Woddélla, Women’s Work song in Zargula (Ethiopia)

Author: Azeb Amha (Leiden University, Netherlands)
Speaker: Azeb Amha
Topic: Linguistic Anthropology
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


Work songs improve the efficiency of the work and relieve the boredom of a tedious job. Sang in such a defined context, work songs are susceptible for loss: they cease to exist when the particular activities in which they are based are not more practiced. As such, understanding the structure and meaning as well as the social value of wodélla song is crucial: the context of its use, i.e., manual grinding is almost obsolete due to the spread of gas/electronic mills and urbanization. woddélla involves two or more women singing in alternating single-turns. The couplets occur in question-sentence structure. The contents of the song suggest a kind of cognitive exercise stimulating quick association of words and meanings in various contact languages, some of which the singers do not speak fluently. I claim that woddélla is a way of learning and of creatively showing (partial) knowledge of different languages and social relations by women who travel a lot for trading and other work purposes. Based on recent fieldwork during which complete translation of the song and commentaries were obtained, I develop earlier, unpublished preliminary analyses.

Keywords: wodélla, Women’s Work song, Zargula