Translation for Falealili Uma – a song of victory

falealili

As with many traditional Samoan songs, Falealili Uma is not one that you can fully understand in English with a simple word for word translation.

Even fluent speakers of Samoan still need to know some history, a few idioms and a little bit of geography to really grasp the meaning of this song.

Thank you to the elders in my family for graciously helping me with this translation. It was such an enlightening conversation. This song is so old and so popular – you hear it at just about every upbeat Samoan gathering – that I thought I knew it.

But as my elders shared the stories, expressions and customs behind each line, I was struck yet again by the depth of our language and the lyrical skill of those who crafted our beautiful songs.

Some background

I’m working with the version of this song that is in our Samoan Lyrics database: Falealili Uma.

According to the book Tusi Pese Fatuga Tuai a Samoa, by T. Chande Lutu-Drabble, this version is actually a medley of two different songs – one called Falealili Uma and the other called Falefitu e Falealili ma Aleipata.

It’s something that happens a lot with traditional songs, probably because they tend to be very short. Samoans have lots of sing-alongs, and I guess over the decades we figured out that one song goes really well with another one (and maybe even another one), and then we just got used to singing them one after the other in specific combinations.

What is Falealili?

Okay, so Falealili is a sub-district of Atua, on the southeastern coast of the island of Upolu.

(Meet some of its locals and descendants over at the Falealili Uma set in the ville.)

Some of the villages in Falealili include Poutasi, Salani, Malaemalu, and Sapunaoa, home of the legendary Manusamoa title for which Samoa’s national rugby team is apparently named.

The sports reference is significant here because this song is a celebration of a victory, possibly in battle, but most likely in sport.

Let’s take a closer look:

Verse 1

Falealili uma // All of Falealili
i o ma o // here and there
ta fia faalogologo // I want to hear
i sou leo // your voice
Ua a’ave o le tala // Word is spreading quickly
o le malo // of the victory
ua leai se manu e toe olo // Not a single bird is chirping

The last line here, “leai se manu e olo” is an idiom.

In this context, it means that no one (no bird) is challenging or contesting this victory. In other words, it’s a hands down win.

(See how the English idiom ‘hands down’ works a similar way?)

Verse 2

We have a lot going on in this verse.

Falefitu e, // The House of 7
Falealili ma Aleipata // Falealili and Aleipata
faapea ma le atu Safata // and also the district Safata

First, you’ll hear a change of melody here, so we’re now singing the second song in this medley.

As I mentioned above, Falealili is a sub-district of Atua. Aleipata and Safata are also nearby sub-districts.

Falefitu, though? Is a matter of debate. Its literal meaning is ‘The House of 7’ and it is a name given to various groupings of oratory chiefs. These include one group from Tutuila, one from Tuia’ana, one from Fasito’otai, and one from a district closer to Falealili called Tuamasaga.

Because of its proximity (and because my uncle said so), I’m going to accept that this song is referring to the latter.

In any case, the writer here is calling out a challenge to these districts:

A e fia faatau moa // If you want to enter the cockfight,
lafo ane sau ‘afa // throw in your sennit rope.
Ae soia lava le fa’atu i ala // Stop crouching (indecisively) on the road

The ‘afa is a thin but really strong rope hand-braided from the husks of the sennit coconut. I’m not sure what the ‘afa has to do with a cockfight (perhaps it was used as a leash for the bird?) but, this figure of speech is strongly urging people to step up and get in the game.

According to my elders, this particular expression (about the ‘afa and the cockfight) is specific to the Falealili district. That is, you’ll rarely ever hear an orator who is not from the area use this saying.

Included in this song, it adds a sense of pride and unity for the people of Falealili, especially for those who know something about their titles and history.

Then, as a further encouragement, the writer adds:

E aoga foi fa’agatama // It’s good to have healthy competition
e masani i le tupulaga // so that our young people can get to know each other

Chorus

Fa’amane’ene’e, // Be graceful (as if dancing)
aua le minoi tele // Don’t move too much
Ae teu le ta’alo // Play well (carefully)
ma le loto maualalo // and with humility
Olioli malie, // Concentrate, watch your game strategy
aua le pisa o // don’t make too much noise (during the game)
Faato’a vivini o le moa ina ua malo // The rooster only crows once the game is won

Apparently, when teams return home after sports tournaments with other villages, they will crow like roosters at the entrance of the village to announce their victory. That is most likely what this last line is referring to, but it could also be a reference to the cockfight scenario mentioned above.

Verse 4

Satalo e o le uso na toto // Satalo, the brother that we acquired
Teuteu ia le itumalo // lets make peace, bring our district together
Falealili e, ia maopo’opo // Falealili, let’s come together
O le mea sili lea e malie ai lou loto // The most important thing is that you are happy / content

Satalo is another village in Falealili. It’s here that my sources fail me, though. We’re not sure what went down between Satalo and its district, but it sounds like all is sorted now.

Oi lata penina o le auro lea // Oh my pearl, this is my gold
lata pululipano e po’o fea // My frankensence, I wonder where it is
Oe la’u manamea e le fa’agalo i aso fai pea // My sweetheart that I won’t forget every day
O lo’o fiafia e ua le gata mai lea // My happiness does not end here

Here, we’re back to the first song of this medley, so these beautiful lines of devotion will naturally be about Falealili.

Aloalo malie lau va’a Samoa // Row your boat with care, Samoa
i lou sami lanu moana // in your ocean of blue
Ua e ofi atu i le ava // You’ve made it into the harbour
ma e pesepese le taulaga // singing (merrily) in town
Ua tuanai o le atu vasa // We’re now past the dangers of the deep ocean
ua fetaiai le ava fatafata // We now meet in camaraderie (with respect for one another)

But now our writer expands the scope to include all of Samoa. This part suggests that we’ve just come out of a struggle as a nation. Whether it was an internal hardship, for example a civil war, or a difficulty we had with other countries, we’re not sure.

Perhaps someone can help shed light on this bit in a comment below?

Whatever the details are here, though, it’s all good news in the end:

Samoa e, amuia oe // Samoa, you are truly blessed
ua taunuu ma le manuia lau faamoemoe // The realization of your hope / dream has happily arrived

A Summary

This song expresses so much pride for a hometown and a people. It’s a call to arms for all of Falealili to stand together and press forward with courage and dignity.

The sentiment is so contagious – the message so inspiring – that this song has become more than an anthem for just one district. It’s been borrowed time and again by Samoans from all villages as a celebration, a tribute and an expression of love for Samoa as a whole.

For so many of us who are not from Falealili but still (if a bit self-consciously) really cherish this classic song, a popular, tongue-in-cheek statement just might apply:

Aue, ua ta fia Falealili fua!

Which means something like, “Gosh, all of a sudden I want to be from Falealili”

🙂

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Known offline as Lillian (Lils, Lei'a) Arp, Hamo Geek Girl is just learning what it means to be Samoan. When she's not here, she's over at Manaui: Savour Oceania mostly talking about her other favourite topic: Food!

10 thoughts on “Translation for Falealili Uma – a song of victory

  1. I love this song! It is one of my most favorite samoan songs to date. I listen to it(religiously)and I find myself always smiling and imagining myself being where I became to exist. This song mo’ def takes settles me and keeps me humble. Thank you for the words to this amazing song..now, I can properly enunciate the words.

    1. There’s nothing like REALLY singing a song because you KNOW it with all your heart, a ea? I love that feeling! lol Thank you M21 for taking the time to check this out 🙂

  2. Wow, that was absolutely a beautiful translation! I LOVE this song, one of my jams in my Samoan music department..hehe..beautiful interpretation HGG. a cousin of mine was teaching me a dance to it, so graceful and beautiful…all the more proud i am of our culture…faafetai lava.

    1. You know.. I’ve heard and sung this song so many times (like SOOOO many cause I’m old now lol) that i don’t realize just how much it means to people.. I mean, in our Samoan Lyrics this was like the number one requested translation. Thank you so much for helping me to understand just how important this beautiful jam is to so many people 🙂 x

  3. I love the Falealili medley…We always sing this song everytime our rugby team secured the shield and head back home to Fagatogo with it. Of course accompanied with the Falealili song all the way. Thanks for the posting, I was actually smiling thinking about home when reading it again.

    1. Sometimes I really wish I had spent more growing-up time in Samoa. To hear you all talk about it, it sounds magical! lol Thank you for stopping by Tautai.. I really do appreciate this song a whole lot more now that I know a little something about it…

  4. Wow! You know, growing up, going to Samoan classes and such, we never really went thru this song. I mean, go thru it like you just did. It’s amazing how I would sing it, but didn’t really think about the words, or it’s meaning until now.

    It’s awesome how now I can go back to my grandmother and tell her I know the meaning of this song (hopefully I don’t get hit upside the head with her cane-she just assumes her grandchildren and great grandchildren already (we should *sighs*) know mostly everything about our culture).

    Thanks Ms Chi for going thru it altogether for us, because like me, there are so many out there who don’t know the meaning, but now will.

    You know you’re awesome right? Riiiight? Cause you are!! 😀

    1. I hope I don’t get hit upside the head for any errors in this translation lol.. Thank you Mz Diamond Cutz for all your feedback… Your grandmother sounds like somebody I’d love to meet 🙂

  5. … Thank You for this CHI … tis a beautiful song … my fave part to sing when the guys play ? … “OLIOLI MALIE … AUA LE PISA O … Faato’a vivini o le moa ina ua malo” ~ i’ve got a rendition (not sure who’s singing it lol) that says TOA instead of MOA at that bit, on my iTunes … i should send it to you coz it’s a pretty good rendition 🙂

    i LOVE how you broke down the lyrics and their translation and elaborating on the whole history behind it and etc … truly LOVED it 🙂 .. Thank You !!!

    1. Hiii mz Wrydah… Thank you for your kind comments 🙂 if the version you’re talking is the one I think it is, then yes it is beautiful! And Toa makes all kinds of sense too. To think all these years of me enjoying this song and now I finally know what it is talking about lol

      Thank you for taking the time to read my taumafaiga vaivai.

      🙂

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