ASOYIN
TERRIBLE MALADY
Performed by Grupo Síntesis
Written by Carlos Alfonso
ROCK AFRO-SON

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Hmmm Ma-i-tounumi (4x)

Eyatimbo yatambo ma-i-tounumi
Hmmm ma-i-tonumi
Asoyi ya yatambo ma-i-tounumi
Hmmm Ma-i-tonumi
Aripreti yatambo ma-i-tounumi
Hmmm Ma-i-tounumi
Suko ya yatambo ma-i-tounumi
Hmmm Ma-i-tonomi

Akomado (2x with echo)

Akomado asoñaña, akomado yowolo (2x)
Naña akomado kueni sobo kueni orisa sasa (2x)
Akomado asoñaña, akomado yowolo
[repeat entire stanza]

Hmmm, sealed our lips remain

Sacred drum of affliction, our bodies resonate with pain
Hmmm, sealed our lips remain
Terrible Malady, flailed skin of misery resounds your name
Hmmm, sealed our lips remain
Except discretion, rapidly, all paths rush towards the grave
Hmmm sealed our lips remain
Mound of earth, hungrily, will not refuse scattered grains
Hmmm sealed our lips remain

Watch out for footprints; Terrible Malady; fire, melt our chains
Terrible traces; hello traveller, distance yourself; ah, welcome,
orisha [of the] shashara1
Watch out for footprints; Terrible Malady; fire, melt our chains.

P 1987 EGREM

Brought to Cuba during the slavetrade, the “Arara” found themselves in the minority vis à vis the “Lucumi,” whose gods and ritual practices resembled theirs. They kept themselves intact by narrowing their focus, expressing themselves primarily through the god of disease and earthly suffering. By taking on human suffering as personified by “Terrible Malady” a.k.a. San Lázaro, Sakpata or Babalú Ayé, Arara singers draw upon a collective memory of enslavement — that ultimate insult to integrity. Silence and hermeticism are corollary conditions of Arara survival and expression. “Terrible Malady” is the hidden god, whose scabby skin and tormented features are covered. Verbally, the god must be concealed behind various epithets and mollified with blessings, lest he announce himself too blatantly. To this religious reticence became attached a comparable social restraint. Singing too loudly and clearly of African matters would attract attention and court retribution from wrathful overseers. “Hmmm” is a choral caution not to disclose anything. The lead singer rushes through a repertoire of San Lázaro’s roads (praise names) as though to avoid detection. Yet the final twist is a reckless, direct summoning: “though your searing hand upon my body may be excruciating, only that fire can dissolve the chains of my bondage.” Asoñaña, (see transcription) is derived from azon niyaniya (meaning “Terrible Malady” in the original Fongbe language) of which Asoyín is a contraction.