Samori Touré sings...

Recently I posted on the Manding names reportedly used in Samori Touré's army as per Fofana's book "l'Alimami Samori Touŕé: Empereur". Today, let's take a look at another little excerpt where the famous colonial resistant reportedly sings a few lines in Manding.

Born around 1830, towards the end of the 19th century Samori constructed a significant polity across what is today primarily the highlands of Guinea (but also parts of what is now Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone). His battles with French during their conquest of West Africa led to a later shift of his territory towards the east into what is now primarily northern Côte d'Ivoire.

From Fofana's perspective, Samori's actions in the west "had the merit of putting an end to the anarchy that reigned in the region" (p. 25, my translation). He did this by "channeling all adventurers towards warrior activities under his authority with the goal of merging the multitude of small chiefdoms into one kingdom" (p. 25).  I won't go into the details of Samori's alliances and conquests in this regard or the merits of Fofana's analysis. Instead, I would like to focus on one part of the book and the Alimami's life: the taming of the region known as Tɔrɔn.

According to Fofana's interlocutor, <Djoua Konaté>, at one point during Samori's rise raise the Tɔrɔn village of Gbodou resisted Samori's authority even as other neighboring villages such as Fabala pledged their allegiance. At the end of one farming season, Gbodou held its annual celebration and dispatched invitations widely in the region. Given Fabala's status, its delegation included a number of figures from Samori's circles and in particular his brother <Kèmè Bréma>. The exact circumstances aren't quite clear but apparently in the course of celebrating Kèmè Bréma unsheathed his sword and accidentally struck the leader of Gbodou with the handle, cutting his forehead. Given both his status as a guest of an official delegation and as Samori's own brother, Kèmè Bréma wasn't immediately punished.

Given the affront though, a messenger however was dispatched for Samori and the man himself appeared shortly thereafter. Reprimanding his brother and circling the event grounds with his hands clasped behind his back, he came and kneeled in front of Gbodou's leader, <Nouni Kaba Konaté> and sang the following words (which I have attempted to put into modern transcription with tone with literal-like translation):


<Aïtaa Nmàlö Nkuntiila

Tiilonbali té nné

Aïtaa Nmàlö Nkuntiila

Walignuma lonbalitè nnè> (p. 30)


Á yé táa ń mǎlɔ̀ ń kùntíi' lá
Tíilɔnbali' tɛ́ nê [yé?]
Á yé táa ń mǎlɔ̀ ń kùntíi' lá
Wáleɲumanlɔnbali' tɛ́ nê [yé?]


'Lead me to my chief

I'm not one who doesn't recognize a master

Lead me to my chief

I'm not one who doesn't recognize good deeds'

It's unclear whether these words were indeed sung by Samori or not. Fofana's interlocutor was himself born around 1890 and therefore was not a direct witness of the event. Interesting moment regardless of verifiability and perhaps these words were in fact Samori's. His act led to a pardon by the leader of Gbodou and served as the basis for an alliance that would allow for the Alimami to ultimately conquer the rest of Tɔrɔn.

I'll chime in later with a few remarks about what strikes as the peculiarities of the Manding and hopefully a final post that lays out a few other samples of Manding within the book.