My Life as a Festival Singer in Africa
KUESIONOR was my professional singing and dancing title, as expressed in our own Kissi language. This title came to take preference over my real name, Teewa. I was the female lead singer and dancer among a group of seven male singers and dancers. Our group composed our own songs and music to accompany our dancing. We sang and danced to the accompaniment of music produced by the chekelan (cowrie seashells hung around a gourd) and various types of drums. The spirit of the music and dance and how we dressed were exciting as well as eye-catching.
We would collect up to $75 for a public performance—a large sum of money among our people, even more than some families’ income for two or three months. Our singing and dancing group was in great demand at festivals held throughout the towns and villages of our chiefdom, as well as in nearby countries in West Africa.
I was just newly married, my husband having paid a dowry or bride price to my father. This type of marriage is accepted in our country, even though it is not formally registered in the Native Court. My parents had informed my husband that I had been dedicated ceremonially to be a Kuesionor, and he was not too happy about it. He knew, apparently, about the busy schedule that I would have, and this was not conducive to a well-adjusted married life. Too, my husband had recently started to study the Bible, and upon learning something about certain Bible principles, he was having second thoughts about allowing me to pursue my professional career as a festival singer and dancer. But, as for me, my thoughts and interests were far removed from God.
In our local community, parental and other traditions are very strong. So my parents had their way in the matter. I was happy, captivated by the thought of being a Kuesionor. Actually, at the time of my marriage I was very young, for, you see, girls in our villages are often married by the age of thirteen or fourteen.
Entering and Pursuing the Profession
The ceremony marking my installation in the profession as a Kuesionor seemed grand! My parents gave the women elders of our village the prescribed quantity of rice, palm oil and kola nuts. They also paid a sum of money and gave six yards of white shirting for decking me out for the ceremony. Much merriment marked the ceremony; there were singing and dancing, with many of the villagers participating, others observing.
So by the time I was brought to my husband’s village to consummate our marriage, my active singing and dancing career was nearly ready to start. With the gaining of experience in my new career, I was to be away from my husband more and more on extended tours, sometimes as much as four months at a time. However, by now my husband had decided to take a second wife, so ours became a polygamous household.
How did my husband feel about my being away so much? Did he miss me? I was not too sure at the time, but I did know he was not happy about it, even though I would bring home large sums of money after each tour. Anyway, I thought, he has my “mate” (his secondary wife) to look after him.
Things happened to me on those festival tours, things that I am not now proud to relate. Drunkenness and adultery could be mentioned as the commonest of practices.
One season I arrived home from a tour too late to participate in clearing the ground on my husband’s farm for planting the rice, which is our staple food. This led to bitter quarreling and fighting. On another occasion he beat me and, for a short time, drove me away from the home.
The Bible Changes My Husband
But throughout this period one of Jehovah’s witnesses came each week to conduct a Bible study with my husband. His visits began to affect my husband’s thinking in a favorable way, and this was reflected in what seemed a more tolerant attitude toward me. He became more gentle and soft with me and he seemed to find it easier to talk about the things he was learning in his newfound religion.
Almost all of us living in our village were animists, so anything my husband would relate about what he learned from the Bible was quite new to me as well as others.
The real turning point in my life, however, came one day when my husband called me to his side and explained that he had learned from the Bible that a man should be the husband of only one wife. (1 Tim. 3:2, 12) So he said that he had decided to send one of his wives back to her people. My heart sank, for my “mate” (his secondary wife) was younger than I. Would he send me, the senior wife, or the younger woman? My anxiety mounted when he went on to explain that this had been a difficult decision for him to make. But he then said: “Will you go with me to the Native Court so we can get papers for our marriage?”
I was so relieved, and I readily agreed. I was even excited about the prospect of going to the Native Court to have our marriage solemnized and registered. What had brought about this important decision on his part? Jehovah’s witnesses had explained to him that if he wanted to be a real Christian, his marriage should be legally registered. So more was needed than just paying the dowry. Also, it was explained to him that he should take the ‘wife of his youth’ and her only. (Prov. 5:18) So he sent his second wife back to her people.
Changes in My Own Life
The loving approach that my husband made in respect to me and the thought that I no longer had to share him with another woman made a deep impression on me. More and more I began to respect him as my owner.
Too, I now was getting less and less enthusiastic about my singing career. One day in the middle of a big festival performance, a woman shouted out something like this: “We have Christians here among us! We will never tolerate anyone here that is trying to go two ways.” Of course, I was unnerved by this outburst as I was the only wife of a Christian in the crowd. Because of this incident, I did not stay to the end of that festival. I decided then and there to look more into the new beliefs of my husband.
I started walking with him to the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses, which were held in a market town about nine miles away. At these meetings everything seemed so peaceful. What a contrast to the noise of the chekelan, drums and shouting of the crowds at the worldly festivals! I heard at these meetings, too, the singing of songs of a different kind—songs based on Bible themes and praising Jehovah. These songs were sung in our own language, and the words began to take on real meaning for me.
I did not always understand everything that was being taught at these meetings, but I came to like being there very much. On arriving home after one meeting on a certain day, I requested my husband no longer to call me “Kuesionor.” I too had made a decision; I would no longer be a festival singer.
The women leaders in our village were particularly upset by my abandoning the life of a Kuesionor and so they imposed a fine on me for breaking local tradition. The matter came before the village elders. Now my husband stepped forward, speaking kindly but firmly in my behalf. This resulted in the elders lifting the fine and giving me my release. And what a release I felt! I was now free to serve Jehovah along with my husband.
Blessings from Serving Jehovah
Since my baptism in 1972, my husband and I have not had a quarrel. It has been a wonderful witness to outsiders to see the changes that God’s truth has made in us. I have left off singing and dancing at worldly festivals, although the singing title is still used by persons who are not yet aware of the stand I have taken.
And to my amazement, some of the menfolk of our old dance troupe have become singers of Jehovah’s praises too! One of them, the eldest of the old troupe, has embraced the Bible’s truth despite much opposition and ridicule.
Do I regret having made the decision to forsake my life as a Kuesionor to take up the singing of Jehovah’s praises? Not at all! After I made known my dedication to Jehovah and that I would no longer be following my career as a festival singer, a fellow singer taunted me by saying: “Will you have clothes and money like you have now?”
Of course, I was determined, and nothing would now change my mind. What has been the result? Since I was baptized I have enjoyed so many happy experiences, among which are a contented home with a good husband who loves me as his only wife and who loves Jehovah as I do. I also enjoy the privilege of helping others to make changes in their lives similar to those that my husband and I have made.
As far as material things are concerned, these are not so important anymore. I work on the farm with my husband, and it produces our basic necessities of life. And since the easy money is no longer flowing in from my singing career, we do not have to entertain worldly friends and care for so many distant relatives, which took most of the money anyway. Instead, we have spiritual blessings and prosperity. I am so thankful that I left the life of a Kuesionor to become a singer of Jehovah’s praises.—Contributed.