Èzili, kote ou yeÈzili, where are you Pa wè mwen lan dloCan’t you see I am in troubled waters Kote ou yeWhere are you MetrèsMistress Mache lakay ouWon’t you come home
This song is about a person wishing to be rescued by Èzili, the Patron Spirit of Love.Èzili is called upon to address a precarious situation. The situation is described as turbulent waters because it menaces one’s life. Commonly in African American spirituals, fear provoking circumstances are referred to as troubled waters. In Haiti, mwen lan dlo, means my well-being is threatened. Being in water conjures being in a life threatening situation because of the longstanding Kongo belief that the ancestors are anba dlo. – Beneath the waters. To be in water or to be in troubled water, as African Americans would say, is to be at risk of joining the world of the departed.
he occurrence of water in the song is particularly poignant because in Dahomey, Èzili is a female spirit associated with the Azili lake. In Haiti there was a A to È change in the pronunciation of the name. This is not surprising since such change is common and explains why in Creolesome people say chache while others say chèche. Since the name Èzili originates from Dahomey, people in Haiti have added Dahomey to Èzili’s name and call her Èzili Freda Dahomey.
Èzili is portrayed as being wealthy. She is called Freda, a word that meant princess in Dahomey. Freda was also a variant pronunciation of the Dahomean city of Wida. Èzili Freda Dahomey, means Èzili the Princess of Dahomey.Often in Haiti, the title Metrès (Mistress) is used synonymously for Èzili because like princess, that title was one that denoted a person of privilege in the 17th and 18th century French slave-plantation economy. Other titles for Èzili denote other aspects of love like ancestral love, embodied as Grann Èzili, and maternal and heroic love as Èzili Dantò. We do not know when this song for Èzili was composed. However, Allan Lomax recorded people singing it in Haiti at Kafou Difò in 1936-1937. Since this recording was not released until this year, it is likely that the song was known even before. The singing of Haitian Traditional Religious Songs shows continuity between our generation and that of earlier ones. All human spirituality/ religions are rooted in history. Much of Vodou is derived from Haitian history going back centuries in Africa. Similarly, other religions are derived from the history of the people who gave rise to them. On January 12th 2010, Haiti felt the destructive effect of a massive 7.0 earthquake. As a network of people from all continents and from all faiths converged to offer their assistance and solidarity, it seemed that Haiti was on its way to seeing better days. But today, nearly a decade later, the country is only feeling the debilitating effects of corruption as inflation has sky-rocketed and the economy has worsened. Haiti's leaders could not rise to the occasion of reconstructing the country; they were only successful at enriching themselves. Today, we need to display that resilient spirit of konn-viv as we sing Kote ou ye Metrès mache lakay ou- come home and show the love. It is konn viv- that show of love - that will help us emerge out of the troubled waters and build our nation.
Updated on February 3rd 2019. Originally written in February 2010.
The dancers of Jeanguy Saintus' CieAyikodans dance in honor of Èzili.