Nuptial Songs? or Nuptial Roasts? by Zelealem Aberra / go back to Issue 6 

Imagine sitting through an avalanche of ridicule, showers of comedic insult, untrue stories, while hundreds of spectators are having the fun of their lives at your cost. Imagine you joining the audience to laugh at yourself and at times only manage to wear a frozen smile on your face only to labour later on to relax that facial muscle. That is what they call roast comedy.

It might be difficult to exactly pinpoint the origin of roast comedy, though satires, witty remarks or zingers as they are also known, have been with us for many centuries. However, the combination of zingers, insult comedies, witty and biting remarks or roast comedy is one form of popular entertainment. Wikipedia org defines it as that event of entertainment in which “an individual is subjected to a public presentation of comedic insults, praise, outlandish true and untrue stories, and heartwarming tributes, the implication being that the roastee is able to take the jokes in good humor and not as serious criticism or insult, and therefore, show their good nature.” I believe few examples will ellaborate the point more clearely.

During one of the celebrity roasts hosted by Dean Martine, the acclaimed African American comedian Nipsey Russell (1918 – 2005) roasted Jackie Gleason, the famous American comedian also known for his huge body form; and Dean Martin - the hostmaster himself - who both are known for boozing, with the following:

For men who choose, the life of booze
I have no sympathy at all,
My sympathy lies with you sober guys,
These drunks are having no ball.

And Jackie Gleason is the greatest. He may never be as good as he once was; but he is as good once as he ever was. He is beautiful now. But at that time he was a perfect specimen of physical fatness. He had a belly so big when he got his shoe-shined he had to take the bootblack’s word for it.

On another occasion when Don Rickles – another well-known comedian appeared as man of the week or a guest to be roasted, Nipsey Russell, among other zingers came up with the following:

They found an orangutan suffering with hernia
Fed him poison from a rattle snake’s bite
Gave him the soothing voice of a wild hyena
And he is man of the week tonight.

Nipsey Russell then tells the audience how Don Rickles out of desperation for sexual desire tried to pick up a woman from the street, a woman who walks on crutches, only to be chased away by two boy scouts who were trying to help her cross the street; and how she beat him with here crutch and finally gives him the following friendly advice to improve his lot:

Pattern after Dean Martin; a sex symbol and a super star who upped his prestige in the business through charm and grace. He upped his prestige Don; up yours!

I hope the above few examples are suffice to give the reader what roast comedies look like practically, and how roastees has to sit through an avalanche of comedic insult so that an auditorium full of audience could crack with laughter at their expense. Roast comedy, thus is one form of enetertainment for the modern societies, specially USA and and UK, in which not only professional comedians anc actors partcipates but men of the upper echelon of the socity such as Presedent Roland Regan, Rev. Billy Graham, Secretary Henery Kissinger, Vice Presedent Hubert Humphrey have all appeared as roastees and roasters in one time or the other.

I don’t have a clue what roast comedy looks like in other traditional societies, I can bring to your attention the existence something quite similar among Oromoo population of Western Oromia during marrage ceremonies. One of the diffrence being that the roastee are the bride and the groom. The groom is roasted during his brief stay at the brides home and the bride is groomed as soon as she arrive at her new house. The roasters in both places are a group of singing girles, and the form of the roast is not narration but song.

When the bridegroom arrives and the feast begins, the neighbouring girls, friends of the bride who have organized a singing party begin teasing and testing the ire of the groom with different songs.

Yaa soddaa Obboo sooressaa
Soddaan argaa na dabarsa
Diinqan darbaa na dabarsa.
Mana abbayyoo koo
mana abbaa hintalaa
Hoolaan aseentee
Gilgilii fixxee
Mana abbayyoo koo,
mana abbaa gurbaa
Golfaan aseentee
sinkirii dhiqxe.

O my brother’s in-law, O Mr. rich man,
Let me pass and see the groom
Let me pass and see your inner room.
The house of my old man
The home of the girl’s dad
A sheep entered, and
Emptied the basket,
The house of the father
The home of the groom’s father
The plague entered;
and all of them perished.

On that day the groom’s patience is tested. He has to play down the belittling songs of the girls, and maintain his cool.

Yoo sareen gamanaa dutte
Yoo sareen gamasii dutte
Soddichoo silaa dabeessaa
Gadi kaateee cufaa jabeessa
ol kaatee haadhatti odeessa
albaatiin cichaa balleessa
fincaaniin daaraa basseesa
Haacabu dhiira shan keessaa!
ariyaa asii balleessa
kun gurra dhiiraa balleessa.

From this bank when the dogs bark
Or when they bark from that bank;
Our in-law who is such a coward boar
He runs down to reinforce the door;
and runs up to tell his mother; what a trash!
with diarrhoea the walls to splash
to urinates in the kitchen ash.
I wish he were dead, or become lame
chase him away, in God’s name
among the men he is a shame.

More castrating remarks are thrown at him. The following might sound too much for a man from whom much is expected that night. According to the Oromoo tradition the bride is expected to be virgin, from which she does not depart without a fight.

Maaf lafa ilaalaa?
Sila dhalaa dhaa?
Mee jala ilaalaa.

Maaf lafa ilaaltaa?
Sodaachuu feetee?
Maaf karaa ilaaltaa?
Baqachuu feetee?
Asiinooo anaa
Achiinoo manaa
Karaa kam baataa?
Hardha albaataa!
Albaatu hinharta
Hartu hinsalphatta

Hojjaa dheerattaa
Riqichaaf toltaa
Sirra adeeminnaa!
Garaa baldhattaa
Dinnichaaf toltaa
Sitti affeelinnaa?

Jiini aduu qabaa
Hinifuuf malee
Yoo ifes maali?
Ani oduu qaba
Hinhimuuf malee
Yoon himes maalii?
Soddeen ulfaaye
Daya wallaale
Yaa Maaram hiiki
Mucaa harkaa miidhi.

Waddeessa gaaraa
Fardeen jigsitee
Jalli awwaarofte;
Magan yaa sodde
Qaccee si jalaa
Nadheen jibbite
Garbi ayyaanofte
Baga qaanofte.

Aabbee soddaa koo
Alangaa raaftaa
Munne na dhaantaa?
Otuu na dhaante
Shantama baafta
Dhibbaan samaanta.
Shantami koo ti
Dhibbi kan mootii
Yaa sodde mooji!

Why does he look down?
Is he a woman or a clown?
Check his pants, pull it down!

Why do you look down, let me hear
Are you grabbed by a sudden fear?
Why are you looking at the road?
Are you planning to run away? O my God!
From this side, I am guarding
From that side the house is standing;
There is no way for you to pass
Soon you will wet your pants
If you wet your pants, your gonna wash
If your gonna wash, that’s a shame, O my Gash!

You are a tall of a kind
An ample log to build a bridge
May I walk on your behind?
Your belly is so wide
So good a cooker for cabbage
If I cook in you, do you mind?

A moon has a sun
Though it doesn’t shine,
But what if it shines?
I have a news
Though I don’t tell
But what if I tell ?
Our in-law is pregnant
Doesn’t know how to bear
O Maaram, help him deliver
And get rid of the baby.

Waddeessa on the hill
The horses fell it
Dust underneath;
O my God, my in-law
The whip you beneath
Women abhore it
Maids got lucky

My fellow in-law
You are waving a whip
Up yours, you don’t punish me
If you punish me
You will pay fifty
You will be fined hundred
The fifty is mine
Hundred for the king
Damn you in-law

Some times the honeymoon doesn’t work out when May gets married to December
For the sweet young thing never learned how and the old goat doesn’t remember.


Zelealem Aberra has published one book and four audio CDs of poetry. He was born in Naqamtee, Oromia, and currently lives in Helsinki, Finland with his wife and children.