USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Folk song’
Game
general
Humor

Song/Celebration

When talking to one of my brother’s good friends, who is from Manchester England, I asked if he had any songs that he knew of that he has learned from any of his friends or relatives.

 

He told me of a song that him and his friends always sing when they go out, “We like to drink with (insert name) because (name) is our mate! And when we drink with (name) he takes it down in 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!”

 

 

Background Info: This song is some that Edward grew up hearing amongst people in England. When you call someone out and sing the song, they have to finish whatever drink is in their hand by the time the singers get to the end of the 8 second countdown. “It is something that is fun and gets you to finish more beer” –Edward.

 

Context: Edward told me about this song while I was at lunch with him and my brother.

 

 

Analysis: Once Edward told me about the song, he sang it but for me—it was a fun experience to say the least. Edward said that this is a very popular song in England, and is normally sang at universities at their get-togethers, next time I visit England I will be sure to ask people about this chant!

                                                                

 

For similar write-ups, and some videos of other people singing this same song, see:

 

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=down%20it%20fresher

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c02U02efg6U

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tblxOzPiNOA

Musical

Chinese Folksong- Unknown Title

  1. The main piece: Chinese Folksong

Chinese Folksong- Unknown Title (attached)

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Etc.

“Oh! When I was little, my grandma always made me sing this song about chickens! Or, it’s not about chickens. It’s about waking up in the morning and going to work. Okay, so when I was a kid, my mom was in med school, and my dad was in residency, and so I spent a lot of time w my grandparents and that’s probably why I know more about these traditions than my sister, because my parents had more time w her. I don’t know, I spent a lot of time with my grandpa and he taught me lots of songs and stuff.”

  1. The context of the performance

“No one else knows this song. My grandpa just pulled this out of nowhere. He’s the only one in my family from the countryside in China. My grandma and my other grandparents are from more urban places.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

The fact that no one else knows this song, according to the informant at least, shows that this piece of folklore is inherent to a specific family or small group of people. It is a piece of roots music because learning the song from her grandfather allowed the informant to learn about where specifically he was from, and how he grew up—none of her other grandparents would be able to share this song because they were not rooted in the countryside like the informant’s grandfather.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is an 18-year old Chinese-American female. While she grew up in the southern California area, she spent more time with her grandparents than her parents growing up, and felt that learning their Chinese traditions and language was the main way she bonded with them, while her younger sister never had that experience because her parents were out of school by then.

Musical

“George Fox”

My friend Razi went to a Quaker summer camp in Virginia called Shiloh Quaker Camp for several years as a kid. She learned a number of folk songs with Quaker themes as a camper there. The following is a recording of Razi singing a song about George Fox, one of the founders of Quakerism, which she learned at camp and often sings, along with the lyrics:

There’s a light that was shining in the heart of man
It’s a light that was shining when the world began
There’s a light that is shining in the Turk and the Jew
There’s a light that is shining friend in me and in you (hey)

Walk in the light wherever you may be
Why don’t you walk in the light wherever you may be?
“In my old leather britches and my shaggy, shaggy locks,
I am walking in the glory of the light,” said Fox.

“There’s a bell and a steeple and a book and a key
That will bind him forever but you can’t,” said he,
“For the book it will perish and the steeple will fall
But the light will be shining at the end of it all” (hey)

Walk in the light wherever you may be
Why don’t you walk in the light wherever you may be?
“In my old leather britches and my shaggy shaggy locks,
I am walking in the glory of the light,” said Fox.

This song specifically celebrates the Quaker belief of the “inner light” or “light of God,” but its morals can be embraced by non-Quakers as well. Quakerism is a particularly open religion in terms of its acceptance of other religions, so songs that come out of the tradition can often be sung with the same conviction by people who have to particular affiliation with the religion. Razi is Jewish and agnostic, but she agrees with many of the values taught at Quaker camp, so songs like this one have stuck with her.

Musical

“Vine and Fig Tree”

My friend Razi went to a Quaker summer camp in Virginia called Shiloh Quaker Camp for several years as a kid. She learned a number of folk songs with Quaker themes as a camper there. The following is a recording of Razi singing a song called “Vine and Fig Tree,” which she learned at camp and often sings, along with the lyrics:

And everyone ‘neath their vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid
And everyone ‘neath their vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid

And into ploughshares turn their swords
Nations shall learn war no more
And into ploughshares turn their swords
Nations shall learn war no more

With love to thy neighbor
And love to the spirit of all light
With love to thy neighbor
And love to the spirit of all light

This song embraces pacifism from a Quaker perspective, but its message can be appreciated by any pacifist. Quakerism is a particularly open religion in terms of its acceptance of other religions, so songs that come out of the tradition can often be sung with the same conviction by people who have to particular affiliation with the religion. Razi is Jewish and agnostic, but she agrees with many of the values taught at Quaker camp, so songs like this one have stuck with her.

Musical

The Jasmine Song

Background of informant: 

My informant SS is an international student from Beijing, China.

The conversation was in Chinese.

Main piece:

SS: “It seems that most of the songs that I learned in middle school choir are Red Songs (Chinese Patriot songs), this one is an exception! [laugh] [pause] Oh, you know what, a part of the play Turandot was actually adapted from The Jasmine Song. ”

SH: Really? How so?

SS: “I remember hearing a story like, the play writer got a Chinese music box as a gift from a friend, and the song played in the box is Jasmine Song.”

SH: How did you know about this song?

SS: “hmm… [pause] it should be when I was really young, probably between kindergarten and elementary school. Maybe I was taught by kindergarten teachers.”

 

Context of the performance:

SS was singing in bath as she always does. I coincidentally heard she singing this familiar Chinese melody one day.

 

My thoughts about the piece:

Though this song, The Jasmine Song, is a familiar folksong all over China, I didn’t realize that there’s a variation of this song which depends on different region of China. Not only is the lyrics changed, the tune is different also. The southern version of the song is with more modification of tune within the song, and the lyric is written in southern dialect, while the northern version is more straightforward and is sang in Mandarin.

Legends
Musical
Narrative

The Waltzing Matilda Song

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?”

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong.
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee.
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.

Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred.
Down came the troopers, one, two, and three.
“Whose is that jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker bag?
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Up jumped the swagman and sprang into the billabong.
“You’ll never take me alive!” said he
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?”

The Walzing Matilda is a popular folk song that is well known throughout Australia. The story is about a man camping alone out in the Australian wilderness by a pond. Seeking companionship, he finds a wandering sheep and puts it in his food bag. The man who owns the land where the camper is staying on soon arrives with three officers, demanding that the sheep be returned to him. Instead of giving in, the camper jumps into the pond and drowns himself. His ghost stays by the pond, hoping to spend time with anyone who walks by. According to the informant, the song is an iconic Australian piece of folklore that is recognized by all Australians. It is often sang at celebrations and large group gatherings, as it unifies all Australians together.

The informant, Angus Guthrie, is a 20-year-old student who was born and raised in Australia. Because he and his family have been in the country for a very long time, he believes that he is quite familiar with Australian folklore and traditions. Angus learned the song from a children’s music album that he enjoyed listening to as a child. Many artists have covered and recorded this song over the years, so he believes that it is nearly impossible for an Australian to have never heard the song. He loves the song because it represents a different time period in Australia, where people walked across the land with few belongings and slept under stars. For Angus, this song evokes a strong sense of national nostalgia that all Australians can relate to.

Because Australian is a nation that was erected after taking over Aboriginal land, it is curious to see folklore that was created by Australians themselves instead of by the natives. Because the Aboriginals have such a rich history of folklore, it would be easy to simply reappropriate it for Australian audiences so that they wouldn’t have to make any folkloric pieces for themselves. Songs like this prove that this is not what occurred, however, as their lack of Aboriginal influence shows that Australians did create folklore for themselves.

 

Childhood
Folk speech
general
Life cycle
Musical
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Bath Song and Family History

A is an 18-year-old woman. She is currently studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. She considers her nationality to be American, but more specifically she is one quarter Greek Cypriote, one quarter German and half Argentinian. that being said, she strongly identifies with her Greek roots. She is fluent in both English and Greek, and is currently learning Mandarin.

A: Um, I don’t know if this is a me parable or family parable but I really hated taking baths when I was little, so they used to sing a song about a little kid who wouldn’t take baths and would turn into a pig. Cause she was so dirty. But I think its real because it actually has a tune, like I don’t think my Grandmother actually made up a song, but the song is like “I’m a little piggy, cause I stink a lot,” basically in Greek. And it goes like “well you’ll turn into a piggy too unless you take a bath.”

Me: Aww

A: So yeah, I was afraid I was gonna turn into a barnyard animal. It was fun.

Me: But you took the bath!

A: This is true.

Me: Did they sing this to your siblings? Do you have other siblings?

A: I don’t, I’m an only child. And this was with my grandparents too, and I’m the only grandchild as well.

Me: Aw. But you’ll probably do it with your kids too.

A: Oh yeah. It was so much fun. It’s got it’s own song! My grandfather told me a lot of stories about donkeys, I don’t remember exactly what they contain, but every story that had a moral always involved a donkey. Like a donkey on an adventure.

Me: Your grandparents liked farmyard animals is basically…

A: You know what, my grandparents grew up in the village with farmyard animals, so I’m sure this is how their parents told it to them.

Me: So the songs and the stories are like based on that?

A: Oh yeah. And it’s definitely based on the old village, which is like way the heck up in the mountains, like I’ve been there.

Me: Is there a name for it?

A: Yes, Ayiosgiannis. So my last name is the name of the village, just shortened. The name of the village is St. John’s in English. Um, Ayios is St. in English and that’s where Ayiotis, my last name is from.

Me: Ohhhh

A: So the last names were very frequently based on the area where you are from or like what you were called in the village. So I’m pretty sure my great-grandfather made up that name.

Me: So that’s generally where Greek last names come from?

A: I believe so. A lot of them, like a couple of them, are professions, but a lot of the ones are places.

Me: So places and professions but mostly places?

A: Actually let me rephrase. If you got out of the village then it’s a place cause you wanted to honor your village, but for people in the village, why would they all have the same last name as the village?

Me: True.

A: So it was in the village it was by profession or by nickname or sometimes you will genuinely find people name “Andreas Andreou” like “Phillip Phillipou,” like people with the same last name as their first name, and it’s very funny. Um they’ll do like men’s first names as well as last names cause that was your dad’s dad. So basically common ways to distingush between people with the same name in a village.

Me: So your last name, does it change?

A: It can. We didn’t have last names until the British came and were like “why the heck do you not have last names?” And that was in the 30s, um the 20s. Yeah, Cyprus was a British colony up until the 60’s.

Me: Wow.

A:  Um that’s when they gained their independence.

Me: You didn’t have last names until the 20’s?

A: Yeah, why would we need it? We’re farmers, we’re farming.

Me: That’s true.

A: I remember my grandfather was born in like 1934 and he told me he saw a car in his village once when he was like nine years old and that was probably the only car on the island of Cyprus, driving through all the villages like “oh my god I bought a car!” So it was very…

Me: Secluded?

A: Yeah. And it’s still very farm-heavy. Its still agricultural.

Me: Is Cyprus an island off of Greece?

A: It’s an island actually closer to Lebanon than it is to Greece. It’s north of Egypt and south of Turkey in the Mediterranean Ocean, but since that area used to all be ethnically Greek in the Greek, Egyptian, and Ottoman Empire and since Cyprus is an island it saw less change over time as more people moved in and out because it’s harder to conquer an island. So the people who are Greek there, like our dialect of Greek is more similar to ancient Greek.

A talks about a song that her grandparents used to sing to her when she was little to get her to take a bath. This is a fond memory that she has and she said that it works, the song was effective in making her believe that if she were not to take a bath, she would turn into a pig. A also explains that the song might have to do with her grandfather’s origins, which are especially important to her as the root of her last name is the name of the village. Her grandfather lived in a very agricultural, farm-heavy village, and this is likely where the song originated. The dirt being the result of farming all day, and turning into a pig being the result of not cleaning yourself, so turning into one of your farm animals. The name, the village, and the song are all connected in one way or another.

Customs
general

“Raiders” Fraternal Song

The informant speaks about a certain song his fraternity sings with everyone after brotherhood events such as bid night.  The informant learned this tradition a few weeks after joining his fraternity.  He explains that the fraternity uses this song as a means for celebrating as well and often uses the song after events that warrant a worthy celebration.  The fraternity brothers either run out to the middle of the street or to their backyard and circle up and perform the song.  The singing of the song is described as being very loud and rowdy, but in a good-spirited way.  Below are the lyrics of the song.  See below:

OOOOOOHHHHHHHH!

We’re (insert fraternity) raiders of the night,

A bunch of rowdy bastards that rather fuck than fight,

So fuck ‘em, fuck ‘em, fuck ‘em, who the fuck are we?

We’re (insert fraternity) the best fraternity.

(insert fraternity) once, (insert fraternity) twice, holy jumping Jesus Christ,

God damn, son of a bitch, rah rah fuck!

Yeah hell yeah!

The informant describes the purpose of this song as a chance for the brothers of the fraternity to all come together and feel the fraternal bond.  I find this song intriguing because it a classic example of how a certain group of people use traditions such as music to strengthen their connection with one another.  A commonly shared song can serve to build just a much stronger bond than does paying the dues for the house to be an active member.

Musical

Waltzing Matilda

Once a jolly swagman camped out by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang and he sang as he waited by the billabong:
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?”

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me
And he sang and he sang as he waited by the billabong:
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Waltzing Matilda is a famous Australian folksong from the outback about a workman sitting by the riverbed. This version from the informant is much shorter than some other versions. However, this change is what makes it folklore. The song was “originally” written by A.B. Patterson, but since then it has been appropriated by may people and turned into a folksong. The song is held dearly in Australia. They have even created a Waltzing Matilda Centre and a Waltzing Matilda day. (http://www.matildacentre.com.au) I found another longer version of the song on this website as well, at http://www.matildacentre.com.au/the-song.

The informant learned this Australian folksong back home in primary school and when growing up. He can’t remember the first time he heard it. However, this shorter version is all he remembers. When he moved to America, he brought this folksong with him and taught it to his children and wife. Thus, he spread the song across the globe. The informant says that the song means a lot to him, because it reminds him of his home and his heritage. There isn’t much in America that celebrates Australian culture, so little ditties like this one serve to reaffirm his Australian roots. Furthermore, he says that the song is pleasant to sing and to listen to. It has a cheerful tone.

I also like this song, and I have heard it before. It’s fun to sing. I looked up the song online and was surprised to find the the real meaning is not about a man by a river singing to his lover, Matilda, like I originally thought. Instead, Matilda refers to a specific type of bag, and the song is about a man who hunts a sheep and then drowns himself to avoid being arrested. (http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/3530822107858856415/) However, I still like the song and it still reminds me of my ties to Australia. There are people who assert that the song is a protest song against the law, and others who believe that it is just a song with a sad narrative. I think it could probably be both, because even if it wasn’t written with protest in mind, people could still appropriate it as a song of protest. I also think it’s interesting that such a sad and graphic song is regarded so highly by the Australian population. It shows the power of romantic nationalism.

 

Folk speech
Musical

French Folk Song Allouette

Lyrics in french to the traditional French-Canadian song “Alouette,” followed by an English translation of the song, courtesy of the informant:

French Version

Refrain:

Alouette, gentille alouette,

Alouette, je te plumerai.

 

Je te plumerai la tête. Je te plumerai la tête.

Et la tête! Et la tête!

Alouette! Alouette!

A-a-a-a-ah (sounds like Aaaa)

Refrain

Je te plumerai le bec. Je te plumerai le bec.

Et le bec!  x2

Et la tête!  x2

Alouette!  x2

A-a-a-a-ah

Refrain

Je te plumerai les yeux. Je te plumerai les yeux.

Et les yeux!  x2

Et le bec!  x2

Et la tête!  x2

Alouette!  x2

A-a-a-a-ah

Refrain

Je te plumerai le cou. Je te plumerai le cou.

Et le cou!  x2

Et les yeux!  x2

Et le bec!  x2

Et la tête!  x2

Alouette!  x2

A-a-a-a-ah

Refrain

Je te plumerai les ailes. Je te plumerai les ailes.

Et les ailes!  x2

Et le cou!  x2

Et les yeux!  x2

Et le bec!  x2

Et la tête!  x2

Alouette!  x2

A-a-a-a-ah

Refrain

Je te plumerai les pattes. Je te plumerai les pattes.

Et les pattes!  x2

Et les ailes!  x2

Et le cou!  x2

Et les yeux!  x2

Et le bec!  x2

Et la tête!  x2

Alouette!  x2

A-a-a-a-ah

Refrain

Je te plumerai la queue. Je te plumerai la queue.

Et la queue!  x2

Et les pattes!  x2

Et les ailes!  x2

Et le cou!  x2

Et les yeux!  x2

Et le bec!  x2

Et la tête!  x2

Alouette!  x2

A-a-a-a-ah

Refrain

Je te plumerai le dos. Je te plumerai le dos.

Et le dos!  x2

Et la queue!  x2

Et les pattes!  x2

Et les ailes!  x2

Et le cou!  x2

Et les yeux!  x2

Et le bec!  x2

Et la tête!  x2

Alouette!  x2

A-a-a-a-ah

Refrain

 

English Version

Refrain

Lark, gentle lark,

Lark, I will pluck you (I will pluck out you’re feathers).

 

I will pluck your head. I will pluck your head.

And your head! And your head!

Laaark! Laaark!

O-o-o-o-oh

Refrain

I will pluck your beak. I will pluck your beak.

And your beak!  x2

And your head!  x2

Laaaark! Laaark!

O-o-o-o-oh

Refrain

I will pluck (out) your eyes. I will pluck your eyes.

And your eyes!  x2

And your beak!  x2

And your head!  x2

Laaark! Laaark!

O-o-o-o-oh

Refrain

I will pluck your neck. I will pluck your neck.

And your neck!  x2

And your eyes!  x2

And your beak!  x2

And your head!  x2

Laaark!  Laaark!

O-o-o-o-oh

Refrain

I will pluck your wings. I will pluck your wings.

And your wings!  x2

And your neck!  x2

And your eyes!  x2

And your beak!  x2

And your head!  x2

Laaark! Laaark!

O-o-o-o-oh

Refrain

I will pluck your feet. I will pluck your feet.

And your feet!  x2

And your wings!  x2

And your neck!  x2

And your eyes!  x2

And your beak!  x2

And your head!  x2

Laaark! Laaark!

O-o-o-o-oh

Refrain

I will pluck your tail. I will pluck your tail.

And your tail!  x2

And your feet!  x2

And your wings!  x2

And your neck!  x2

And your eyes!  x2

And your beak!  x2

And your head!  x2

Laaark!  x2

O-o-o-o-oh

Refrain

I will pluck your back. I will pluck your back.

And your back!  x2

And your tail!  x2

And your feet!  x2

And your wings!  x2

And your neck!  x2

And your eyes!  x2

And your beak!  x2

And your head!  x2

Laaark!  x2

O-o-o-o-oh

Refrain

Informant’s response when asked about the song.

Informant: “The bird called an alouette is a morning lark, they make a big noise, you hear them in the morning on lakes and stuff. That song Alouette, today is mostly a French Canadian beer drinking song. Um, but apparently it goes back to the fur trapping days and the people they called “les voyagers,” I don’t know if you are familiar with the term. “Les voyageurs” were fur trappers essentially. They would go wandering around all over the north American countryside trapping small critters for pelts and would bring them in and they made a living that way and of course they explored an awful lot of what was the northeastern, north American continent looking for plentiful trapping areas. Anyways, that song was useful in helping them keep a cadence when they were canoeing because that was one of the best ways to get around, as there are an awful lot of lakes in that part of the country and rivers as well. A canoe, especially with two men in it paddling, could cover some pretty significant ground, so they would sing that song to keep a cadence as they paddled the canoe. And so anyways, now you hear it all the time, in Canada anyways, they use it for teaching French to English kids, and actually I think they might use it for French Canadian kids too when they’re little. But anyways, of course the song is about catching the lark or describing to the lark you are trying to catch what you’re going to do to it, by plucking it. You know, all over, you’re plucking its head, you’re plucking its beak, you’re plucking its eyes, you’re plucking its neck, you’re plucking its tail, all these things, and of course it means that there are just more and more verses to the song. So, “Alouette, gentille alouette, Alouette, je te plumerai,” means alouette, alouette I’m going to pluck you. Right? “Je te plumerai la tête. Je te plumerai la tête,” translates to “I’m pulling the feather out of your head, I’m pulling the feathers out of your head, and the head, and the head” and so on and so on, so anytime you can name a part of the body then you pluck that part of the body and there is another verse to the song, so it can literally go on forever. So, if you’re trying to row across Lake Huron, it might take a long time so you could sing that over and over again and keep your cadence and paddle across the lake. So there you go.”

The informant is a middle-aged man, who lived in France for about a year and then in Montreal for about two years. He speaks French fluently and has French Canadian heritage, as his family traveled from French Canada in the 40s and 50s to Maine and Connecticut. He appreciates and enjoys learning about history and French Canadian culture.

The informant first heard this song when he was around ten or twelve years old playing youth hockey in Harford,Connecticut. A French Canadian men’s league would also play at the rink where he would practice, and he remembers one occasion where they were drinking beer and singing. In addition, his uncle is from Moncton, New Brunswick, and he taught the informant the words to the song. The informant remembers this song because as he said “my family is French Canadian and it reminds me of where I come from.”

The informant himself does not often sing the song, though he may hum the tune while performing yard work or other construction work in his home.

In addition to the background given by the informant, while looking up larks, I found that they were common game in French Canada. The informant affirmed this, stating “they ate a lot of ‘em up there.” I found that this song was also sung after the lark had been caught and the performers were cleaning the bird to get it ready to eat.

As a child, I remember that my father would sing this tune and after listening to him for a while, I learned how to sing it as well without knowing what the words meant. I liked the song because it has a very upbeat melody and seemed like a happy song. It wasn’t until later that I learned that the song was about plucking all of the feathers off of a bird. The dissonance between the melody and the meaning of the lyrics was surprising to say the least. However, it was interesting to discover the cultural context behind this song because it serves a couple of very practical functions: as a cadence, as a song to pass time while cleaning game for dinner, and as a song to teach children the names of body parts.

[geolocation]