Sunday, 1 February 2015


When I was a kid there was a funny, dirty popular jingle.  A naughty song about bad wind, or in impolite, raw English, farting. Allegedly composed on the East African coast where Swahili lullabies developed and creativity blossomed. Swahili of Taarab, fun, coconuts, mischief, music and fish. 
Coconuts - part of Swahili coasts image and mood...- pic taken in Dar es Salaam, 2009- by author... 

Today we take Kiswahili for granted, but 45 to 60 years ago, non fluent Swahili speakers, from upper regions and highlands were often teased. The bad wind song was an example of such inter-territorial arrogance and brilliance. Please look closely at the lyrics.  Aren’t they meaningless except for the last Swahili word...?
“Ana ana do

Kachanika basto

Iziplingi matingo

 As time moved, folks added more lines. Normally, the tune was chanted after a smell of bad wind had been detected. In their innocent fashion, children are allowed to be silly and playful. So while everyone waved hands close to their noses, someone would start singing and wagging a finger at everyone present. Each word will go to the next person until Kajamba was finalised. If you happened to be the one at that end of the round, laughter and jeer would wash your face, even if you were not the culprit.  Such unfair embarrassment contributed to folks adding more lines to extend the playful ordeal.
“Ushuzi unanuka! Atatandikwa!  Tena Saana...”

There were other bad wind jingles.
Like “kujambisha”, for instance, used to tease homosexual men. Making loud diarrhoea sounds with fingers on lips. Very funny if you are from Swahili coast culture as guys would playfully, jump and twitch pretending being hurt.  As life went on and having travelled around, I discovered that poking fun at this natural bodily function, is cultural. In Latin America, certain regions do fuss and make jokes when someone in a room has blown up the back tyre, so to speak. But among Wazungus (especially Europe) I have noted over the years, stinking wind and the whole issue of toilet etiquette, is not perceived with similar humour.  You could be in a room and someone pumps the most awful, smelly fart, yet, all continue as if nothing happened. Lately, the matter has worsened.  
I used to think it was me imagining things until a chef friend from Jamaica brought up something interesting. He said he did not eat any wheat products. Totally avoided Gluten.   The cooking maestro explained Gluten and its problems, i.e. constipation, bloated stomach, bad wind, etc.  Now.  In East Africa we associate bad wind with say, eating nutritious beans. A global thing.  During Christmas in the UK, Brussels sprouts on the menu are known for that.  
Brussels sprout is  a known leader of  Xmas "culprits" -pic from Wikipedia.

 The tiny, extremely nourishing cabbages are part of Christmas humour. Then if one keeps on climbing the ladder of this particular topic we are reminded of other “partners in crime” like beer, coffee, meat, bananas, etc.
Yup. Natural stuff. Nothing wrong.
 Something is wrong, nevertheless, when the foul smelling blip-blip, gets frequent and chronic. Once in my local Gym we were talking about   the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) phenomenon.  Apparently there are five foods that may contribute mucus to the digestive walls and subsequent, IBS.  Dairy products, soya, excessive sugars and salt, plus gluten. Ah, Gluten. 
Gluten free food stuffs picking up across the developed world...- pic by F Macha

According to Wikipedia, Gluten (Latin gluten, "glue") is a protein composite in wheat and related grains, e.g. barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape, offering a chewy texture. East Africans may not be huge wheat consumers (as bread is not as widely cherished as in the West) however, we love Chapattis and Maandazi; prepared by wheat with salt and sugar, respectively.
Popular, delicious Maandazi - pic by F Macha

 Scientists say Gluten is made up of Gliadin and Glutenin.  It is the Gliadin, which causes problems, supposedly.
“When gluten reaches the digestive tract and is exposed to the cells of the immune system, they mistakenly believe that it is coming from some sort of foreign invader, like a bacteria,” explains one Internet source.
Mmmh. This bacterium brings memories of the childhood Swahili jingle. Some of the foods that do not contain Gluten include beans, corn, millet, potatoes, sweet potatoes, black and wild rice. But why is wheat such a huge subject in the developed world? Partly because main foods (pasta and bread) are wheat based. Experts are asking why wheat has suddenly become a problem whereas folks have fed on it for centuries.
Things changed around a hundred years ago when the meal industry began producing large amounts of food for sale. Wheat was processed differently. This overturned taste. A similar process is presently happening in Tanzania and naturally reared, free range chicken (“kuku wa kienyeji”) are being ditched for fast grown ones that are not as tasty or healthy. Same with Ugali. I recently, stumbled upon a Maize meal packet for Ugali in a London shop, labelled Made in Tanzania. On careful examination, I disappointingly became aware, it was genetically modified. Another storm on the horizon.

-Also published in Citizen Tanzania

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