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Origins and inspiration behind the song "Salam Obatalá"


Many times I have heard Cubans greeting friends saying Nsala Malekun, and the other replying Malekun Nsala. It was clear that it was coming from the Arab greeting, Salam Aleikum; Aleikum Salam, whose significance is - the peace be with you -.

I always asked myself why an Arab greeting in Cuba?

From the Bantú is coming the custom of saying “Nsala Malekun, Malekun Nsala” and also the practice of Palo Mayombe and Palo Kimbiza on the Island.

The origins of those practices have their roots in the deep valley of the Congo, Central Africa, in countries as Nigeria, Zaire, Angola, Congo, Zambia and Nabimia from where are coming the Bantu tribes and from where numerous slaves were brought to Cuba and America.

In 1841, the first Society with people coming from Nigeria and from the Bantu Tribes was created. It was named Sociedad Abakua, which gives origin to the lineages of Palo Mayombe and Palo Kimbiza.

The Kimbiza tradition was implanted in Cuba by a high priest who had the title of Tata Nganga Nkisi Malongo; his name was Andres Facundo de los Dolores Petit. Not only he took forward the first House Kimbiza but he also founded the first society of white peoples in the lineage Abakua in 1863, just in the town of Guanabacoa.

They called him the Christ of the Dolores, Mayombara Kimbiza Nuncatesia. He was emarginated and condemned for initiate the white peoples to the traditions Abakua and Kimbiza, an act that was considered as an offence to the chiefs of Mayombe. His teachings stayed and many temple Kimbiza were founded at this time.

Kimbiza means self-improvement, the faith, the tradition, and the respect to Mother Nature and to its attributes. Uniting all this wisdom of the Bantu and from the people from Congo, you forge the knowledge of this practice. The respect to the ancestors, using the teachings day after day, is the base of the personal illumination. It is how you can help the others to know themselves and in their turn to be saved.

This tradition in Africa is not called the Palo, it is known as Yimbola and the African Chamans practice it. In a large part of those countries the leading class is Muslim for this the ranks and the greetings in those traditions are Muslim habits. From there came the Salam Aleikum, Aleikum Salam.

It is also for this reason that the Paleros are using this greeting. The Kimbiza is a mix of esoteric, spiritual and catholic beliefs and of the Regla de Osha, from the Yoruba culture, to the difference of those of the Mayombe which are strictly Congo and is not sincretized.

Finally, Salem Aleikum – The peace be with you – invoke a deep peace, the quietness, the condensation of the calm in yourself, the silence of the mesquites and the deserts. The suspended time, the no time of the universe, the realisation of the knowledge. Then you recover the sense of the divine and transcendence of what we call Peace.

Los Congos made a relation between Aleikum (Malekun) and a word which means – hands – and Salam (Nsala) as a movement, in this way it means for them – I move my hands – and they contest: - You move them with me –

In Ifa, the base of the religion Yoruba’s knowledge, the greeting appears in one of the signs, in Otura Melli, in a pray which says

Alafia boruku olorun kokoibere abayiki sumajana salaelekum malekunsala angmo seda itana medina akana ibodunosatu omi ina kupa beleyo modun modun lodafun shango kaferefun male....

There are other appearences of the words Malekum, Maleku or Maleko.

Including Chango, one of the more significant of the Orishas from the Yoruba Religion, very important in Cuba, had a clairvoyant son called Malekun (Obara Juani)

It is evident that this greeting is in relation with the entry of the Islam in the Yoruba and Bantu country through the Muslims who came to the Sub Saharan Africa at a moment of the history.

Then it is clear that passing from a country to another, languages and nations to others , Ala Aleikum, Aleikum Salam was converted to Nsala Malekun, Malekun Nsala, the most common of the Palo’s greeting and fundamental part of its ceremonies.

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