• Stephen Osieyo

THE JACKSONS FAMILY: A LUO LOVE FOLKLORE



If I were to tell my grandchildren this story, they would not have any concentration span. If I told it as a Michael Jackson story, may be they would watch the movie once during Black Culture week or when an American police man has shot a black person but after burial, they would toss it away and look for some Anglo Saxon fable of near equivalent on Netflix to watch.


When I say I grew up with these stories I really mean it and most Luos of my generation have heard them. As some social psychologists term it, my generation grew in native Kwazulu cultures of the lake side. Its fine with me because those supermodels reign the catwalk capitals of the world and the grandchildren occupy the most powerful offices in the world. I am easy with such prejudice.


The folklore I am about to tell you probably has come out in other cultures and screens before. It is not unusual to share stories all over the world. For example, the story of Merchant and Venice that Shakespeare is mostly known for appears to be an actual happening in the Lake basin area before it was captured by Shakespeare about 100 years later. And so is the story of Romeo and Juliet. Also it is not unusual to see the same things happening again and again in life. The stories would be localised a little for the desired effect but substantially it is the same story.


I am satisfied with this because it makes it easy to tell my children love story of Romeo and Juliet through the life of a close person of musician Juma Toto or it makes it easier for me to tell my grandchildren the fables of my childhood through the more exciting and Hollywood version of the Michael Jackson or the Jackson Five family than through my cultured and folklore of the Luo people.


I was challenged to tell a folklore about Love by some fan so that people can know that Love was not invented in the west. I agreed with her fully. Yes we had love stories based on romance but also heavily grounded in real life issues like honour and courage because those days love and substance was measured in other terms as well. When we heard stories of a lover braving the waters and wild animals, it is easy for my children to assume Nairobi Zoo or some comfy swimming pool wading. It is not very easy to recreate that scene and what it meant for a lover because the dangers are not the same. That is why I am in awe at Prime Minister Rail Amolo Odinga for recreating that stunning image on the platform in such a short time and with no prompted audience.


The folklore the Prime minister told is one that was a staple diet of storytelling when growing up and it was told and repeated so many times by visiting relatives age mates. As a youth you were also supposed to master the art of storytelling that if it came to your turn of a visit you would pick on any of the regime of stories and retell in your own style touching on the key elements and spicing it with your flavour to make your movie direction stand out. I think it was also the drill of advocacy campaign and lobbying but I am not an anthropologist.


The most powerful punch used to come from the ability to sing. Akwiri nyar nera and Roch were excellent singers. These were daughters of my maternal uncles from Ugenya Boro-Nango, though Akwir’s dad relocated to around Ugunja. They were very pretty girls. Akwiri (elixir) was black with milky white nyimwa type teeth (second canines facing down like true Bantu vegetarians). She was not elaborate in her dressing. She did not need to, her smooth mahogany black skin did the talking for her. Akwiri was Venus in black. For example for her waist beads she probably wore only 6 layers of wait beads but she had thick jet back hair that I also inherited from my maternal people. This type of black thick black was naturally suited to keeping body lice away therefore it was advantageous to shave less. You only make it easier for lice when you shave. Apart from insecticide I think it is one reason why body lice are still an average common high school pest in temperate countries among the Anglo-Saxons.


Roch (skin shedding) was pundo or brown in complexion, I believe from her maternal grandmother. Very elaborate in her dances and dressing and liked to wear so many layers of beads that draw attention when they rub against each other when she is bathing, running or dancing. What for? it took her more time to bathe washing her beads and I would have made more trips to take pales of water home and back. So Akwiri who was older would also hurry her. This was 1965 when my dad had died and I was about 7 years old. Their story telling and singing prowess had an impact on me like any young person and in my mind a beautiful woman had to be a hunk of a woman with, flesh nicely and proportionately sprinkled on the frame so that the waist line gets enough flesh to hold the wait beads (probably taken from the neck ankles or neck of the wrist, you know any part of the anatomy that does not need more flesh). I struggle to appreciate the beauty of Congolese big forearms despite their provocative dances and extremely watchable dance routines.


The story Raila told at Homa Bay before the 2017 “people’s swearing in” was a story of courage. It was a story of love. It was a story of devotion. It was a story of self-sacrifice. It was a story of honours. It was how love was measured in those days. It was a story of someone ready for destiny just for honour. I honestly believe at that point Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga son Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was ready to meet his makers. He had prepared himself to meet his mom Mary, Fidel, Mzee Odinga, Alongo and all his ancestors just the way that folklore talks about love and honour.


Without revisiting the story but relying purely on my memory of what Akwir and Roch recited in March and April 1965 nights. Funerals used to last that long. He died on February 25th and by April it was still a beehive.


There was a great drought in some part of Luo land. It could not just rain and the vegetation started to wither. Soon the cattle died and believe me Africans depend on cereals and vegetables than they are given credit for. This Hollywood carnivore’s story is news to us Africans. Soon the population were starving and rivers were drying out. There was no hunting and even fishing became a challenge because rivers were drying up. The best of the rainmakers could not get the rain to drop to save their lives.


The elders consulted the top Wiseman who prophesied that the Gods were angry and the anti-dote was that this clan beauty must be fed to the crocodile before it can rain in the land. The clan agreed that to save the clan it’s fair that she is sacrificed. Then the story telling goes to her preparing and on the last day as she walks to the deserted part of the river to meet the monster crocodile. On her final journey she met the sisters, then cousins, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, prospective in-laws and neighbours and they all agreed that to save the community it was moral for her sacrifice.


All along the way they had the same soothing answer if it is to save the clan then all is well and good, please go well. Then she would break in to a melodious song where Roch and Akwir were too powerful in overtone rendition. Every night they sing the song even if you were dosing you will stay alert and hear their voices. And alternately swapped the story telling on different nights so that the power of their singing was varied. I wish I could sing you the song. It is a lamentation that, “so it is me that you side judgement against, let it be so, let me go”. I was young so the worlds may not be quite right but I have a few age mates who will help me”


An, ma ung’ado na bura,

An, ma ung’ado na bura,

Teera omin Anyango tera,

Teera Omin Adongo tera

(so it is me that you have cased against/I am gone I am gone)

Then at each stop she meets the kinsmen and cumulatively adds the line so that it becomes a real long song


An, ma ung’ado na bura,

An, ma ung’ado na bura,

Owete na go, go gi runge

Teera omin Anyango tera,

Teera Omin Adongo tera


An, ma ung’ado na bura,

An, ma ung’ado na bura,

Owete na go, go gi runge

Nyimege na go, go gi runge

Teera omin Anyango tera,

Teera Omin Adongo tera


An, ma ung’ado na bura,

An, ma ung’ado na bura,

Owete na go, go gi runge

Nyumege na go, go gi runge

Wege na go, go gi runge

Teera omin Anyango tera,

Teera Omin Adongo tera


Then when she meets the betrothed boyfriend, as a man of honour which is very hard to believe that even Luos were honourable and loving. Her song is killed because the Le Boyfriend decides to go and die with her.


As they approach the dark and eerie deserted haunted river bank, the evil koko (monster) appears to gulp the Le girlfriend. At which point the Le, Boyfriend strikes the spear at the soft end of its soft fleshy mortal anatomy. At that very moment the rains fall and the drought is over.


It’s a happy ending.

Thu Tinda.


MORAL OF THE STORY

I don’t know. You can seek Akwiri in Ugunja or Roch in Boro Nango to ask. That was the folklore.


WITH adulthood if you ask me but that is just if you ask, I am really uncomfortable with the powerful medicine man who held the rains until he could have the village beauty queen. And if one more time you ask me nicely, these are the behaviors of all dictators and men of means who use influence to pluck pretty women away from their lovers. Forget this is not part of the folklore but I could write a musical of any powerful person and it would look like this until the pretty woman uses. Maybe now you know why TV stations all over the world are filled with middle aged men and voluptuous young ladies.



JOE JACKSON STORY

If I wanted to tell a story of love and honour I would not use some story of lakeside Luos because even Luos will not read or watch such a musicals unless a white person appears from Hollywood and acts the role of the Boyfriend who kills the evil dictator or Koko the mounter crocodile and saves poor heathen helpless African. Then Luos would also watch it.

Instead I would tell the story of Michael Jackson the musical. In fact I would just tell the story of Michael Jackson’s parents. That part fits into the regular Nam Lowe folklore that Akwir and Roch used to tell so well and sing better than the Jacksons with better looking age of innocence boobs than Janet Jacksons 45year old tits flaunted at disinterested spectators.


Like the Luo folklore the story is starred around two Individuals, the parents of the famous Michael Jackson, the Jacksons or Jacksons Five.


In High School Joe Jackson was a pin up boy with great looks destined to a great sporting career and was raring to head to Los Angeles, California for a golden gloves boxing career.


Joe Jackson had the fine physical features of a Nilo Semite, a Somali, Ethiopian look. Very fine face and light skinned mixed race complexion. Katherina also a senior of that year had more sharp negroid looks and dark in complexion. In the US politics of African Americans those days if someone called you an African then it was fight time. It was better to be called a nigger than African. It therefore goes without saying that to marry a less African looking person was a catch. Not just then, but up to 2008 when Barrack Obama scrambled the form book by marrying a more negroid woman with a river Nile girth that was not very trendy. Successful black people from Martin Luther King to who stayed as far away from Africa as possible. Not Joe Jackson and not Barack Obama to the relief of girls with big frame.


At his last high school prom dance (last school dance held around spring usually) Joe noticed two girls who were just seated not dancing. Joe Jackson the sports pin up boy crossed the floor and approached two girls who were seated all evening just watching the others dance.


Joe Jackson politely leaned over asked the more Negroid one for a dance. This was not normal for a light skinned to choose a dark skinned girl over a light skinned girl for a dance. Well it's still not normal as I hear peroxide is still selling well even in Namlolwe and all Bengal songs are in praise of land but I am not getting involved in that politics.


The darker girl declined firmly but politely saying "dance with my friend. I can't dance.”

“And why not?” Joe the High school star inquired, still gently.


“My legs are bad. I suffered polio.", Katherina politely answered.


Joe Jackson did not even pause. Did not blink, did not take a breath. There was not pity, no gap. Normal as it may seem, Joe just leaned closer and persuasively said "It's ok. We will dance pretty close and I will hold you".


That was the first dance for polio victim, rang’ol and soon to be Katherina Jackson. Three months passed before Joe Jackson was to travel from Gary Indiana to LA California for the Golden Gloves boxing career. In the meantime, they suffered a hiccup when Joe who was already married in High school concluded his divorce


On the day of the travel, Katherina showed up at the terminus to say her byes. When all had been packed and the boarding calls made. Katherina whispered to Joe's ears "Go and make a great career for your child. I am 6 weeks pregnant!"


Now a startled Joe, paused for a moment and firmly said "I ain't going nowhere without my babies”


The Greyhound bus left with Joes luggage but without Joe.


Out of honour and courage the underrated leboyfriend that was maligned so much did what most men never do and even the most reasoned girls can't appreciate. Joe chose family rather than leave Katharina a single mother. Joe gave up on boxing and that very summer married Katherina and fathered all these Jacksons; spawning the marketable Caucasian genes he had from his side of the family as Katherina was more negroid.


But that honour was not all as Joe Jackson bravely faced a hopeless future in facing the monster of Black American poverty and slaying it. He also brought home the hard task master discipline from the auto industry assembly plant. Transferred the fitting assembling clockwork routine into African American dance step.


Then he insisted on Jacksons 5 being no1 in all singing and dance competitions because in the auto industry any car that is not certified is crushed. To make sure the kids towed the line he kept in the front yard of his house a stack of bricks. He made any errant Jackson-let transfer the bricks across the lawn. Reason he gave to Joe Junior "To remind you all, who you really are in this country and what you may end up doing all your life if you are not careful."


Out of courage and honour Joe gave the world the Jacksons just like Le Boyfriend gave Namlowe people the rains


It is ok to do things for love but to do them courage l for honour is much more rewarding are there courageous.


FOLKLORE OF HONOUR AND COURAGE

Most of dholuo love stories are centred on honour and courage. At the time when Akwir and Roch were starring in Ukwala there were some lines to test courtship. I just heard them while growing up but I think they had been around since 1930s by the songs that were popular. There is a song that was recently lifted by a gospel singer that was a hit in early 60s. It illustrates the test of the honour and courage of the man during courtship. The modern gospel songstress opens the lifted part with a beautiful classical piano play:


An abiro weri,

Kendo abiro iri jahera

Makata ondiegi ema oloro yo

To pod abiro jahera

To nyang’ ema oloro aora

To pod abiro jahera.


Yawuoyi donge osewero

Mana osiepe gi

An bende apari jahera


Such were lines of honour and courage pulled by both genders and they filled the folklore stories and were a shade different stories of western romance.


Then there was staged courtship play by both parties. A proposing man would for example describe himself as “Omondi” which was a coded message for non-urban migrant working Luo. Migrant worker was supposed to be a catch for modern life. However men would tell the woman subject that they are “Omondi” and not Ooko the opposite. This was to test the resolve of the young lady and courage to face future.


Such courtship folklore also included similar rigorous examination by the girls to test the man’s honour, courage and bravery. And from that generation are many young including from my generation who started families even before affording the price of a bed. Some men started from a cousin’s shared accommodation in urban areas. Bolting from an expectant girlfriend because you were still in school was unheard of. From then on the union was tempered in honour and courage to what we know as eternal love in Namlolwe.


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