"Nyiigu buut Jwøk" ("Draw near to God") - an obeerø

The obeerø is one of the more popular indigenous Anywaa song genres. According to Osterlund (1978), obeerøs were historically composed as praise songs for an elderly or deceased chief and also often contained commentary on social life and advice for the community. More recently, with the introduction of Protestant Christianity in Gambella, the obeerø genre has been recontextualized for the Christian church. Rather than praise the chief, lyrics praise God and advise the community to live a moral Christian lifestyle.

Apay, the singer on this recording, says that this obeerø is from his father's time, probably composed between the 1950s and 1970s, when Anywaa composers in Gambella were almost exclusively composing in indigenous genres. "Nyiigu buut Jwøk" was composed by Okwori Ojullu (who currently lives in Abobo town in Gambella region) and is especially well-known amongst the older generation. According to Apay, young people are less familiar with obeerøs, preferring more modern styles. However, Apay believes this obeerø is still relevant for his community, because it allows Christianity to be contextualized in Anywaa culture. “To praise God in a deep way," he says, "We need to think about our culture…although there is a modern way, we still also need to think about how we can praise God in the way that we can feel…[that] God is for us [the Anywaa], and also with us.”

Translation (English)
Draw near to God and seek first his righteousness; reject the devil’s evil spirit that he may run from you
We ask you, Son of God, the promised one who is coming soon
He has gone to His Father to prepare a place and will return for the chosen ones
Those who reject God and prefer the devil will be held in darkness
Oh, people, let us accept God and ask for the Holy Spirit, then he will give it to us and strengthen our faith for eternal life
Mourning and agony are in the devil’s abode, we pray to God to redeem us
Put your faith in the Son of God, then you will be in the kingdom full of light
Pray and ask the son of God to give you faith. He will come back.
We cry out to you, O Jesus Son of God, send to us your angels

Transcription (dha-Anywaa)
Nyiigu buut Jwøk ni kwøngu buye cayø, kwieru anägö ni bang jwïëy jïre yaa.
Jeco O Jwøk oløny ni kare can, nyibuuö yaa wa poot kwaya eni
Adøø maal bang wänni kuna jiing uudi, kunyi noo due ni jier mo piny en
Ngato kweer Jwøk ni ci jöör anägö dööng yi rääm yi muudhö yaa.
Lwaak bäre aa, lämö ki Jwøk aa, kwaa Jeco, cïpö ki ngäädhe, cïpö jwïëy aa, duunnö ki kwøw aa.
A lämö jï Jwøk naa jïta ki kunyi, kïmmö ki cööyö ena po dïcuuni.
Ngääth Jecu O Jwøk, yïïno jïtï kwøw. Paare ki tar, ka yï bëëdö yi bura.
Kwääyi ki lam niï ngäätha O Jwøk. Kunyi duua piny en.
Aa Jeco O Jwøk, ba jäägngï nyïïatwieli, wa göö ko odurö, wa poot läägnga yïïni

Credits and Bibliography

Research Associates

Apay Ojullu Aballa (translation)
Ojho Ojullu Othow


Osterland, David Conrad. 1978. “The Anuak Tribe of South Western Ethiopia: A Study of Its Music within the Context of its Socio-Cultural Setting.” University of Wisconsin, Ph.D. Diss.