19-12-2020 by Freddie del Curatolo
Today's Kenyan Song, Saturday 19 December, is a blues that over three centuries has retained the same melody, but has been transformed from the muted lament of deportees to a cheerful nursery rhyme of fishermen.
"Wageni wanafika, wageni huondoka. Wanachukua watoto wetu, hawatachukua roho zetu."
Foreigners come, foreigners go, they take away our children, they will not take away our souls.
The song hasn't changed, the setting hasn't changed, the beautiful creek of Takaungu, an inlet where high rocks protect the bay and create a natural harbour.
In the past, the Persians and Arabs of Oman stopped here to take on African slaves.
Takaungu, a little to the south of Kilifi halfway between Malindi and Mombasa, was the market where Arab traders who had settled on the Kenyan coast brought young musclemen for sale and in chains. In those days, no one paid any attention to the crystal-clear water, the white beaches, the tropical vegetation climbing up the sheer cliffs creating a sudden landscape more Vietnamese, Burmese than African.
With the end of slavery, the people of the coast have returned to sweating in the cornfields, to the yoke of the British but at least not in chains. The foreigners who come and go today are just tourists who buy fish, and when they come in short supply, as in this period, they leave a bit of an emptiness, especially in the stomach.
Today, no new slaves like those who come to Europe from Africa are boarding boats, only poor fishermen who manage to bring home the minimum to live on.
But they are not alone and they still have the comfort of the same old blues of yesteryear, which does not forget their history.
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