I count on you 

A beloved Somali love song with such eloquence and poetic depth to it. It’s sung by a songstress called Yurub Geenyo, and is called Sibaan U Nuglaa Baryaba. Somali is a very rich and complex language, one difficult to translate without losing neither its fluidity nor accuracy. Nevertheless, below is my take on the lyrics in the picture.

I count the days as they pass me by

I catch glimpses of wishes that will come to pass by strokes of luck

And in the distance, I see a radiant path 

A Vision

Cilmi Bowndheri
c. 1910-1941. He spent his youth as a pastoralist but around 1930 he moved to the town of Berbera and worked there as a baker. He fell in love with a girl called Hodon whom he hardly knew, and when it proved impossible to marry her he recited many desperate poems which won him nationwide fame. Hodon was given in marriage to another man and Cilmi is said to have died of grief. His grave in Berbera is sometimes visited by ill-starred lovers.


At times I made light of it

And I was free.

Then suddenly I was shown her in a vision

And she was radiant in hue, like a lighted lantern.

Surely she must have been imprinted on my heart

How else could I be so intoxicated with her?

Inside my breast she tick-tocks to me like a watch

At night when I sleep she comes to sport with me

But at early dawn she leaves

And turns into a rising pillar of dust.

Bowndheri, Cilmi. “A Vision.” An Anthology of Somali Poetry. Trans. B. W. Andrzejewski and Sheila Andrzejewski. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1993. 67. Print.



Serenades of a Somali nomad

The following is a transcription from an anthology of translated Somali poetry¹. Being a translation of an eloquent language that only had mouths and minds as mode of transmission,as books and ink,as a legacy – it goes without saying that the intricate beauty cannot be transported to another country,another language. One particular poem that soothed me was preceded by this short commentary :

It was the custom that when a man was seeking a girl in marriage and her family looked on him with favour, he would pay a visit to her homestead,bringing gifts. With him would come some of his kinsmen, to add solemnity to the visit and protect him, and the gifts, on the journey. In his youth, Cumar Ostreeliya accompanied his cousin Maxamed on such a journey to the home of Weris, Maxamed’s bride-to-be, and he composed this poem in her honour.


If in these verses, linked by the sound of ‘S’

I were to give a true account, O Weris, of your qualities

Unlocking the coffers of my skill

And opening my breast where clocklike beats my heart,

And were I to describe your appearance

Just as it was first created-

Why,the men who dwell in distant Sirow

Would all come here to seek you out!

But since the evil eye of jealousy

Is not wont to miss its aim,

I shall instead speak simply

Listen, then, to my words tonight,

For this is no time to sleep-

See,we have brought fire and pulled aside

The barrier gate of the thorny fence!


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