Prompt # 28 – dance

More Notes from the Canadian honey jar

June 15, 2017

if you’re going to slow dance with somebody, you want him to know/understand the lyrics. Less time wasted on translation. Rather, you undertake the translation/interpretation together, without words, with your bodies.

So this prompt would need the lyrics to accompany the writing! About time I looked at the lyrics anyway.

The idea is that the two people dancing, two habesha people obviously, would move according to what the lyrics say. Not that Amharic song lyrics say anything overtly physical. Except for the ‘dale’. They do mention features, especially facial features. Maybe feet, but I’m not sure.

As far as physical descriptions/details of physicality go, the lyrics are very ‘chaste’. In a way, they describe only the part of the body that shows when the person is clothed. Hence the emphasis on face, hair. And what shows despite the clothes. Hence the ‘dale’ and sometimes the ‘deret’ (code for boobies?). Reminds me of something I heard once about habesha dance being a perfect example of (so-called) habesha ‘innocence’: all movement above the waist. But there’s nothing really innocent because 1) the rate of HIV infection and the birth rate tells you plenty of people are having sex (probably mostly involuntary) and 2) even with the dance being above the waist, there’s suggestiveness because of breasts. It’s the men’s dance being above the waist that leaves no option for really suggestive moment. As the dances move south, so does the body.

So, looking at lyrics now…see what inspires me. I’m going to list any references to the body, or bodily functions

– eating (and burping) ++++

– heart ++++

– illness/dis-ease

– dying

– seeing ++

– teeth +

– smiling

– ‘dem-gibat’ this is a very unique thing. What exactly does it mean??Complexion, I think?

– blood

– stomach

– stepping on

– burning

– eyes

Just the sight of Mahmoud Ahmed revives in me that idea I had to make him the focus of the story, at least as far as the music. She (narrator? female protagonist?) is completely obsessed with him, he’s the father figure who raised her, or her other father figure. She wants a guy who can make her feel the way she feels when a Mahmoud song comes on.

Ok I looked at a few lyrics but I’m stopping because there’s nothing more annoying than reading Amharic transcribed into Amharic! Hey maybe there’s something to that!

Like, trying to relate to someone can sometimes be so difficult it’s like trying to read Amharic phonetically ‘translated’ into English!

I like this!

It can also stand as a great example of the communication difficulties BETWEEN habesha diaspora people. Technically they both know the language, but because it’s been put into English (read: a western context, diaspora life) one has to really slow down and squint and read a word several times before it becomes recognizable. Like ‘timechignaleshigna’ (bet you had to read that a few times!) And then it’s like ‘oh of course, that’s what it says, I knew that!’ and on with the next word, until the whole phrase ‘emerges’, in a way. Really, it’s like learning to read all over again, but your own language. But on the plus side, once you understand the context of a piece, where it’s going, then it gets a little smoother because you can guess at what the next set of words will be, so you approach them with your best guess and compare that against what’s on the page.

So, what are your favourite Amharic lyrics to do an…ahem…”interpretive dance” to?

3 thoughts on “Prompt # 28 – dance

  1. It has got all the usual suspects, including “dale”; and the “meqnesthin fichiw” (untie your waistband) line hints at intent 😉

    I swear I know singers other than Dawit 🙂


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