USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘chant’
Musical

“Smile, Shake It, We Love You, Woot Woot!”: A Figure Skating Chant

The following is MA’s recollection and interpretation of a common Figure Skating chant.

 

MA details how this popular chant is performed before a figure skater begins their performance at a show or competition. “Smile, Shake It, We Love You, Woot Woot!” is a figure skating chant that younger skaters chant as a group before their friend takes the ice. It is used to give the skater confidence, luck, and support before they perform and to encourage them to put some spunk in their program. The group of skaters who chant this are usually all from the same figure skating club, so it shows a sense of camaraderie and association between the skaters in the club as they support their friend from their club. Likewise, it differentiates them from other figure skating clubs, especially if others say a parody of the chant or use a different tone.

 

MA is used to saying the chant with a brief pause between each part of the chant (there are four parts) and will only say it when she’s with friends. She adds that she would not be confident enough, nor project her voice enough, to yell out the chant by herself. MA says that “even if I go out and do a bad program, at least I know I gave it my all and my friends will always have my back.”

 

My Interpretation:

As a figure skater, I know the isolating feeling of competing or performing under pressure and not having a teammate to rely on. Figure skating is a very independent, individual sport, but with this chant, a skater can still get team-like support. It seems like this chant is pretty mainstream among younger skaters, most likely between the ages of seven and sixteen. It would definitely be surprising to hear it at a bigger event, such as a grand prix competition or at the Olympics, mostly because it is considered slightly immature for older skaters to say. Overall, the chant builds passion for the sport, camaraderie in the group and, in general, lasting friendships between the skaters in the same club through showing/performing their support for a fellow club member.

Folk speech

“Over, Under, Through” Horse Riding Proverbial Phrase

Main Piece:Over, Under, Through.

 

Background: GR is a horse rider, and spends a large portion of her time riding horses on a ranch and training them for upcoming events. Additionally, she also trains horses so that other people can buy them, and use them for themselves in high end events. GR is from just outside of Washington DC., and would spend her time at a barn in silver spring Maryland. Because GR’s family all rode horses, and the people at the barn spent so much time riding horses, this proverb was super important to her. GR said that this proverb originated from a woman named Coleen Rutledge who was the first American eventer to ever run all three four-stars in America in one year. The type of riding that GR does is similar to Rutledge, and the events consisted of lots of jumps and “hits.” So GR said that this proverb was a way to get riders to focus and not doubt themselves, because any kind of apprehension on the event or in the country will screw you over. GR said that this proverb helped her to focus and when it came time for the jumps in the events she would think to herself, “We are going over this jump, under the next, and through the other.”

 

Context of the Performance: GR told me this proverb, while we were talking about the things we would do in our free time, and what types of hobbies we like to do. Since GR is from an area where horse riding is far more popular than in California, GR was very excited to share this proverb and some of the other horse related folklore that is somewhat new to me.

 

Analysis: I had never heard this type of proverb before, as I am rather ignorant when it comes to the folklore of the rural countries and especially as it relates to horses. But this seems to be a very important proverb especially in the horse event riding world, especially given how much GR knew about its inception and how seriously GR takes this proverb. As someone who isn’t very familiar with horse riding, this proverb seems like it certainly seeks to push riders into trusting their instincts and not get too much in their own head when riding the horses. GR said that the type of riding she does is very dangerous, and so this proverb makes even more sense in that context as if you are a rider who does not make a snap decision, and you second guess yourself instead of simply deciding to go “Over, under, and through,” you could not only get seriously injured but you could also seriously injure your horse.

Childhood
Game
Kinesthetic
Musical

No Music Party Chant

Main Piece:

 Informant: It’s simple. It’s just like, if the music cuts out at a party, or if like, the speaker blows and there’s a long stretch of silence someone will stand up and start a “No Music” chant. It’s like, one person will clap three times and then the rest of the party will reply “No Music!” in rythm back. God. And that’ll keep going until someone has the music back on again.

Background:  The informant is a senior here at USC. He is my next door neighbor and we conducted this interview in person at his apartment. He is from Manhattan Beach and has lived there for his entire life. He is a social individual and has attended many parties throughout high school and college. He attended a large high school in Manhattan Beach.

Context: The informant learned of this chant/song when he experienced it first hand. Typically, this kind of chant is typical amongst high school “party” culture. The informant clearly didn’t have high praise for this piece of American high school party folklore. He had no idea when this chant came about, but was certain it had been along for much longer than he had been around.

Analysis: I specifically asked the informant whether or not he had experienced this chant in his own life. I was interested because in own hometown, whenever a situation like this would occur at a social gathering we would break out in a similar style chant. However, In my experience, the chant involved much more rhythm and was significantly more intricate. Another contrast is that I look back on this chant fondly, in comparison to the informant. This could potentially be because my school was much smaller in size and emphasized an arts-based education. This chant is folklore because it contains multiplicity and variation (Dundes) and is an example of artistic communication performed in small groups (Ben-Amos). While the informant’s chant is more simplistic, that could be due to the large nature of his high school. On the other hand, the chant I experienced could be a function of my high school emphasizing artistic performance, making my community more willing to indulge the dramatic nature of the chant.

Customs
Folk speech
Game

Nebraska Football Greeting

Background:

            The informant is a 20 year-old white male from San francisco. Our coversation was recorded in the Leavey Library while taking a study break. We begun talking about his background and that of his family. After a while, we made it to the subject of Nebraska and his relationship with his Grandfather. Even though he is not the biggest football fan, he spends a lot of time with his Grandfather discussion Nebraska Football. I asked if the did any special surrounding Nebraska Football and shared with me this folk-greeting.

Main Piece:

“Yeah so we’ll do this thing, it’s pretty funny actually. I have no idea why we do it but whenever I do my grandpa gets super hyped up it’s so funny. The first time I’ll see him, like at the airport or some shit. He’ll see me and yell “Husker”. Like, really really loud. I have to respond with the word “Power” as loud as he does”.

Context:

When I asked the informant where this came from he wasn’t sure. He said it was related to Nebraska Football but could go into further detail. The informant said this folk-greeting started when he was a much younger age. However, the greeting has transcended into the informant’s adult years and has now become common use. The informant stated how Nebraska Football had been the main source of commonality in his relationship with his grandfather.

Analysis:

            I did some background research on this greeting, and it turns out it’s a pre-game chant done by the crowd at Nebraska Football right before the game starts. I find it interesting that the informant had no knowledge of this, despite partaking in the greeting for the better part of 15 years. Chants like this are typical of American Football culture but seeing it translated into a greeting is a development. The informant seemed to equate this greeting with his relationship to his grandfather, and not to Nebraska Football, where the call and response chant originated. In this piece, we see an example of how folk-behavior can evolve to take on a completely different meaning to a different group of people.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Game
Initiations
Magic
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Theatre Rite of Passage: Pre-Show Game

Context: The informant, a 20-year-old female college student, was describing rituals, related to both her family and her passion for theatre, that she believes help define different facets of her identity. The following is an excerpt from our conversation, in which she describes a pre-show ritual that she witnessed several USC MFA Acting students take part in during a production.

Text:

Informant: So, last year, the first show that I worked on at USC was doing the spotlight for the MFA repertory. Um… and so I was doing the spotlight for a show called A Bright Room Called Day and it was for the third year MFAs, so they’re in their last year. And it was incredible to sit up in the light booth and watch this really tight ensemble just like completely vibe with each other and fall into place so effortlessly. And I got to see so much from the outside-in that was very inspiring, and it was so cool to observe the rituals they had formed through three years of spending so much time together, creating and growing. And so, they did this thing where, before the show, they would all gather in a circle um… and for a while I couldn’t tell what they were saying, but I ultimately figured out that they were saying this chant where on of them would say, “Get in your body!” And then everyone else would say, “Get in your body!” Um… but then it got really like intense and loud and it was hard to even like keep track of whose voice was saying what. And, basically, this whole eruption of sound would turn into passing the word “bah” across the circle, so you would just throw your hands up in someone’s face — the face of the person standing next to you — and say, “Bah!” And then it would… you know… it was just like lightning! It would just shock through each person. Usually it would go around the circle, but sometimes someone would stop and turn it the other way and people would get in these matches where they would yell “bah” back and forth at each other. And everyone in the circle was so invigorated and clearly so dedicated to committing to each other. So, that was a really amazing ritual to observe.

Informant’s relationship to the item: Though the informant did not personally take part in the pre-show ritual that she observed, she was clearly affected by witnessing other USC students participate in such a high-energy, impassioned, and invigorating display of connectedness. She describes feeling inspired by the game as an outside observer, as well as how the pre-show game seemed to energize each player and provide the entire group with a sense of cohesiveness. While she only watched the game from afar, being able to witness the passion of the production’s actors also seems to have filled the show’s crew with energy and excitement. It also seems to have made the informant feel more connected to the entire process.

Interpretation: The folk chant and game in which the actors participated appears to be some sort of pre-show ritual that the entire ensemble used in order to connect with one another and energize themselves before a show. Such rituals are common in the theatre, as well as other occupations in which people do not have total control over their actions or the ultimate outcome of their craft. There is a psychological element to these kinds of rituals, which some people believe to be magic, because they allow the participants to feel as if they have some level of mastery over the universe. The informant’s account is also interesting because it serves as an example of the distinction between active and passive bearers of folklore. The informant — who only witnessed and did not participate in the game — can be considered a passive bearer of the other actors’ folk game. The actors who participated in the game and, thus, performed that piece of folklore are considered active bearers of the pre-show ritual. However, if the informant decided to teach the game to others, she could become an active bearer of the ritual, as well.

Folk speech
Musical

Dinner Train Song

Context

It took some effort to get my informant, who immigrated from England at 13, to remember some examples of English folklore. I prompted him by asking for bedtime stories or lullabies from his childhood.

Main Piece

So, when I was little, my English grandmother would sing me and my brother Tate this song before bedtime, or whenever we pestered her to do it. Um… I don’t know where she learned it. Basically you, you say the names of various… culinary treats, and you gradually speed up in a rhythmic way as you say each item, um, like a locomotive carrying on — gathering steam.

Coffee, coffee

Cheese and biscuits, cheese and biscuits

Fruit and custard, fruit and custard

Fish ‘n’ chips, fish ‘n’ chips

(And then, imitating steam whistle, going up in pitch)

Sooooooouuuuuuuup!

Notes

With some digging, I was able to find an account of this song on a British teaching website, and some performances on YouTube. My informant did not know where or when his grandmother had learned the song, but commenters on the above website remembered singing it at Bible camp in the 1960s and hearing it on a 78 rpm record in the 1940s. I also found a slightly different version of this chant on a website for the Australian Joey Scouts group. It is difficult to determine the precise origin of this piece, but it is clear that although I had never encountered it, it has been around since the early 20th century and has made its way around the world.

Folk speech
Rituals, festivals, holidays

High School Post-Rehearsal Chant

Ritual:

“At the end of every rehearsal, no matter how tense it ended, no matter how bad of a note it ended on, we said this chant. It was something like, “I have one last thing to say, goo cacti. Wu-tang, wu-tang, wu-tang crew ain’t nunckuck, who? With tight groups and apple…proceed.” So how this came to be was that apparently our director started it when he was at that high school and people over the years just added on different phrases to it. Cacti was the name of my director’s friend group in high school I think.

Context:
This was the post-rehearsal ritual of a high school theater group in Los Angeles.

Informant Background:

The informant is 23, from Los Angeles.

My Analysis:

High school in general is a place that likes to memorialize people. While sports teams can hang banners in gyms to immortalize sports achievements, high school theater groups must come up with alternate methods to preserve their “greats”. For example, the kids in my high school theater program would save costumes of respected peers as a way to preserve their memories. This chant seems like another way of doing that as well. The actual chant is completely indecipherable of any sort of meaning to me, and the informant I interviewed couldn’t explain any of the segments besides the first one, “cacti”. Therefore, it seems that each group of kids that adds to it gets to add their own private meaning to the chant through their own nonsense word. This is an example of cultural intimacy that would seem weird to outsiders, which only makes members of the group more proud of their tradition.

general

Softball Cheers

I interviewed my informant, Vanessa, in the band office lounge. As I prompted her to share any folklore/folk traditions/folk beliefs she knew, she was reminded of the softball cheers she used when she was on her little league team (8-13 year olds). I collected an example from her:

 

“Down by the river (Down by the river),

Took a little walk (Took a little walk),

Met up with the other team (Met up with the other team),

Had a little talk (Had a little talk),

Pushed them in the river! (Pushed them in the river!),

Hung them up to dry (Hung them up to dry),

We will beat you! (We will beat you!),

Any old time! (Any old time!)

Any, any, any, any, any old time! (Any, any, any, any, any old time!)

 

My informant learned this cheer from the older girls on her team: “It’s been passed down for — I don’t know how many years!”

 

She told me this would normally be ‘performed’ by the team members the dugout. They would chant this when one of their team’s players were at bat. This is to distract the fielders of the opposite team. It’s a call and response, so one person says it, and everyone else echos the same thing (The part in parenthesis representing the response of the team members not leading the call).

 

Analysis

I never did softball, but I have heard about softball cheers from many of my other girl friends. From my knowledge, they range from complex (which choreographed movements or dance) to simple call and response (like the example documented here). I believe learning the chants from the older girls brings the section together, and allows a “Big-Little” relationship between the players. It also unifies the team against the other in healthy, competitive spirit.

 

Folk Dance
Gestures
Kinesthetic
Musical
Myths

Delta Sigma Theta step/chant

The chant:

“Contrary, contrary, contrary to the story,

Everybody knows that this is Delta territory.

In 1913, a change was made,

And for a solid sisterhood, the foundation was laid.

Twenty-two women who were destined to lead

Founded the devastating, captivating—DST.

In Delta Sigma Theta Sorority,

Public service is our number one priority.

For royal red, and nine white pearls,

It takes a lot to be a—Delta girl.”

 

The informant, my mom, is from Tennessee working as a middle school Spanish teacher. She learned this sorority chant in college in the South from her sorority sisters while they were getting ready for a stepping competition. Stepping is a combination of claps, steps, and chants to a particular rhythm; this practice is popular among traditionally black Greek organizations. She told me that she learned a lot of chants while pledging Delta Sigma Theta, but she didn’t learn this one until later. These chants are usually learned directly from sorority sisters or fraternity brothers in these organizations, and many have roots as far back as the beginning of the 20th century when the organizations were founded. The chant serves primarily to tell Delta’s history and take pride in their organization, while carrying out impressive stepping as well. Thus, it is somewhat also the mythology upon which Delta Sigma Theta is founded, as it tells of its origins and identity.

Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sorority Drinking Song

Informant: Take a shot, take a shot! Take a god-damned shot! If you can’t take a shot like a/an [sorority nickname] can, then you shouldn’t have a shot in your motherfucking hand! Take a shot!

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She is a member of a sorority, and was born and raised in Chicago, IL.

The informant first learned this drinking song, or chant, on the night after she received a bid from her sorority. She and her new “sisters” gathered in the largest bedroom of her sorority house, poured shots of Fireball (a popular brand of cinnamon flavored whiskey) and preformed the chant before knocking back their drinks. The informant has since preformed the chant only a handful of times—all occurred with other sorority sisters before a night of partying, and sometimes during. The informant claims she has also heard members of other USC sororities sing the chant with their own sorority’s nickname in place of the informant’s. Nevertheless, the song stands a symbol of initiation into a sorority; only members can preform it.

[geolocation]