Vol. 30 No. 3 (2021): Nordic Journal of African Studies

The Metrical Features of Old Swahili Dance Poems

Emiliano Minerba
University of Naples “l’Orientale”, Italy & University of Bayreuth, Germany

Published 2021-09-14


  • tumbuizo,
  • metrics,
  • prosody,
  • Swahili,
  • poetry

How to Cite

Minerba, E. (2021). The Metrical Features of Old Swahili Dance Poems. Nordic Journal of African Studies, 30(3), 18. https://doi.org/10.53228/njas.v30i3.800


This paper aims to describe the metrical features of tumbuizo, Swahili poems which, allegedly due to their antiquity, present very different stylistic elements from later compositions based on regular metres inspired from Arabic poetry. The particularity of tumbuizo poems has often led scholars to label them as unmetrical; I will demonstrate here that instead they do present a metre, yet very different from the later, syllabic, ones, and I will expose its main features, with a particular emphasis on the role of stress in its structuring. A study of metre and prosody in Swahili literature has rarely explored those domains of poetry which are outside the sphere of classical metres, whose constraints are well known by both scholars and Swahili composers; it is my hope, therefore, that this paper will contribute to a new focus on this field of literary studies, often neglected.