Can Anyone Help with the Afro-Cuban Song “Yemaya Assessu”?

Marion was looking for a Cuban song and asked for help on the Mama Lisa’s World Facebook Group. The song is about Yemaya, a west African goddess of the oceans. She’s often depicted as a mermaid. It seems the song is in the Yoruba language. The song is now sung by choruses.

Here’s the thread about the song…

Marion wrote, “I recently learned a beautiful song from Cuba in a session with a woman who got it from there. I can’t find it on Mama Lisa’s World. So is there anyone here from Cuba who can give us some traditional versions of ‘Yemaya Assessu’? Thanks!”

Glenda wrote, “I just YouTubed it. There’s quite a few on there. Look at the one that says where the river joins the sea. It will tell you the meaning. What a beautiful song. I may teach it with preschoolers next year.

Marion wrote, “A celebration of the moment when the river meets the ocean. Yemaya is the goddess of the ocean and the mother of all goddesses.

I don’t like the Deva Premal version, because the version I know from my life is far more ‘tribal’ and powerful to my ears. I researched it – it originally comes from Nigeria (Benin), where Yoruba people use to honor a sea goddess. Then it traveled to Cuba.

She (the goddess) is also adored and revered in Brazil on the Summer Solstice and other festival days including September 7th and February 2nd. In Santería, the Goddess is the ruler of the seas and oceans, as well as the mother of all living things. It’s actually on the summer solstice that my ‘teacher’ discovered the song.

Can anybody help please?

*****
Note from Mama Lisa:

There are the lyrics I’ve found so far. (I read that they’re inspired by a Yoruba song)…

Yemaya Assessu
Assessu yemaya
Yemaya olodo
Olodo yemaya

If anyone knows anything about this song, please share it in the comments below. We’d also be interesting in learning the original Yoruba version.

Thanks in advance!

Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Saturday, January 19th, 2019 at 12:27 am and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Cuba, Languages, Mama Lisa, Nigeria, Questions, Spanish, Yoruba. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

10 Responses to “Can Anyone Help with the Afro-Cuban Song “Yemaya Assessu”?”

  1. Sandy Rey Says:

    Where the River joins the Sea
    Ase 🙏🏼

  2. Omi Says:

    It’s not a song, it’s a chant to the Orisha Yemaya. A goddess of the seas. You sing it to give thanks to her.

    Yemaya assessu; Assessu Yemaya
    Yemaya Olodo; Olodo Yemaya
    Kai kai kai Yemaya Olodo, Kai kai kai Assessu Olodo

  3. Pampalele Says:

    Omi is correct.
    The song refers to that special and ephemeral and magical moment of the river meeting the ocean.
    This song or chant is in the Yoruba language.
    Many Yoruba-speaking people were forced into slavery in the Americas, and their religion remains one of the dominant beliefs in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Cuba, the religion is called Santeria (referring to The African Saints, the orishas).
    many songs, chants and dances, proverbs, moral codes and medicinal knowledge were passed down to us in the Yoruba language. Sometimes through public performances of the chants, sometimes in secret.
    In the Yoruba kingdoms of Southern Nigeria (West Africa), the orisha Yemaja, the river, is one of the embodiments of the almighty, Oludmare.
    In the Americas, this “saint” Yemaja represents the ocean.
    In this song, the Yoruba word “olodo” refers to the water.
    The chant evokes Yemaja, who may respond by entering into a singer, who goes into a trance and speaks the words of Yemaja..
    The chant refers to that special and ephemeral and magical moment of the river meeting the ocean.
    In parts of the Caribbean, people may carry spiritual baths at the mouth of a river, where it meats the sea, ofter at the ephemeral moment of sunrise.
    Hope this helps.

  4. Zsuzsa Says:

    hi all … i am trying to find the lyrics to a longer version of this song/chant/prayer … https://soundcloud.com/user-741783292/kai-kai-kai-yemaya … there’s the link to it … I would love to sing it! do you have the lyrics? will you please share them … thank you very much

  5. Cynthia Says:

    I am actually looking for the lyrics to the same song that is in the link above.

  6. Omo Oya Says:

    (Lead)

    Yemaya Asesu, Asesu Yemaya (2x’s)
    Yemaya Olodo, Olodo Yemaya, Ataramawa
    Yemaya Olodo, Olodo Yemaya. (2x’s)

    Chorus:
    Yemaya Asesu, Asesu Yemaya (2x’s)
    Yemaya Olodo, Olodo Yemaya (2x’s)

    (Lead)
    Ataramawa Iya o mio,
    Yemaya Asesu, Asesu Yemaya (2x’s)
    Yemaya Olodo, Olodo Yemaya (2x’s)

    Chorus:
    Yemaya Asesu, Asesu Yemaya (2x’s)
    Yemaya Olodo, Olodo Yemaya (2x’s)

    Lead:
    Soku ta ni wo awa Asesu
    Ewi ma sere ero nide

    Chorus:
    Soku ta ni wo awa Asesu
    Ewi ma sere ero nide

    Lead:
    Bara ago ago Yemaya
    Bara ago oro Mi

    Chorus:
    Bara ago ago Yemaya
    Bara ago oro Mi

    Lead:
    Bara ago ago Yemaya
    Bara ago oro Mi

    Chorus:
    Bara ago ago Yemaya
    Bara ago oro Mi

    Lead:
    Bara ago ago Yemaya
    Bara ago oro Mi

    Chorus:
    Bara ago ago Yemaya
    Bara ago oro Mi

    Lead:
    Omolo de omo titi eyo
    Eleyo la de

    Chorus:
    Omolo de omo titi eyo
    Eleyo la de

    Lead:
    Omolo de omo Ifa fakenu
    Eleyo la de

    Chorus:
    Omolo de omo titi eyo
    Eleyo la de

    Lead:
    Oluba chikini oluba
    Oluba chikini oluba
    Ero an pipo ole yan ya o
    Omi o lo mi omo ode

    Chorus:
    Oluba chikini oluba
    Oluba chikini oluba
    Ero an pipo ole yan ya o
    A la modanse

    Lead:
    Yemaya Chikini

    Chorus:
    A la modanse

    Lead:
    Yemaya Chikini

    Chorus:
    A la modanse

    Lead:
    Yemaya Chikini

    Chorus:
    A la modanse

    Lead:
    Yemaya Chikini

    Chorus:
    A la modanse

    Lead:
    Yemaya Oloddo, Awa lodo o mio
    Yemaya Oloddo, Awa lodo o mio

    Chorus:
    Yemaya Oloddo, Awa lodo o mio
    Yemaya Oloddo, Awa lodo o mio

    Lead:
    Yemaya agolona

    Chorus:
    Palo mio palo Viejo

    Lead:
    Yemaya agolona

    Chorus:
    Palo mio palo Viejo

    Lead:
    Yemaya agolona

    Chorus:
    Palo mio palo Viejo

    Lead:
    Yemaya agolona

    Chorus:
    Palo mio palo Viejo

    Lead:

    Umbo ashe o, oche umo era o
    Umbo ashe o, oche umo era o

    Chorus:
    Umbo ashe o, oche umo era o
    Umbo ashe o, oche umo era o

  7. Lisa Says:

    Thanks so much for providing the lyrics Omo Oya! Would you be able to help with the translation? :)

  8. G. O. Osho-Davies Says:

    Interesting. Yemaja in Yorùbá is Yemoja. Someone translated ‘Olodo’ as water, but it really means ‘the ruler of the river’, referring to the goddess. Some other parts of the chant are not in Yoruba. Some are hard for me to understand without accents. I managed to understand Olodo, though in Yoruba it will come with accents as Olódò for ease of understanding and pronunciation.

  9. Alá Aganjú Says:

    It’s a song. For some reason people will refer to these as “chants”, but it has rhythmic form, melodic structure, and is song in clave.

  10. Omo Oya Says:

    Hi Everyone.

    Sometime ago I provided the lyrics to the song as I have it downloaded onto my iphone.
    I was able to articulate these words through the help of world-renowned singer Lazaro Ros (now deceased).

    In response to one of the comments in this thread concerning language. The language is not purely Yoruba/Lukumi. Due to the lack of formal education by most of those who came across the middle passage, it was not easy to articulate/translate into spanish when the religion became mainstream in Cuba. Another thing that occurred was the amalgamation or combining of certain techniques and ceremonies. Slave traders and masters knew very well our ancestors could not be kept together or they would cause an uprising. Hence, people from many nations, tribes, and cultures were purposely kept separately and they all got mixed in with others so they couldn’t be able to communicate. Our traditions evolved into something new because it had to survive.

    The language is also only used during ceremonies, chants, singing and praise. Because modern-day Nigerians do not practice the Lukumi faith the same way we do in the Caribbean and the Americas, it will be immensely different from that of pure Yorubaland in Nigeria.

    Lazaro was able to collect many songs, teachings and traditions that were dying due to a lack of education on the island. He got initiated into santeria at a young age and became one of Cuba’s most prolific singers known as Akwpon. It is because of him and those who wrote books, that we have a vast knowledge of our beautiful tradition today.

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