contribution to ceremonial and cultural festivals such as: traditional marriages, birth celebration (born-house), and other special events. Njangwain is the core of the Kom oral literature. 

The songs performed mostly by the Kom women and these songs are pregnant with euphemism and symbolism. Memorization is an important concept in the performance of njangwain. It means, the concept of memorization enables the narrator or lead singer who receives the songs from someone else, memorizes them, and then later passes on to the third party. The ultimate objective of this performance is to affirm faith in the Kom oral tradition. The women use these songs as a means of transmitting cultural values from one generation to another. As Bole Butake puts it,

The song or poem is the most or profuse form of emotive expression in African societies. The African manifests his feelings through an outburst of song when he loves and when he hates, when he works and when he plays, when he is at peace and when he fights, when a child is born and when death takes its toll, the song then is the lifetime of the African; and he learns the art of poetry because he is born, and bred in a society which recognizes that the poetic form is emotionally, most expressive of the human predicament (1978:138)

 A study of the Kom nuptial songs (njangwain) reveals that the songs are didactic in nature and serves as materials with which the Kom women passes on important lessons to the younger generation in the land. Like any other work of arts, the performance contains stylistic devices which involves; the sound devices, Languages or diction.

The language used in the songs is ordinary Kom language (Itanghi-Kom). Through its stylistic devices, imagery, irony, satire, repetition and rhyme schemes are discovered which brings out the beauty in the performance.  During the performance of njangwain, the songs forms the narrative plot which is usually introduced by the narrator or the lead singer while the choral response enables the audience to actively participate in the realization of these songs. 

Collecting and analyzing these birth songs is important to both Kom because we make it available to a wider audience, that is, outside of the Kom community for the purpose of research. These songs performed a wide variety of social, cultural, political, educational as well as religious functions. However, it can be safely assumed that the Kom nuptials or birth songs like its written counterparts broadens and deepens our knowledge of human affairs in the Kom kingdom thereby, making life more intelligible for the Kom children who shall take over the command of baton when this present generation shall be no more.

Ibrahim, K. Tala (1999), has also argued that “orature in its pure form is composed and transmitted orally within its own culture”. 

Nuptial or birth songs from the Kom land

Wayn,wa lema-ah kwein,
wa mala lumva-ahWayn, wa lema kwein
mala lumva-ah Ka nava na dengsa ndu.
Wayn, wa lema-ah kwein Wa mala lumva-eh ka nava,
a dengsa-eh-ah-eh

1. English: The speaker is either a happy mother or a relation who has witnessed a happy moment in her or their household because of a marriage exchange situation in her or their family. The song is addressed to the daughter in marriage and which could equally be applicable to anyone getting married the same.

The song presents a daughter in marriage who is of age. The daughter is ripe enough, matured, and ready for the marriage business and this brings out the joy and happy elements in the mother. The song is presented during a bride prize donation/ celebration where every demand has been met with. The speaker gives the song and the choruses are sung by the participants in the occasion, she uses such short but pregnant with meaning in the song.

Ghesni tongte zi- wa tayn na njangwayn,
Ghesni tongte zi-wa -tayn na njangwayn,
Ye gvi ajung-ah ndo-ni wayn-ah-eh –
Eh tayn na njangwayn, ye gi-ajung Ah-ndo-ni wayn.

2. English: The speaker in the song is a group of host or hostesses welcoming and expressing their warm greetings to the visitors in the house who have come into their compound. The speaker is addressing a group of visitors who have come to join the host or hostesses in a marriage ceremony. The song presents a group’s greetings to those who have to witness the solemnization of marriage traditionally in a typical Kom style. Such greetings come up at the arrival of such important visitor, probably the in-laws coming to witness the ceremony as a testimony. With body gestations, the speakers as a group sings with such melodious voices that provokes dancing at all angles by everyone present during the marriage ceremony. Such ear-thrilling voices and body display are clear indication that the hosts or hostesses are in a happy mood.

1. Ah-eh malema meyn, ni-eh-eh
Ti –ma-malie lua ghi zueni ma-ah fundong-eh
Ah-eh malema meyn-ni-eh-eh,
Eh-ti-ma-malie lua ghi zueni-ma-sa-Acha-eh-eh.

English: The speaker or the lead singer is a proud mother-in-law or father-in-law who is happy because of the union between their child and that of another family. The speaker in the song addresses an audience who happens to be the participants because their child has brought joy to family because their names would be heard a distant places when their world would come to an end.

The speaker is addressing one new family person who happens to be a son –in-law or daughter in-law that has come to augment the family number and the speaker is just overwhelmed with joy in his/her heart. The speaker here is announcing to the audience in attendance his/her popularity because of what has happened in his family due to the one family member gained and how such popularity shall be sounded on his or her last day through this one important member of the family.

The song is sung at a time when the mother-in-law sees her dream come true due her daughter marriage to son from another family. The song clearly brings out a mind that has lived in imagination. In a note of exclamation or surprise, the speaker expresses her or his joy of imagination that at last, he or she could be known to the outside world as a proud parent.

2. Fu ayes-si-ma, ma yete-ndo
Ka-wayn kfa gi na-adengha, na keng ma-mong.
Fu ayes-si-ma-ma yete-ndo, ka wayn kfa gin a-adengha
Na keng ma-mon-eh-eh-eh.

English: The speaker is either a happy mother-in-law or father –in-law who has seen a son-in-law or daughter –in-law. The speaker is addressing a servant or someone in attendance to produce something with which he or she can use to maintain some level of hygiene in the house in anticipation of a joyous moment coming her way. In this song, the speaker is presenting himself or herself as one who is ready to keep places very clean ready for the reception of a child coming back home with joy(could be a baby or husband). The moment the speaker sets his or her eyes on the child coming back home, that is when such utterances come out from where it has been hiding. The speakers says is in such a happy mood he or she demanded if the tool (broom) for cleanliness is delayed, he or she could already begin to use her hands.

3. Ghesi tie-wo wayn, si chem me-eh
Ghesi tie-wo wayn, sic hem me-eh
Chem ma-nawyni-zi chem wayn
Na zi chem ma nawayni-eh-zi chem wayn-wayn.

English: The mothers-in-law are addressing themselves to a situation of joy which has been enabled by their getting a child. They are speaking to everyone listening at the moment through a song of (njangwain). They express their joy to the fact that they were disappointed because they did not have a child to celebrate but they can celebrate. This is the moment of celebration because the child has arrived and they can now celebrate. This particular song is sung in the form of an announcement.

4. Ah-eh kiyndongha wayna
Wa buf si nawayna-ah-wo wumi gha-ah-ndowayn
Ah-eh kiyndongha wayna, wo buf si nawayna-ah
wo -wumi gha-ah ndowayn. Ah-eh kiyndongha wayna-eh-eh.

English: The speakers who happens to be the lead singer is addressing the audience concerning a shameful situation in which the young lady who has given to birth is not happy at a time when she has to be happy and her heart filled with joy and she does this with body gestations. The speaker or lead singer might be the bride’s relation or the groom’s relation expresses surprise as why the mother of the baby is not excited or happy during (born-house). The speaker completely questions the young mother why is unhappy at a time when she has to be happy and rejoicing but instead, she is shy especially during the celebration of the new born baby.

5. Nawayn dyan-lama,
Tom a ndowayn,
Nwayn dyan lama,
Tom a ndowayn-ka ndowayna
Fim na tic.

English: In this song, a stranger notices some cunning or strange behavior mother-in-law and calls her attention to such bad behavior. The speaker attributes such behavior to darkness in the house which could only be overcome by light. The speaker makes a request for the mother-in-law to light the lamp with which would give light in the house. The stranger addresses the mother-in-law to let light shine in the house and that it supposed to be a happy celebration and not with darkness. It is a moment of happiness and celebration which comes with the light in the house.

6. Wayna-wa ndu, wa yaynsi gve,
Tima avia a kia kfi ngoh-wa kfi eti a wayna-wuym.
Wayna-wa ndu wa yaynsi gve,
Tima avia a kia kfi ngoh wa kfi eti wayna-wuym.

English: The speaker is a mother-in-law whose dreams has come true and she expresses her joy in front of the audience. She tells the audience how happy she is watching her son in-law dancing round on her floor. The song is seemingly informing the audience particularly those who never thought this could happen in her household someday. She tells the audience in the song that this is her time to show the world who she is because of her daughter’s hand in marriage. She was wishing for a day like this and now she can comfortably share her joys with the world.

7. Ma ti-eh ko kofi-eh ki wax-eh
Ma ti-eh ko kofi-eh ki wax-eh oh
Bobe gve meyn ni cicam.

English: The speaker is a woman complaining of a reward given her which is not equal her labor by her husband. She spent enough time laboring in her husband’s coffee farm expecting a bigger reward only to receive something not worth her pains. The husband made a promised of a quality loincloths (Holland wax) but came home with something of very low quality dress (cicam). She uses the song as if to mock her husband for having disappointed her. This message is directed to her husband even though she is addressing an oral audience. This song in the form of complain is just to tell her husband that he is not serious because she spent all her time making sure that every coffee seed in the coffee farm was harvested. The fact that her husband failed to fulfill his promise, indicates that she was unfairly treated.

8. Dyal lili-eh nawayn ni-dyal,
Dyal lili-eh nawayn ni dyal
Dyal lili-eh nwayn ni dyal
Ah-ndowayn na wayn gve meyna adengha.

9. Wa tum wayni ibyem, wa ni ijem
Wa wayni ibyem, wa ni ijeme-eh-eh
Oh, wa tum wayni ibyem
Wa ni ijeme-eh
Na wayn wu ndu-ah
Wu yangsi gvi.

English: The speaker is either a prayerful mother-in-law of father-in-law expressing their joy and happiness after their daughter’s hand is given into marriage. In the song, they are making a request or telling their daughter that they are waiting for the marriage results which signifies the gift of a child. The lead singer, supposedly, the mother is addressing the entire audience present during a traditional marriage particularly those whose daughters has been given into marriage. The song is a prayer and she tells the audience, that every mother has to be involved in their children’s upbringing. She goes on to say that as a daughter, remains a daughter wherever she may go, meaning a mother supposed to care about the daughter’s future. Here, she likens her prayer situation to hunter sent by his father in a hunting expedition. The father sits back and pray for a fruitful hunt so that his the sons can return well and quickly with the biggest catch.

10. Adenghali ghi mi-wuyni,
Adenghali ghi mi-wuyni,
adengha wayn,wayn-eh-eh,
wo li dzi ma, wo dzi ndo yes.

English: This song is about a happy mother-in-law whose son’s wife has given to birth. This is the kind of news she had been expecting to hear and now she can celebrate. The speaker sees this news about the birth of a baby as joy that is worth celebrating but that she cannot celebrate alone but with two families involved. In this respect, she inquires whom to send as a mail runner to announce or deliver the news about the new born to the family on the other side. It is a joy that cannot be hidden but must be shared. She says this using a song and her body gestations are enough to bring in the audience to join her in the dancing arena.

11. Ghayni nda ma achi ndo,
Ta wayn, wayn-eh-eh Ghayni nda ma ach indo,
Ta wayn, wayn-eh-eh
Wo li dzi ma-ma dzi ndo yeym.

English: This song is an expression of a situation of truth by someone either from the bride’s family or the groom’s family. The speaker in the song seems to have been belittled and now that her grandchild is playing on her floor, she can measure herself with the rest of other grandmothers in the society. She is doubting about what people would say now with her grandchild playing in her house. In the song, she gives out an announcement to the audience, reminding them that something good has come to her house which her grandchild is playing round on her floor. The speaker tells the audience who are also participants in the song that this child shall celebrate her funeral and take care of her entire family when she shall be no more to see what is happening behind.

12. Wa Jem chi ma kwein, kwein,
Ma yeyn jung-eh-eh, Wa jem chi ma kwein, kwein
Ma yeyn jung-eh-eh
Njung yeyn ndu me tala wo.

English: This song is from a happy mother-in-law who discovers that the son’s wife is pregnant and likens the pregnancy to a dream that has come true. The song stresses the importance of a grandchild to an elderly woman in the Kom land. She sings to everyone listening to her. She expresses her joy, her happiness and tells the audience that she would soon be a grandmother because the son’s wife would soon give birth.


  • Butake, B. (January-June, 1978), Literature in oral tradition (Ngam Nos.3-4):136 Ibrahim, K. Tala (1999), Orature in Africa: Canada Academic printing and publishing, University of Saskatchewan, (1st Ed.).
  • Tosah, N. (2009), AfoaKom-USA National Convention, Houston, TX: Culture as a theme for economic development, Houston chapter.