Golia (welila, with Hoy verses interjected)


The classical dance genre for which the Blin people have been known since time immemorial is called Golia, sometimes also extended as Golia welila. In most cases, singers insert newly formulated poems referring to past, present, or indicated in the future event, happening, and news. Among those people who practice Golia, it is considered to be a school in itself, due to the relevance of the lyrics, diffusion of new ideas, news, comments on individual, group, village of societal behavior. Moral, political, religious or cultural behavior are all liable for criticism, evaluative comment, to be either rejected, joked upon, endorsed, or just for fun, as Golia is rightly considered to be a school in itself.  The short, two versions Hoy inserted during Golia are said while the audience pays attention by not singing until the Hoy is said. Hoy singer points out his stick towards the inner point of the circle for anticipated attention. The Kelembura (drum) stops, the clapping of hands also silences for the time being, and once the Hoy is said, the original lyric is resumed until another a Hoy singer responds in similar manner. Once the topic has been conversed upon, consumed, commented on, it may be rejected, endorsed or avoided, a singer may initiate a new Hoy with a differing or relating topic, and the dancers may dance the whole night, day of any duration of time, as it is difficult to end such an engaging conversation joining relevance and fun, youth behavior and effective socialization, etc.  The initiator of Hoy may invite for a conversation on a particular topic, and people repeatedly converse with each other skillfully. Not all Golia participants, however, may enjoy Hoy, as sometime it may lead to uncomfortable anticipated or unanticipated consequences if not ill feelings; However, Golia is a such the paramount, formal conversation on event and people sing about everything that pertains to be relevant or educative.


While dancers move anti-clockwise in Sisiit, they do not move in any direction in Golia. Instead, they stand in the circle and move their bodies to each side, synchronizing their moves with the rhythmic beats of the drum, with the corresponding clapping of hands, and the song. In the meantime, males put one of their hands on a female’s shoulder as if trying to encourage her to sing more and better. A half of the circle jumps up, boys holding their sticks, with the pointed or sharpened end of the stick directed to the sky. Once they have jumped upwards for a couple of minutes, the other half-circle takes over, jumps upwards, and the performance continues until the dancers feel satisfied with the lyric (wetter), the beating of the drum, and the synchronization of all the sound. Finally, a male singer initiates a new lyric with a new sound (wetter). The audience attends to the new singer or initiator as he sings twice and they follow  suit each time he says it. After he sings the third time, the initiator says the lyric in full range, with words taking a particular meaning. If the audience is satisfied with the new version, then the girls start playing the drum and the whole process resumes, until all have moved three jumps each. It is a very rhythmic performance. The participants may converse on a particular topic by communicating through what is called Hoy in which one singer interrupts the drum and Golia and says two-versed poem in anticipation for responses from the concerned audiences. His initiation may be accepted or rejected depending upon the participants expectation of the importance of the entailed meaning conveyed by the original singer of theory. They may also agree not to say the Hoy, and thus continue just playing Golia.  Thus, Golia may be danced without saying any Hoy verses. While Hoy was the standard previously, nowadays people have started interpreting the meaning as provocative or instilling hate, and thus it often is avoided. Hoy verses when taken seriously may of course become provocative and may instigate quarrel among the participants or another group. Consequently, the church and the political leaders were not in favor of Golia altogether since the 1950s albeit the youngster’s insistence that Golia was merely the only entertaining moment of youth age. 


It is mainly young, unmarried adults who are the ‘owners’ of Golia, although male elders may also participate in it. There is an age-significant divide on Golia, because elder’s domain is at home or the formal festivity locality (das) where they sing Awle instead. Married females are excluded from participating in the youngsters’ domain of Golia. However, adult married women may play Golia inside a house during weddings or other important events. But no male can put his hand on their shoulder as the body of married women belongs only to the husband. If not for special difficulty, or occasion, it is the young, unmarried (girls) who have the prerogative to play the drum, each girl playing one drum in a synchronized manner with the other drummers who stay in a circle, facing each other, while the boys stay behind them slightly touching the girls’ shoulder. In case the girl falls or misses her pattern of bodily movement, it is the boy who should keep in watch lest he would be rebuked as unfit for playing Golia and holding the girl’s shoulder in the future. The beats in playing the drum in Golia are quite different from that in Sisiit. The girls carry the drum on their shoulder, holding it with stripes of rope on each side of the drum and hanging it often on her right side even if left-handed ladies may carry it to their right.


When to play Golia? Golia is played in any important event as far as skilled players and drumming females are willing to play it. However, in seasonal, annually conducted Golia, it is mainly played during the night when youngsters want to spend their leisure time together, after Sisiit. Most often they play Golia outside the home or village so that older people are not disturbed (or unduly attracted) by it. Most often elders are a bit reluctant to Golia since the 1950s when some political leaders wrongly considered it to be the cause of illiteracy. However, the real reason behind the latter was lack of schools and right political situation and lack of tranquility. On the other hand, religious leaders also tried to forbid Golia as if it were the cause for promiscuity among youngsters. However, both assumptions were not substantiated and youngsters still play Golia with ever more vigor and intensity. Yet, in post liberation Eritrea, the prevalence of schooling and the Sawa recruitment of youngsters have somehow diminished the participation level of youngsters in every day Golia relative to the level their predecessors did. Finally, since mid 1990s Golia has even been recorded in DVDs, CDs and cassettes for the readily solidaristic market. When Golia and Sisiit were recorded for the market since mid 1990s, buyers paid above the market price in order to encourage the newly emerging Blin singers and musicians.


Golia is played using the drum which is played by the girls. Sticks are not stricken against each other as in Sisiit. Those girls who for the time being do not play the Kelembura (drum) may clap their hands in unison with rhythms of the Kelembura (drum), the lyrics, and the whistling of the lips by boys as an encouragement and accelerating the sideways movements. In contrast to Sisiit, the fam-fam is not used in Golia