Tanzanian Poem

Informant Description/ Context of performance: My friend’s aunt recited this poem to me over the phone to give me an example of African folklore. Her father passed it down to her, who heard it from his grandmother.

Original Script:

Interviewee: I’ll recite a poem my father told me when I was very young. Can I say it in my language?

Me: Of course!

Interviewee: Mkulima mwenye shamba alipana viazi,

Akachimba chimba chimba akaona almaasi

Lololo bahahati lolo bahaato ya mtu menye shamba

Akatupa jembe upande akaenda mjini,

Kununua motokari sasa ni tajiri,

Lolo bhaato lololo bahati ya mtu menye shamba.

Me: It sounds a little bit like a song; is there a particular time or place you traditionally say this poem?

Interviewee: It’s more of a story really, like a fable for children.

Me: What does it mean?

Interviewee: The translation is roughly: There was a farmer, who had a potato farm. One day as he was plowing, he saw a diamond. He threw away his plow and ran to town. How lucky, how lucky, how lucky was the farmer? He went to buy a new car and house, oh how lucky the farmer was.

Me: So what lesson or moral does this children’s poem teach?

Interviewee: Everyone wants to be rich, but luck does not come when you are just sleeping in or stay home. In order to get rich, you still have to get up and work hard! It takes strength and courage to be poor and still work hard… but one day, you could be lucky!

Conclusion (written by Interviewer): I really enjoyed this story because it was an interesting twist on the usual “work hard, you will attain success” moral. I like that they incorporated luck into the fable; it may be reflective of the class constraints in their culture. For example, in America, it’s usually more viable to say you can become successful through hard work and dedication. Perhaps in their culture, it takes hard work and luck which is why this could be a popular fable to tell children. It encourages them to work hard in hope of some luck, which could lead them to success.