Song of the Week: JA ARA E

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Song of the Week: JA ARA E

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Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, known by his stage name, Burna Boy, is a megastar in his home country, Nigeria. However, the 28 year old singer was given a larger platform on the global level, by singer Beyoncé Knowles Carter, on the 2019 Lion King album, “The Gift”, released on July 19. Knowles’s album is different from the official soundtrack of the film. In fact, it is fully under Knowles’s control, with each song being an interpretation of the movie that can be applied to real life problems. 

Although “The Gift” is listed under Beyoncé ’s discography, multiple artists have solo songs within it, creating a musical interpretation of the well-known story of Lion King, which the “live-action” recently released. Knowles featured multiple artists from Africa, including Tekno, Salatiel, with Burna Boy included. 

“JA ARA E” is a phrase used in the Yoruba language, which is mainly spoken in Nigeria, Togo and Benin, meaning wise up. 

Many of Burna Boy’s songs include a variety of languages and vernaculars including Yoruba, English, and pidgin English, which is a mix of English and Nigerian languages.

Along with the chronology of each song in the album mirroring the story of its corresponding scene, “JA ARA E” is meant to represent Mufasa telling his son, Simba, about his responsibilities as the next king of the pride. 

To someone who doesn’t speak Yoruba, it could be quite difficult to understand the lyrics of the song, but that’s what makes it beautiful. Yoruba is one of the official languages of Nigeria, according to Omniglot. However, it’s not as well known compared to other languages. Some don’t even know that the country of Nigeria has three other official languages other than English.

So, here’s an opportunity to learn a few Yoruba and Nigerian pidgin English phrases through Burna Boy. Verse one features the lines:

 

Your body go rest o

Papa tell pikin o

Your body go rest o

Your body go rest o

Your tongue go confess o

Your headi go correct o

You no go forgeti o

Shey, you get the concept”

A few terms that may not be understood could include his use of the verb “go”, and also the term “pikin”. In Pidgin English, “pikin” means child. So, a father is speaking to his child, like Mufasa and Simba. 

Switch “go” with the word, “will”, and it might be easier to understand. 

The verse sets up the story of a father speaking to his child, mostly about his future responsibilities. 

Then, the song shifts into the chorus. 

Dem no dey tell person (ja ara, ja ara)

You go learn your own lesson (ja ara, ja ara)

Everybody keep on searching (ja ara, ja ara)

For miraculous blessings (ja ara, ja ara, ja ara)

You go bow for Lagos oh (ja ara)

If you no know yourself you go lost oh (ja ara, ja ara)

If you get money you be bros oh (ja ara, ja ara)

Omo nobody holy no apostle (ja ara, ja ara)”

 

While this conversation is between lion and lion cub, everyone can take into account the warning Burna Boy is presenting. 

The chorus details that others are constantly looking for the opportunity to get power, which might be at the expense of those already there. He also talks about making sure a king serves his people, and that the people don’t always have to serve him.

Another important concept includes understanding the self. Not having a stable understanding of the soul makes “you go lost”, prompting people to take advantage. For example, Scar manipulating Simba into at the elephant graveyard and convincing him that he is responsible for his father’s death.

Near the end of the song, Burna Boy shifts the song from a warning to guidance. 

He says “Stand your ground and stay solid like Ogun”.

Ogun is the God of Iron, based in the Yoruba religion. He is a warrior and is focused on metalwork. 

The entire concept of “The Gift” is meant to not only support the premiere of “The Lion King”, but also to expose an audience to a variety of cultures within the African continent. Burna Boy adds to that, making sure to incorporate many elements of his Nigerian heritage.

However, the simplicity of the beat and lyrics should not be overlooked. The song is meant for the for the listener to groove and feel chill. For someone who isn’t from Nigeria, understanding the lyrics will not hinder you from loving the song.

 

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