Friday, November 29, 2013

1000 SONGS - DAY 299 SONG #330

DAY 299 - A Song about an African Deity

This is as song by the Invertebrates, a San Francisco based band from the early 1980ies which has been labelled very differently (from blues to post-punk to new wave). It is about one special lwa (as the Vodun - Deities in the religion also called Vodun -  are called in Haiti), Danbalah, a Vodun from Ouidah, Benin, where he is venerated in the "Temple des Pythons". The video is taken from Maya Deren's movie "Divine Horsemen". Actually, the movie was put together after Maya Deren's death from the material she shot in Haiti. She went there because she was interested in the dances of Haitian Vodoun, but ended up being initiated into the religion. You can read about that in her famous book "Divine Horsemen". Dan, or Edan, is a deity of the rainbow, associated with the python, in the religion called Vodu in Southern Benin and Togo. He became Danbalah in Haitian Vodoun, often depicted as a twin pair of snakes together with Ayido Wèdo), sometimes referred to as Danballah Wédo. The veve (symbolic respresentations of the lwa) made of chalk, wheat flour or gunpowder of Danballah Wédo looks like that:

Danbalah and Aida Hwedo (Danbala and Ayida Wèdo) are the divine serpent and the rainbow, whose powers reside in the domain of knowledge. Sometimes referred to as Danbala Wedo, the water spirit, with the symbol of the snake that can survive in hot and dry regions and therefore is looked at as a symbol of life-energy. Associated with St. Patrick, who is sometimes depicted with snakes, because it is said that he relieved Ireland from the snakes. Danbalah is the eldest of the lwa, therefore special attention and care is paid to him. He is also thought of as connecting the earth with the water underground (Ginen, Guinea, the homeland), therefore the poteau mitan is also called “poto-Danbalah”. In Ouidah, Benin, I took the following photograph of a depiction of Edan at a house, whose inhabitants are adherents of the cult of the vodun Dan (the shrine on the right hand side houses Legba, the guardian deity):

And here is the song by The Invertebrates:


  1. Hello:

    I just stumbled on your blog, in which you posted, The Invertebrates song, "Damballa". It was great to see a great description of both the Voudon content of the song and the Maya Deren footage we used. I once saw 4 hours of raw unedited footage she shot in Haiti. I had already read her book "Divine Horsemen", and her work served as inspiration for our song.

    Here is another song & video you may find interesting:

    I like your 1000 song project and plan to spend some time exploring here. Keep up the good work & thanks again for including us.

    Take care,
    Tom Wheeler
    The Invertebrates

  2. thank you so much for your kind words; hope you are fine and thx for your good work, too