why waka waka?

You might be wondering why this blog carries the title waka waka waka. The name has nothing to do with the Muppet known as Fozzie Bear, but comes instead from the lyrics to the Fela Kuti song “Coffin for Head of State, Part 2″.

Fela, who died of AIDS in 1997 at age 59, was a Nigerian musician , activist, and political gadfly (and founder of the musical style known as “Afrobeat“). He was a constant irritant to the Nigerian power elites, and endured many travails as a result. In “Coffin for Head of State” Fela tells a story of traveling about the countryside on foot (“I waka waka waka – I go many places”) and observing everywhere the corruption of traditional African culture by what he considered to be decadent influences. In the last part of the song he tells of an attack on his commune by the army, in which his mother was thrown to her death from a window. In protest Fela and friends delivered her coffin to army general Olusegun Obasanjo at an army barracks. Obasanjo, though reluctant, had to take the coffin, out of respect for the dead and fear of angering ancestral spirits.

We used to listen to a lot of Fela down at the PubSub command center, before PubSub tragically self-immolated. It was during that period that I started this blog, and I liked the image of traveling from place to place, at ground level, commenting on what one finds. I also liked Fela’s repeating line “I go many places”, because that was what I wanted this website to do. So waka waka waka it was.

You can listen to the song here. These are the lyrics:


Coffin for Head of State

Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen

Woh! Ahhhhh Ch! Ahhhh! Ch! Ch!

Through Jesus Christ, our Lord
*[CHORUS] AMEN, AMEN, AMEN – [AFTER EACH LINE]
By the Grace of Almighty Lord
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord
By the Grace of Almighty Lord
Inspiritus Christus, Mass Christus, Mass Christus, Mass Christus,
Alla-hu, Waku-baru, Salem Elekum, Alla-hu
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord
By the Grace of Allmighty Lord

So I waka waka waka** **(walk)
*[CHORUS] WAKA WAKA WAKA- [AFTER EACH LINE]
I go many places
I see my people
Dem dey cry, cry cry
Amen-i, Amen-i, Amen
Amen-i, Amen-i, Amen
Amen-i, Amen-i, Amen
Amen-i, Amen-i, Amen
I say I waka waka waka
I go many places
I see my people
Dem dey cry, cry, cry
Amen-i, Amen-i, Amen
Amen-i, Amen-i, Amen
Amen-i, Amen-i, Amen
Amen-i, Amen-i, Amen

I say I waka-waka-waka-waka-waka-waka-waka
(HORNS response)
I waka any village anywhere in Africa
I waka any village anywhere in Africa
Pastor’s house na ‘im dey fine pass
My people dem dey stay for poor surroundings
Pastor’s dress na ‘im dey clean pass
Be it hard for my people for dem to buy soap
Pastor na ‘im dem give respect pass
And dem dey do bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad things

Through Jesus Christ our Lord
*[CHORUS] AMEN, AMEN, AMEN – [AFTER EACH LINE]
By the Grace of Almighty Lord
Inspiritus Christus, Mass Christus, Mass Christus, Mass Christus,
Alla-hu, Waku-baru, Salem Elekum, Alla-hu

So I waka waka waka
*[CHORUS] WAKA WAKA WAKA- [AFTER EACH LINE]
I go many places
I go business places
And I see, see, see
All the bad, bad, bad things
Dem dey do, do, do
Call corruption
And dey call “nepotism”
Inside promotions
And inside all business
I say I waka waka waka
I see, see, see
*[CHORUS] WAKA WAKA WAKA

So I waka-waka-waka-waka-waka-waka-waka
(HORNS Short response)

I waka any business anywhere in Africa
I waka any business anywhere in Africa
North and South dem get dem policies
One Christian and the other one, Muslim
Anywhere the Muslims dem dey reign
Na senior Allaha-ji na ‘im be director
Anywhere the Christians dem dey reign
Na the best friend to Bishop na ‘im be director
It is a known fact that for many thousand years
We Africans, we had our own traditions
These money making organizations
Them come put we Africans in total confusion

Through Jesus Christ, our Lord
*[CHORUS] AMEN, AMEN, AMEN- [AFTER EACH LINE]
By the Grace of Almighty Lord
Inspiritus Christus, Mass Christus, Mass Christus, Mass Christus,
Alla-hu, Waku-baru, Salem Elekum, Alla-hu

So I waka waka waka
*[CHORUS] WAKA WAKA WAKA – [AFTER EACH LINE]
I go many places
I go government places
I see, see, see
All the bad, bad, bad things
Dem dey do, do, do
Look Obasanjo,
Before anything you know at all,
And for dey shout
Oh Lord, Oh Lord, Oh Lord, Oh mighty Lord, Oh Lord, Oh God

And den dey do bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad things
Through Jesus Christ our Lord
*[CHORUS] AMEN, AMEN, AMEN
By the Grace of Almighty Lord
*[CHORUS] AMEN, AMEN, AMEN

I say look-a Y’aradua
I say look-a Y’aradua
Before anything you know at all
It would dey shout
Aba Allah- Aba Allah- Aba Allah- Aba Allah -
Aba Allah
And den dey do yes, yes
And den dey do bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad things

Through Mohammed our Lord
*[CHORUS] AMEN, AMEN, AMEN
By the Grace of Almighty Allah
*[CHORUS] AMEN, AMEN, AMEN

So I waka waka waka
*[CHORUS] WAKA WAKA WAKA- [AFTER EACH LINE]
I go many places
I go government places
I see, see, see
All the bad, bad, bad things
Den dey do, do, do
Den steal all the money
Dem kill many students
Dem burn many houses
Dem burn my house too
And killed my mama
So I carry the coffin
I waka waka waka
Movement of the People
Dey waka waka waka
Young African Pioneers
waka waka waka
We go Obalende,
We go Dodan barracks
Reach dem gatee-o
And put the coffin down
Obasanjo dey there,
With him big fat stomach
Y’aradua dey there,
With him neck like ostrich
We put the coffin down.

Dem no wan take am
*[CHORUS] BUT DEM TAKE AM – [AFTER EACH LINE]
Dem no wan take am
Who go wan take coffin?
Dem must take am
For the bad bad bad things
Wey dem don do
Dem no wan take am
Obasanjo grab am
Y’aradua carry am
Yes, dem no wan take am
Obasanjo carry am
Y’aradua tow am
Dem no wan take am
Dem no wan take am
It der for dem office
Dem no wan take am
It der dey now now now now
It der dey now, now, now, now
It der dey now, now, now, now
It der dey now, now, now, now
It der dey now, now, now, now
It der dey now, now, now, now
* Repeat as desired