Lulu’s ‘Hannah’: Delineation of longsuffering, trust in divinity
By Ziliro Mchulu & Richard Phiri:
Songs have been composed based on biblical stories, and it is now familiar, though drab, to hear someone narrating a biblical story in a song, especially when it has been done in the obvious way
However, when one has adapted a biblical story in today’s world and language, it becomes unique. The song ‘Hannah’ by Lulu, from the album Better in your Arms is one masterpiece that has drawn inspiration from ecclesiastical tale to resituate it to the present day woes and miseries faced by women.
Lulu has one character that separates him from other artists and his peers; he knows what he sings and it does it better. Those who can claim piety or, at least, been to Sunday school or the conventional church, the story of Hannah is a familiar one and almost drab to be rehashed.
However, Lulu has adapted the story into a tune that is full of mixture of creativity that touches on the sublime.
The song ‘Hannah’ is based on the biblical story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1. The chapter centres on a man called Elkanah who has two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. Peninnah was hostile to Hannah because of the latter’s infertility. “Her rival provoked her greatly, to vex her, because the Lord had left her childless” [1, Samuel 1v6].
The Hannah in the song represents the present day woman who is passing through hell to sustain her marriage. She is mocked and laughed by others due to the problems that she is passing through. Hannah is struggling to receive love from her husband who is in the business of chasing skirts of modern day Jezebels alias slay queens.
In the song, Lulu sings: “Hannah mama usalire, Hannah mama puputa misozi, kungade kudzawala, leka kulira, leka kulira Hannah mama, inde mama mwatchulidwa maina MG1 ati pena ndi kape”. (Cry not Hannah, dry your tears, there is always light after darkness, stop crying, You have been mocked, I know)
In the above verse, Hannah is the victim of ridicule because of her barrenness. She is being openly mocked by her husband’s mistresses. However, the voice in the song encourages Hannah never to lose hope and be strong.
The biblical Hannah and the one time-machined in Lulu’s song are epitomes of suffering and abuse women face. The song, in this regard, moves across geography and time. These are women who are in matrimonial bondage and can only soak their pain in tears while their husbands waste money on beer and neglected family needs. However, like the biblical Hannah, the Hannah of today is still moving on with the marriage. She is strong despite the problems she encounters. In the book of Samuel, Hannah does not quit praying despite the taunts and mockeries she gets from her rival Peninah. Hannah in the song also continues working hard to provide for her home despite her situation. But a quick notice of the differences in the eponymous Hannah and one in the song is that the former was a subject of mockery due to her biological makeup— barrenness— while the latter is a victim of men’s lasciviousness and insatiable thirsty for women which make them neglect their families and children.
Lulu sings: “Ndakuona ukukankha njinga yamakala wekha/ kuti ana adye abambo awo ali ku mowa… ndakuona ukukankha njinga yamakala wekha kuti ana adye abambo awo ali kwa diva’. (I have seen you carrying a load of charcoal for sale just to fend for your children while the father is out there spending money on alcohol and mistresses)
To Hannah shedding tears and not giving up, is the only way of expressing her pain. The reason for not giving up might be that, Hannah still has hope inside her heart that even though she is suffering, things will change one day. The person a encourages Hannah to trust in the Lord because his grace is sufficient. “Mkwiyo wake ndiwochepa kuposa chisomo chake”.
In the end, The Lord blessed the biblical Hannah with a child named Samuel meaning [heard of God]. The persona in the song is God / a concerned person addressing Hannah, giving her courage and comfort. At one-point the persona says “uzabala Samuel”. Samuel is a child that made Hannah happy and ended her shame. The baby brought peace to Hanna, such that at the end of the day, Hannah even sang a song praising God for the child she had been given. Samuel also became the voice of God [Prophet] who even anointed great kings like David. Lulu uses Samuel as a symbol of happiness, peace and blessing that is to come in the future to this modern Hannah who is going through a lot of problems.
How the story ends for the biblical Hannah is a lesson to all women who are struggling.
The song gives hope to all people currently suffering in life. The song encourages women not to take short-cuts to solve marriage issues. “Nkhondo yako si yamphamvu,nkhondo yako nja udzimu”. Wait unto the lord for he will solve all your problems at a right time with the right procedures. That abusive husband will one day call you a wife. He will one day spend his money on the family. Hannah waited patiently for the lord to solve her problems and they were solved. “Hannah mama Usalire, Hannah Mama Puputa misozi kungade kuzawala leka kulira Hannah mama”.
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