Although Rorogwella gained popularity in 1992, when released by Deep Forest as a techno-dance music, it was first recorded in 1969 by the ethnomusicologist Hugo Zampin as a vocal sample. It was sung by Afunakwa, a Northern Malaita women from the Solomon Islands. In 1973, Rorogwela was released in a LP as part of UNESCO’s Collection of Traditional Music of the World
Sasi sasi ae o angisi nau Boroi nima oe e fasi koro na Dolali dasa na, lao dai afuimae Afuta guau mauri, Afuta wela inomae
Young brother, young brother hey? although you are crying to me Your father has left us He has gone to the place of the dead Protect the head of the living, protect the orphan child
The use of Rorogwella by Deep Forest created controversy, not only because of its commercialisation, but also due to other factors such as:
- Its appropriation out of the original context
- The fact that its origin was wrongly attributed by Deep Forest to a Pygmy tribe in Central Africa. The Solomon community from where Afunakwa came from was not credited by Deep Forest . They neither benefitted from its huge commercial success.
It is disconcerting finding out that a song we enjoyed dancing so much, in the 90s, was so misrepresented and altered from its original. Just like Matt Harding did in 2003, in his dancing around the world project, we were taken by the techno-drums beat of the remix :
Although, while listening to Deep Forest’s remix, we might have missed out on the placidity of the soothing voice of Afunakwa, there was still something that felt connecting time and space. In 2007, Matt Harding, on finding out about the controversy surroundingt the song, decided to go in search for Afunakwa and produced another youtube hit:
On the video, Matt talks to David Solo, a cousin of Afunakwa, who has been dead for many years. Solo, whose mother was Afunakwa’s cousin-sister, attempts to translate the lyrics to Matt while explaining that many of its words are no longer used, and therefore not known by the younger generation of his tribe.