Great example on how you can find your roots in unexpected places.
So, most West Indian people know the Allison Hinds soca version of ‘Faluma’. It’s undeniably still my all time favourite soca song and one of my fav songs in general. It’s just beautiful sounding to me and for years I would sing the words to this song, and my cousin and I would wuk up in her living room or me and my friends would have random soca parties in my dorm room and I would never know what I was saying while singing it.
One day an eternity later I was looking around the internet for lyric translations, and I discover it is originally a Surinamese Maroon song, originally recorded by Ai Sa Si, used in Winti (the African derived religion practiced in Suriname) for particularly water Kumanti (Akan) spirits. I saw Watra (Wata) Mama particularly mentioned for this song online by Winti practitioners but in both Guyana and Suriname, the idea is spoken more in plurals like “fairmaids” (Guyana) in general or watra mamas in Suriname. The difference is in Suriname they are also venerated Winti spirit whereas in Guyana she is a once venerated, then feared spirit, then turned cautionary children’s tale. Idunno how many times my dad done told me about “fairmaid” dragging people underwater forever and then expecting me to get some sleep after that. Anyway, in addition to this, the song’s cool because Faluma “a dove” in the aong is a metaphor for the spirit of African peoples and the singers are saying it was killed and asking who killed it, asking at the end “Mama a yea yea dunah?”
Thing is Dutch Berbice near the Canje River in Guyana is near Suriname’s (formerly Dutch Guyana) border and once upon a time the two countries were one colony and the practices were very similar. However, Suriname has kept their African religions more intact whereas Guyana’s Comfa practices have slowly been disappearing because of harsh Protestant colonial laws that are still, yes STILL in place against them (even if it’s just symbolically. They won’t get rid of them simply to piss people off and to make Comfa practitioners feel bad if they turn their shit too African for the mainstream tastes) and because of demonization in general. Comfa has become extremely Christianized and alot of information has been lost.
Like in Suriname, Afro-Guyanese once venerated spirits from “African nations” they named Kongo, Kromanti, Shango(Yoruba), Vudu(Fon), as well as Igbo. The accompanying Igbo drum rhythms I don’t know if they are still around and the song and dance for the Vudu drum rhythm is also gone as far as I know and have asked around about. But the drummer I heard from said he remembered the Vudu dance having something to do with a snake, the same as I read it was in Suriname. Wata Mama particularly also used to be venerated in Guyana heavily until the practices died out in the 60s because of a strict ban against them since the late 19th, turn of the 20th century. Which is a shame because Guyana is the “Land of Many Waters”.
It’s sad and it got me to wondering if Comfa info couldn’t be retrieved from what information could be collected from Suriname and Guyanese Comfa religion revived in a more African sense. I mean that sounds mad dismissive but I ain’t about heavy Protestantism and special attention given in Comfa practices to British spirits (I’m serious), quite frankly.
Anyway… all this always comes to mind whenever I play that song. That and the fact that it’s hilarious that Christian West Indians still whine up to this song during Carnival time, never knowing they giving Kromanti spirits they life. Lol. Excuse the rant.