Sha Nu Mi

from by Ojo Taylor

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about

I initially had envisioned one verse of this song being about African American rights and the second about Native American rights. My next door neighbor at the time was a Nigerian gentleman named Albert Bassey, who spoke Efik and Yoruba. The title translates to "Have Mercy" in Efik. It was more poetic than the Yoruba translation. I decided to narrow the focus down to Native American rights, pointing to the tragedy at Wounded Knee. I retained the African title to hint at the African American angle as well. I owe a debt of gratitude to Steve Hindalong. I had asked his lyrical advice and consulted with him about this one. He was very supportive.

Some time later before the record came out I happened to be in the Phoenix area for a Word Records sales conference and when driving around, I saw a sign for the Ak-Chin Indian reservation. On a whim, I decided to drive on to the reservation and see if there was someone I could talk to about the song. I pulled up to teenaged boy and told him about the record and the song and that I would like to talk to someone about it. He directed me down the street a ways to the Chief's house, told me to knock on the door and that she'd talk to me. I was pleased to hear that the Chief was female.

I knocked on the door nervously and Chief Delia Antone answered. I explained the situation to her. She thought for a moment and asked if I could return a couple days later on Sunday and that if so, she would call a meeting of the tribal council to explain the issues they are dealing with even still. I called Brian Ray and asked him to come out to shoot photographs and he came with his wife Crystal Lewis. I don't know why we ended up using photos that really weren't that crisp, but at least there they are. The council spent a good three or four hours with me and were very generous with their time. It was a sobering meeting, one of my life's most memorable and powerful experiences.

lyrics

The warriors are prepared to resist
Yellow Bird blows on an eagle bone whistle
A gun is drawn, a swift reply
The ghost dance and the last hope die

Those who fell to the white man's lies
Must not lose the fire that burns in their eyes
The voices of thousands who struggled and died
Must soon rise in judgment of white genocide

The warriors left to freeze in the snow
Dignity here lies buried in snow
Four babies, after three days found
Bury my heart, alive in the ground!

credits

from Relative, released June 1, 1988
Lead Vocal: John McNamara
Translator: Alfred Bassey
Guitar: Greg Lawless
BGV: Marie McGilvray, Annica Svensson, Gary Olson
Additional Percussion: Nathan Alford

Thanks to the Tribal Counsel of the Ak-Chin Indian Reservation, Maricopa, AZ:
Delia M. Antone
Joseph C. Smith
Norbert Peters, Sr.
Terry Enos
Martin Antone, Sr
Congratulations on your water settlement. May your people, land and culture prosper.

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Ojo Taylor Los Angeles, California

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