These short videos demonstrate how important it is to render the correct melody, when speaking and writing Yorùbá. The language makes use of seven vowels: a, e, , i, o, , u. In European languages these dotted vowels ẹ and ọ also exist in speech, but pronouncing them either as e/ẹ or o/ọ hardly changes the meaning of a word. It would just sound strange. In Yorùbá, this is likely to change the meaning of the word completely. 

Today there are many (self-)published books on Yorùbá culture and spirituality on the market. Often they are not proofread by a Yorùbá linguist and are confusing. An example would be a  book I read. It is written in English and based on Afro-Cuban Lukumí traditions. The author decided to write the names of Cuban Lukumí "Orichas" as Yorùbá "Òrìṣàs". Problem is that Yorùbá language lacks a plural "s". The book states e.g. that "Ymja" (what should be spelled Yemja) was married to Òrìṣà Ògún, what is also the name of the river where she is worshipped. But the river is called Ògùn, low-low tone, not Ògún, low-high tone. What looks like the same word to European language speakers has a completely different meaning to Yorùbá native speakers. There is no connection between the Orisha and the river in linguistic terms. 

I decided to use images to address the English/Spanish/Portuguese Olorisha/Oloricha/Olorixá community worldwide, without needing any boring translations. Some of the drawings are rather abstract, as are some of the terms illustrated. At least its fun to guess what it might mean or maybe it makes you want to buy a Yorùbá dictionary in the future. Yorùbá is a beautiful language and fun to study. Here's a list and the translation of the first video into English. Later other videos will be added on this page. Follow us on www.facebook.com/orishaimage!
 

The intro says: "Yorùbá Melody. What's the meaning of those words? Listen!"

BATA

bàtà: shoe

bàtá: name of a drum

ORU / ORUN

ooru: heat

òru: night

orù: clay pot for water with narrow mouth 

oorun: sleep

òórùn: odour, smell

oòrùn: sun

ọrun: bow (for shooting with arrows)

ọrùn: neck

ọrún: period of 5 days

ọ̀run: sky, heaven

ọ̀rún: one hundred

EGUNGUN / EGUN

egungun: bone

egúngún: masked dancer representing an ancestor

eegun: bone

eégún: masked dancer representing an ancestor

ègún: curse, hex

egùn: seed yam (secondary growth)

ègùn: people from Porto Novo area in Benin (Ewe/Fon)

ẹgún: kapok (silk cotton) tree

ẹ̀gún: thorn

ẹ̀gùn: (1) dreamlike state, trance (2) suitable perching spot for a hunter in the forest

ORO

oro: fierceness

ooro: name of a certain tree, Antiaris Africana

òòró: perpendicularity, verticality

òórọ̀: morning

oró: (1) poison (2) pain

orò: (1) name of an Òrìṣà (2) custom, ritual

ọrọ̀: wealth

ọ̀rọ̀: (1) speech, word, sentence (2) spirit that lives in certain trees

ọ̀rọ̀n: trouble

ọrọ́: all types of cactus 

òro: a pulpy fruit used for making soup (Wild Mango, Irvingia Gabonensis, Simarubareae)

Ó rọ ọ́ : He/she forged it. (e.g. a blacksmith)

Ó rọ̀: It was soft, it hung down, it fell (rain), it collapsed etc. All related to the concept of soft and droopy.

Ó rò ó: He/she/it thought about him/her/it. 

Ó ró: (1) He/she/it utters a sound (2) He/she/it stands. 

Ó ró o: She/he tied it (clothes).

Ó ro ó: It hurts him.

Ó rán án: He/she sewed it.

Ó rò: He/she gave a report. 


The intro says: "Yorùbá Melody. What's the meaning of those words? Listen!"

OGUN

ogun: war

ògùn: (1) name of a river (2) name of a Nigerian state

ogún: (1) inheritance (2) twenty

ògún: name of an Orisha

òògùn: medicine, charm

òógùn: perspiration, sweat

ó gún un: He/she/it stabbed him/her/it. This is an interesting example. Written correctly with the object in "high-high-mid" tone, in speech it becomes shortened to "high-mid" ó g'un.

ó gùn ún: He/she/it climbs him/her/it.

ó gùn: It is long.

ó gún: It is symmetrical, straight. 

IGBA

igbá: calabash

ìgbà: time

igba: two hundred

igbà: a type of rope

ìgbá: a type of vegetable

IKOKO

ìkòkò: pot with a very wide opening

ìkọ̀kọ̀: privacy

EDE

èdè: language

edé: shrimp, lobster

edè: melon seed

ẹdẹ: name of a Yorùbá town

 

If you are interested in Yorùbá dictionaries, see this review on 18 of them on our blog! The bàtá drum sounds in this video are used to illustrate the melody of the words and the three possible tones of the language. The actual Yorùbá art of talking on bàtá drums would include much more parameters than the simple tone patterns. 

Thank you to Yorùbá linguist Victor Manfredi for the inspiration and linguistic help (I learned e.g. that my first recording of the word "Yòrùbá" as low-low-high tone would have been a correct variant, though not known as "standard"!) and Babaláwo Nathan Lugo from the Ìjọ Asáforítifá Òrìṣà Community in Florida for his help. Have fun listening to Yorùbá Melody!