After our literal translator, Ida Hadjivayanis, explained that this poem is very famous in Zanzibar as the lyric to a taarab song, we couldn’t resist having a go at making it work in English. Especially as it was Valentine’s Day. And if our rhymes and lines sound a bit corny, that’s because we decided to embrace our inner popstars – even if that meant using phrases like ‘I was what you wanted’ and ‘the moment our eyes met’.
There are definitely some images that stand out though, even in our cheesy cover-version! We loved Ida’s literal translation of one line as ‘the heart is leaning on itself’ – as though it was weary, and having to be its own shoulder to cry on. Because we were trying to keep to a strict syllable count to mimic the original form, we had to make it 6 syllables, and ended up settling on ‘my heart is sent slumping’.
It’s definitely worth listening to the song in Swahili to feel the full romance – it’s on youtube here.