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Asa’s “Awe”: A Narrative Lyrical Analysis

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Perhaps, I am well on my way to becoming an Asa scholar of sorts. In this third installment in a serial analysis of Asa’s songs, mostly those with heavy Yoruba lyrics, I take a swift journey through Bukola Elemide’s “Awe”. A track from her eponymous debut album, this ballad, sung on the pentatonic scale, unfolds the story of a young man caught up in a romantic affair with a much older woman. This is easily the story of quasi rural-urban migration gone sour, where a young man is given a lease of life from the bucolic trappings and socio-economic realities of the village in suburban Lagos, but naively gives in to one of the evils of the much more sophisticated city life. In the first verse, the narrator –his aunt, as we soon discover– quizzes Waheed, the protagonist:

Awe, ibo l’olo ka/t’a fi n wa o ka (Hey! where have you been? /we’ve been searching for you!)
Ibi o ba lo je a mo (let us know where you’ve been)
Aunti ton gbe’le itosi (the lady that lives nearby)
O wa o wa ‘le yi/ Ati ojo meta atabo (She was here to see you/ three –and a half– days ago)
O wi pe o/ o l’oyun fun o (She said you’re responsible for her pregnancy)
Oyun osu meji/ o l’oyun fun o (For two months, she’s been pregnant for you)
A ni wipe o o/o l’oyun fun o (I mean, she’s pregnant – for you!?)
Iwo iwo naa/ o l’oyun fun o (You, of all ‘people’? She’s pregnant, for you!?)

Moved by pity and shock, she reminds him of their blood ties, in a typical Yoruba way of tracing the lineage of an offending fellow. Perhaps, the poor young man had forgotten his roots and thus started to misbehave – an anomaly! She addresses him in a condescending manner – he is too young and incapable to start a family of his own. More so, she rues the fact that the pregnant lady is much older than Waheed.

Wahidi, omo Sekina, Omo Muyina, Omo Muhammad (Waheed, son of Sekinat, daughter of Muinat, daughter of Muhammad) [x2]
Aunti to l’oyun fun o/ o to bi o l’omo (The lady is even old enough to be your mother)
Iwo, iwo naa (You!? You, of all ‘people’?) [x2]

There’s a twist when the pregnant lady puts to bed. Discrepancies in semblance between father and child are all too obvious! How do you explain stark differences in complexion and other vital details? Waheed’s aunt raises the alarm once again:

O bi’mo ooo/ obimo (She gave birth, yes, she did!)
O bi’mo ooo/ omo so l’ayo (She gave birth, the baby was delivered safely)
Ire lo ni’mu, ese, irun ori (The baby resembles you – just the nose, legs, and hair)
Iwo dudu, omo pupa; bawo l’ose ri (You’re dark, baby’s light in complexion, how come?)
Wahidi, omo Sekina, Omo Muyina, Omo Muhammad (Waheed, son of Sekinat, daughter of Muinat, daughter of Muhammad)

A brief interlude of highly charged strings and rise in tempo reveals the bitter aftermath of the marked father-child contrast.

E wa wo’ja l’afin Oba Ejigbo (Come see fight at the Palace of the King of Ejigbo)
At’abo at’ako, won ja l’afin oba/ l’afin oba o (Wife and husband in shameless fight at the king’s palace)

Reminiscent of the panegyrics and chants associated with the Eyo masquerade of Lagos, the narrator laments the pain caused by her errant nephew.

Hiya hiya o [*background chorus]
Wahidi: omo Muyina ni, omo Sekina (Waheed, son of Sekinat, daughter of Muinat)
O f’oju mi ri mabo (Put me through much trouble)
Mabo n’ile/ mabo l’oko/ mabo l’Eko (Trouble at home, at the village, even in Lagos)
Mama to bi mama re ni mama mi (your grandmother is my mother)
Emi naa bi temi/ bi temi (And I have my own children)
‘T’omo lowo, f’omo l’oyan (I’m currently caring for a child; breast-feeding a child)

Mako tire bami, bami (Don’t perturb me with your issues; I have enough personal issues to tackle already)
So, abo oro, la’n so fun omoluabi, b’oba denu re a do dindi (So, a word is enough for the wise)

Asa does masterfully well with this piece too, though I wonder the exact origin of the protagonist. The story clearly takes place in Ejigbo, a suburban neighbourhood on the outskirts of Lagos, bordering Ogun State. ‘Awe’ which means ‘friend’ and can be used to refer to one’s contemporaries as well as juniors in societal ranking as used in the first line is often used in the general dialect of people from Ekiti and Ondo States in South-Western Nigeria. However, narrator’s accent/dialect in the song is often a blend of Lagos and Oyo varieties. Anyways, Asa never fails to entertain with her unique style and medium of social criticism here.

Photo Credit: www.asa-official.com

Listen to “Awe” by Asa
[audio:https://www.bellanaija.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Awe_-Asa.mp3]
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Gbenga Awomodu is an Editorial Assistant at Bainstone Ltd./BellaNaija.com. When he is not reading or writing, Gbenga is listening to good music or playing the piano. He believes in the inspirational power of words and pictures, which he explores in helping to make the world a better place. He blogs at Gbenga’s Notebook (www.gbengaawomodu.com).

Digital Content Strategist | Creative Writer. Copy Editor. Storyteller. Vocalist. Amateur Pianist. Spoken Word Poetry recording artiste. Lover of Words & Images. #ArsenalFC. Twitter: @gbengaawomodu

53 Comments

  1. kay

    May 11, 2011 at 11:49 am

    yay! First to comment. I love Asa. She is the best thing in Nigeria… And Africa

    2
  2. Wazzos

    May 11, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Great article Gbenga,

    Very informative. It really does paint a vivid picture of the cultural connation behind her lyrics for non-yoruba speakers, doing justic to her artistry.

    http://www.wazzos.wordpress.com (beats,feasts and visual treats)

    1
    • sam

      August 27, 2014 at 3:01 am

      I loved your piece on Asa’s Awe song, perhaps you can do another one on her latest ‘ moving on’ . lovely lyrics i must say

      1
  3. Tarry

    May 11, 2011 at 11:55 am

    I a never listened to it in this manner before. BellaNaija you guys are just too much, needless to say-“you always make my day”.
    Good job

    1
  4. honey koko

    May 11, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Waoh, though I’m Yoruba n i can sing d song from d beginning till d end,I never thot much abt d lyrics until now. Its deep. I didn’t really get d stop until now.

    1
  5. honey koko

    May 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I didnt really get d story*,i meant

    1
  6. pizzazz

    May 11, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    beautiful! Good job once again

    1
  7. Olugbemi

    May 11, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    This is classic. I’d wanted to write a piece on this too, I m happy the write has said so much….. The song is pretty deep and touches much on the complexities of relationships, age barrier, family and societal values all wrapped in the folklore of the African perspectives….

    1
  8. shady

    May 11, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    funny how i thought i knew the lyrics of the song…..so ive been singing nonsence since *smh*
    great article love it!

    1
  9. BC

    May 11, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Breathtaking.

    1
  10. Naj

    May 11, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    As always…in depth and meaningful. Asa would be proud…lol

    http://www.th3rdculture.wordpress.com

    1
  11. niyoo

    May 11, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Nice interpretation. The end of the first verse ”iwo iwo naa” doesn’t mean poor you. It translates to ”how can you ……. someone like you, impregnate someone”.
    The aunt never doesnt have any sympathy to his predicament. You can almost see her clapping her hands and ‘yimu-ing’ at him :p

    1
    • buki

      May 11, 2011 at 2:44 pm

      lol at “yimuing at him”. I like that

      1
    • Lola

      May 11, 2011 at 5:11 pm

      I agree; ‘iwo, iwo na’ doesn’t remotely translate to poor you, more like, ‘You!! How dare you, don’t you know the child of whom you are?!’ (Yup, all of that in one small phrase; we Yorubas are skillful like that :-)). She def. was thumbing her nose at him and chastising him, not in the least bit sympathetic; appalled maybe. All in all though, it’s quite well translated and gives new light to an old ‘classic’. Well done!

      1
    • Gbenga Awomodu

      May 12, 2011 at 11:32 am

      Thanks a lot ‘niyoo’ and ‘Lola’!
      Guess, I was just a lil lazy on that line. [email protected]‘yimu-ing’
      Like Lola points out, a three-word Yoruba phrase can pack loads of meaning, especially when accompanied with subtle body language/physical gesture. The language is soo connotative! I’ll try fix that portion ASAP, but I guess you feel my headache a bit, too… lol!

      Again, thanks everyone!

      1
  12. Duvy

    May 11, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Nice one Bella.. Chai this guy grammar sha.. lmao

    1
  13. Jade

    May 11, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    simply lovely

    1
  14. Temi

    May 11, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Haha I had a completely different interpretation of the lyrics before the birth of the child. Now that I read this, it makes sense. Thank you again for this segment. Awesomeness!

    1
  15. El Bee

    May 11, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    One of my fav! Well interpreted! Asa is just too awesome sha

    1
  16. oppsie

    May 11, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    this was the first track i fell in love with on the album, before moving on to others tracks. then my son ,10 yrs old, fell in love with it too and made me fall all over again. It was a master piece ;beautifully written, sung with all the right emotions such that u enter into the story.

    1
  17. Brittle Paper

    May 11, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Ggenga, this is ridiculously lovely. Thanks soooooooooooo much.

    1
  18. rapsody

    May 11, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    brilliant..simply brilliant!

    1
  19. Berry Feistypen

    May 11, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Brilliant, Gbenga. You are spot in your analysis. Great job!

    1
  20. Nneka

    May 11, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    I love this song and play it a lot but never really got the full message despite my quasi-Yoruba background.
    Thanks G! Brilliant Article!

    1
  21. midas fash

    May 11, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    this is d thing abt asa… u fnk u know but u don’t… the story is on point n i like the comical feel of the song but i’ve stopped bothering myself wt d inspirational spur 4 ds genre of song… quite hilarious but wt a subtle swipe at a neo-societal norm

    1
  22. Purpleicious Babe

    May 11, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    am yoruba and I heard this song for the 1st time in my life..lol.. wayieddieee… funny..

    I like the song.. and her voice..

    1
  23. Ready

    May 12, 2011 at 1:08 am

    Thanks, Gbenga. I feel like you always give me a new appreciation for Asa’s songs. However, although this isn’t a geography lesson, I would like to point out that Ejigbo is not close to Ogun state. If she isn’t referring to Ejigbo LCDA in Osun state, then it’s probably the one in Lagos & yeah it’s on the outskirts, but it’s close to Akowonjo and used to be under the Alimosho LGA until it became its own LCDA and is close to Idimu or Iyana Ipaja. Not the center of Lagos, but not Ogun state either.

    1
  24. Ayomide

    May 12, 2011 at 6:34 am

    Good work, Gbenga! As many others have pointed out, your analysis isn’t only dead-on, it also brings the song to new life even for we who thought we “got” it! I agree about the Ejigbo bit, tho’: I grew up in the Lagos version!

    1
  25. Sarah

    May 12, 2011 at 6:54 am

    ahh I’ve always wanted to know the meaning behind this song…thanks for this!!

    1
  26. fokasibe

    May 12, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Gbenga, thanks for this…..although I don’t understand a word of yoruba to my shame, I looooove yoruba music because I feel the passion in them! Can you please do a narrative lyrical analysis of Eye Adaba? Pretty please Gbenga? Thanks in advance!!

    1
  27. Angel

    May 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    My all time favourite song! Waheedi deserved no sympathy jo! Poor Aunty!

    1
  28. Morenike

    May 12, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    These lyrics show us JUST how genius Asa truly is! Hope she continues to make unique music like this

    1
  29. NNENNE

    May 14, 2011 at 2:15 am

    Absolutely my kind of music. This is music while U read.The fact that I do not understand a word of what she is singing, makes no difference.

    1
  30. Naomi

    May 14, 2011 at 7:51 am

    I have this very deep appreciation for deep and meaningful songs. I just have a few CD’s I can buy and Asa most def tops the list. This very track ‘Awe’ is my bestest. There is this ‘Ti ilu o ba dun’ which talks about the failure of the government. Big ups to you to Gbenga.

    1
  31. Riliwandinho

    May 15, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Thanx 2 d interpreter cos if not 4 u i will be just be crazy with asa cos i due ask my friend dat dis song has meaning if not 4 asa cannot do a song without a reason.kudos 2 Asa herself & 2 u too d interpreter & co-mate i pray may Allah give u more stright 2 do more pls i want more 4rm u luv u all.

    1
  32. Pingback: Asa’s “Awe”: A Narrative Lyrical Analysis « Gbenga's Notebook

  33. Chioma

    May 27, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Nice analysis Gbenga. Never actually listened to the song. But, I’ll do so now and sing along too 🙂

  34. Oluniyi D. Ajao

    June 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    God bless you, Gbenga.

  35. The Diva

    July 5, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    I THINK IT’S SO COOL THAT SOMEONE DID THIS. I SPEAK BOTH YORUBA AND ENGLISH QUITE WELL, AND I TIRE OF PEOPLE WHO SPEAK ONLY ENGLISH AND ARE PROUD OF IT! ANYWAY, BACK TO THE MAIN THING, I’M HAPPY THAT ASA IS DOING THIS WITH MY LANGUAGE, IT’S A THING OF BEAUTY, AND EVEN MORE SO THAT SOMEONE CHOSE TO MAKE IT CLEAR SO PEOPLES’ MINDS ARE DRAWN TO THE CONTENT. OKAY I’LL STOP THERE, BUT REALLY, THIS IS SO COOL!!!!

  36. fashionconscious

    July 5, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    waoh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! this is awesome, a fantastic insight into the song and a deeper meaning i barely understood. i love this

  37. Mayor Abdullahi suleiman

    September 11, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    De song is col

  38. luzko

    September 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    I didnt understand what the song meant but damn I’m inlove with her voice…

  39. Abiye

    November 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    The lyrics of Awe coupled with the chords she is droping slowly made the song so touching and i made it one of my BESTS in that Album.

  40. hadis

    February 27, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    That’s some scholarly read!!

  41. Ephraim

    April 3, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    i really love everything about Asa, she’s my number 1 best Nigerian AND AFRICAN musician. So much love dis song ‘Awe’ and i have about her 23 music tracks in ma phone though am not from yoruba but i cn speak and hear it. Am Original IGBO BOY. LOL

  42. Collins

    February 3, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    I dnt undstud yoruba but i luv everything abt asa and her music..bcos of her style i like speekin d language…pls who wil tch me ooooo plsss? Am willin 2 pay..

  43. Ros

    March 19, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    Never thought that song spoke about such a topic!! Oyoyoy, i learn so many things on the internet!

  44. abiye smith

    December 18, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Asa is the Bomb. lovely voice, lovely songs, just love her so so so very much. Peace! Dreamer Girl.

  45. sam

    August 27, 2014 at 3:03 am

    I really enjoyed your piece on “AWE”and am waiting ernestly for you to do a write up on her latest song “moving on” from her latest album “Bed of Stone”

  46. Olakunle Akinpelu

    December 10, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    Aaawesome!. I mean Asa, Gbenga, Lola and other commentators. There is at least a university in the US offering courses in Madonna Studies. Why not a PhD in Asa Studies? Asa is easily one of the best things that have happened to Nigeria in the 54 years of her independence.. Worrying to me is that third world nationales excel in the West much more than they would have done at home. Are we at home killing talents?

  47. Sherri Williams

    February 19, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    Indeed, this is an awesome song. I am an American woman and was just recently, through developing an online friendship with a fellow music lover in lagos, introduced to Asa’s music. This is one of my favorite songs. Admittedly though, I enjoy each and every song I have heard from Asa to date. On a side note – my family gave me her new CD for my birthday and I am happy! The analysis of this song is highly informative. We are more alike than different in most cases because the same kind of thing is prevalent in many American families. I appreciate having found your analysis online because I was trying to translate the words of the song. I understand that simply knowing the words and how to sing the lyrics can only provide a little knowing of the song. The cultural meaning, the connotations, and the delivery of the lines are so very important in understanding the song. Your analysis has really provided me with so much more understanding. Thank you. In addition, all of the comments aided me delving deeper into the lyrics as well and for you all, I am thankful. Peace and blessings to you all.

  48. adekunle adeusi

    March 12, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    so is waheed d owner of d baby? d resemblances r more dan d discrepancies to me.

  49. Thato

    April 26, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    I read this as i was listening to the song. Amazing what a little more understanding can do for the impact of the song on you.

    Lots of similarities in the use of language between how Asa sings it and how we would say it in my culture, Especially the forceful reminder of your lineage! “You! child of whoever! Of all people”!!

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