Ka Manden ladon danin fɛ, k'à labɔ daba fɛ

In the song the Rail Band’s “Soundiata l’Exil”, there’s an expression involving something like ka fɛn ladon danin fɛ, k’à labɔ daba fɛ (lit. ‘to make something enter by the little door and exit by the big door’)

What does this expression mean and how it is used in general?

In the song, it appears like this (while speaking about Sumaworo Kantɛ, the sorcerer king who is fighting Manden) at around 26:31 (Note that the language of the singer have a lot of more Maninka-like features):

A ye Manden lɔ ko kɔnɔntɔn k’a ti ko kɔnɔntɔn
Ka Manden nadon danin fɛ
K’a labɔ daba fɛ

'He built Manden up nine times and broke it nine times
And he made Manden enter by the little door
And he made it exit by the big door

As per a search in the Bambara Reference Corpus, I see that it appears elsewhere too.

For instance, a form of it appears in Bailleul’s “Sagesse Bambara”:

N’i ye dogo ka bɔ danin fɛ, i dɔntɔ bɛ don daba fɛ

‘If you hide yourself in order to exit via the back door, you enter via the big door’
(as in, ‘If you hide so you can leave discretely (and fail), your humiliation will be even larger afterwards’)

My sense therefore is that the expression in the song is an extended way to say that he ‘humiliated’ Manden (by metaphorically making Manden both enter via the backdoor [which it would have liked to slip out by] and the main entrance [for everyone to see].

Perhaps in English, it could be rendered as “He made a spectacle of Manden” or something similar?


This isn’t a full answer focused on my specific question, but I asked elsewhere and got this response from Mouktar Özil Traore about the “k’à labɔ danin fɛ” and “k’à labɔ daba fɛ” usage and meaning in general in Bambara:

Persécuter quelqu’un, l’humilier jusqu’à ce qu’il se rebelle et ait le dessus. Qu’il évolue, atteindre son apogée grâce à une maltraitance, persécution. ‘‘Sortir des ténèbres.’’

1 Like