“Sweet mother, I no go forget you, For the suffer, wey you suffer for me eh” -Chorus: Sweet Mother, Prince Nico Mbarga & the Rocafil Jazz
Growing up, my home was one of millions in Africa and around the world that owned a copy of Prince Nico Mbarga and the Rocafil Jazz’s album with the hit “Sweet Mother.” Recorded in 1976, 13 million copies of the album were sold and it was later recognized as one of Africa’s greatest songs.
In addition to its uplifting rhythms, the wonderful thing about “Sweet Mother” is that it put into words sentiments of Africans that were hardly ever talked about. A mother’s love and devotion toward her children were expected and “natural” (so why make such a fuss about it). In the same way, a child’s love and appreciation for his or her mother was expected, considering the pain and suffering of childbearing and raising children. So through the song, we could finally honor our mothers and celebrate them in a culturally familiar way—through music and dance.
I don’t own a copy of the song today but thankfully, I’ve gotten better in expressing my feelings and being candid with my mother. In honor of Mother’s Day, I asked her permission for an interview to share her views on the greatest job in the world—motherhood.
ME: Did you enjoy being a mother?
MOM: Yes but I also remember it being very difficult? As a working mother during those days, it felt more hectic. (Note: She was always a working mother and that was a real inspiration for me.)
ME: Do you think you had it easier than I have it today?
MOM: My life was very different than yours—I think it is so much harder for you. I had more support from family and the community. For example, those days I could ask my neighbor to please keep an eye on my kids while I ran to the market. You can’t do that here, you’ll have to pay someone, take them or drop them off somewhere.
ME: What would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
MOM: Seeing my kids independent and on their own and doing well. Also, having my kids here with me in the U.S. When I left you behind to start a life here for us, there were times when I wasn’t sure if it was the best decision. Especially when the civil war broke out. Now I’m so happy I made the decision to come and make a way for you and your siblings. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me feel for us to all be together and doing good.
ME: What advice would you have for me and other young mothers?
MOM: Always love your children and support them. Life here in the U.S. can be very stressful. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and if you have a spouse, learn to talk things out; if you have disagreements, try to work it out. Family life is very important for children and adults.
I hope you will always take the time to celebrate the mothers in your life. If you’re having trouble in the self-expression area, consider getting a copy of Prince Nico’s “Sweet Mother” and present it as a gift. Better still, stick it in the CD player, turn up the volume and dance with your special lady!
Have a sweet Mother’s Day.
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