USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘lullaby’
Musical

Spanish Lullaby

Background Information: Shawn Barnes is a Junior at college, and his family is Mexican on his mother’s side. I interviewed him about a Spanish lullaby that he remembers his mother singing to him at night as a child.

Original (Spanish):

“A la roro niño

A lo roro ya

Duérmete mi niño

Duérmete mi amor.

Este niño lindo

Que nació de mañana,

Quiere que lo lleven

A pasear en carcacha.

Este niño lindo

Que nació de día

Quiere que lo lleven

A la dulcería

Este niño

Que nació de noche

Quiere que lo lleven

A pasear en coche.

Este niño lindo

Se quiere dormir,

Y el pícaro sueño

No quiere venir.

Este niño lindo

Que nació de noche

Quiere que lo lleven

A pasear en coche.”

Translation:

“Lullaby baby

Lullaby now.

Sleep my baby,

Sleep my love.

This pretty baby

Who was born in the morning,

Wants to be taken

For a jalopy ride.

This sweet baby

Who was born during the day,

Wants to be taken

To the candy shop.

This pretty baby

Who was born at night,

Wants to be taken

For a stroller ride.

This pretty baby

Wants to sleep

But the naughty sleep

Doesn’t want to come.

This pretty baby

Who was born at night,

Wants to be taken

For a stroller ride.

Shawn: “So, it’s a way to like, put a child to sleep and then say all these good things about them. And then oftentimes my mom would like to rush it a little bit, because I’d go like, ‘Mom can you sing “La Roro”, and so she’d just like rush through one verse and say ‘se acabó’, or like “it’s over, go to sleep.” But like, I still remember her tucking me in and it was sort of a cute thing.”

Thoughts: Lullabies are interesting, and I have found that they often stick in people’s memories, even if it is in a vague form, perhaps because they are repetitive and musical. This lullaby seems to be meant for encouraging a child to go to sleep, while also showing the child love and talking about sweet and pleasant things. Perhaps this is an attempt to ensure pleasant dreams for the child as well.

Musical

Persian Lullaby

Informant Description/ Context of performance: This is a lullaby that was sung to my friend every night when she was a child. Her mom and dad sang it to her and her little sister; her grandma sang it to her mother.

 

Transliteration:

Gonjeeshkakeh ashi mashee

Labebooyeh mah nashee

Baroon meyad tam meeshee

Barf meeyad gooleh meeshee

Meeyoftee too hoseh nagashee

 

Daret meeyareh

Havash bashee

Booset mekoneh va looset meekoneh, va paret meedeh ashi mashee

 

Translation:

Little sparrow, little sparrow

Don’t land on my rooftop edge

It’s going to rain and you’ll get wet

It’s going to snow and you’ll turn into a snow ball

And you’ll slip into the painted piscine

 

The groundskeeper will pull you out

The doctor will cuddle you

The mediator will kiss you and spoil you and let you FLY!

 

Conclusion (written by Interviewer):

I found this lullaby very interesting and different from most other lullabies. For example, most well-known lullabies like “Go to Sleep Little Baby” have lyrics about going to sleep or falling asleep. This lullaby is very soothing and light in its tone and performance; however, its literal translation has nothing to do with falling asleep. The song is about comforting the listener, which begs the question – did it actually originate with the intention of being a lullaby? It seems like it could be a child’s song, not necessarily a lullaby.

Childhood
Musical

Dodo, L’Enfant Do

Background:

My informant is a twenty-one year old student at USC; she’s studying neuroscience with an eye towards medical school. Her father is Laotian and French and her mother is French.

Performance:

“Dodo, l’enfant do

L’enfant dormira bien vite

Dodo, l’enfant do

L’enfant dormira bientôt

Une poule blanche

Est là dans la grange

Qui va faire un petit coco

Pour l’enfant qui va fair dodo

Dodo, l’enfant do

L’enfant dormira bien vite

Dodo, l’enfant do

L’enfant dormira bientôt

Tout le monde est sage

Dans le voisinage

Il est l’heure d’aller dormir

Le sommeil va bientôt venir.

My mom used to sing it to me. I think hers did too.”

ENGLISH: Sleep, baby, sleep/the baby falls asleep/sleep, baby, sleep/the baby will sleep soon; a white chicken/is in the barn/making a little egg/for the baby who goes to sleep; Sleep, baby, sleep/the baby falls asleep/sleep, baby, sleep/the baby will sleep soon; everyone is calm/all around/it’s time to sleep/sleep is coming soon.

Thoughts:

This is an adorable piece of folklore, and one that has understandably withstood the tests of time. The lyrics and tune are quite simple; simple enough that, years and years later, people can still remember the song as it was sung to them and pass it on to their children.

Musical

The Trollmom’s Lullaby

Informant was a 20 year old female who was born in Sweden and currently lives in the United States. She came to visit me.

Song:

När trollmor har lagt sina elva små troll

och bundit dom fast i svansen,

då sjunger hon sakta för elva små trollen

de vackraste ord hon känner:

Ho aj aj aj aj buff,

ho aj aj aj aj buff,

ho aj aj aj aj buff buff!

Ho aj aj aj aj buff.

Informant: There’s a song that my mom would always sing to me in Swedish about trolls. It’s called Trollmors Vaggivisa, which literally translates into The Trollmom’s Lullaby. It’s about how this trollmom puts her 11 kids to bed, and the kids are trolls obviously, and how she sings a song to them after, and then it literally says when troll mom puts her 11 small trolls to bed and ties up their tails.

Collector: Wait, do trolls have tails?

Informant: These trolls do. And then the last part of the song says that she sings slowly to the 11 small trolls the prettiest words she knows. And then it goes like “ho ai ai ai ai buff ho ai ai ai ai buff ho ai ai ai ai buff buff ho ai ai ai ai buff.”

Collector: What does that mean?

Informant: It doesn’t mean anything. It’s giberish. It’s just supposed to be the prettiest words that the mom knows. And my mom used to sing this to me when I was a kid, and she has always sung it to us even when we were older. When I was in France and missing Sweden, she would always sing that to calm us down and put us to sleep, actually. It reminded me of home.

Collector: Why do you liked this song?

Informant: I think there was always something comforting about my mom singing it to me. It was calming and it made me feel like I was back home in Sweden.

I found this song particularly funny, because there isn’t really any meaning to it at all. I think that’s what makes this song particularly endearing, because it’s a cute little bedtime story about trolls. Even though it’s a song about trolls, it has significant meaning for my friend, as it connects her to her Swedish culture. Being international myself, I know how hard it can be to be away from home, and how important it is to have things that can connect you back to your culture.

Customs
Musical

You Are My Sunshine-Lullaby

“And she used to sing all the time, around the house, and I did too, and she um listened to records, as I was a child, and I grew up with a lot of famous like Glenn Miller, and all that, and that kind of music, and so I have always loved music, and I have always been very thankful that God put the um the desire for music and the appreciation for music in our hearts, because how does that happen, you know? And so I think that if you have a love of music, you got that somewhere, you know it doesn’t just happen, so I suspect a person growing up in a home, without music, wont have the same level of appreciation of music that somebody like me has, I mean.

Do you have any songs that come to mind when you think of her?

Oh well she used to sing “You are my sunshine”

 

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,

you make me happy, when skies are grey.

You never know dear, how much I love you.

So please don’t take my sunshine away.”

 

It makes me cry. You know it don’t you?

She used to sing that and all kinds of songs, and she sang in the Church when she was young in Wisconsin. She sang at a Protestant Church, you know the Catholic Church was too far away, you know they had to walk in the snow and all that. But she loved all popular songs. Uh and when she hears classical music, she would say: “Can’t they play something that has a melody, that’s just noise!” She was a character.”

 

Informant: the informant was born in Chicago, and attended high school and college there, graduating with a degree in English. After marrying and having one child, she moved to Dallas, Texas where she raised three children with her husband. She is of Irish descent, her father being from Ireland, and her mother was born in Wisconsin after her parents moved from Ireland, and her heritage and tradition are very important to her. She is a grandmother of five children.

 

Analysis:

In this piece, the informant is speaking about her mother, who was born in a family of Irish immigrants who had moved to Wisconsin. Her mother was an Irish Catholic, and so is the informant. The informant was speaking about how she gained her appreciation of music from her mother, and she would learn songs from listening to her mother sing around the house. One of those songs was “You are my sunshine.” This song has a special significance because the tune and the lyrics are very moving to the informant. The informant in turn passed down this song to her children, who sing it to their children.

The reasons that this song makes the informant cry and has special significance could be because of the relationship that she had with her mother, who taught her the song, as well as the poignancy of the lyrics. When associating a simple song like this with a loved one, it brings to mind all of the love that is associated with that person. Therefore, when singing the song and saying “please don’t take my sunshine away,” the simple lyrics are moving in that the represent losing the love that is associated with the singer of that song, who is often a loved one.

This song was often sung by the mother to her daughter as a sort of lullaby, which has a special significance as well. That is to say that the lullaby is meant to be a comforting tune for the child. When a mother sings this to a child she is singing about her love for her child. Therefore, when the informant was recalling this song, she could have been thinking about her mother, who had passed away several years ago, bringing back comforting memories of her. This song demonstrates how such a simple tune, and simple lyrics may have such profound emotional ties that lead to the passing down of this song as a lullaby from mothers to their children.

In addition, the comment that the informant’s mother made about classical music lacking a melody and just being “noise,” is representative of the separation of folk music and classical music. While classical music was taught in a strict manner through the aristocracy and apart from the people, folk music flourished with the rest of the population and was picked up by other people. It is clear that the informant’s mother had an appreciation for this folk music, while maintaining distaste for classical music. This could also be correlated with her Irish descent, as the Irish have a strong tradition of folk music.

Childhood
Life cycle
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Three Bears Lullaby

The informant in this piece is my grandmother on my father’s side, Ruth, a retired teacher born in 1926 in Arkansas.

In this piece, she talks about a lullaby she used to sing to my father and aunt. She could not remember much of the lullaby, but I found the lullaby she was talking about. When I read her the following lyrics, she said they were pretty close to what she can remember.

“Once upon a time in a neat little cottage there lived three bears

One was a daddy bear and one was a mama bear and one was a wee bear

While they were out a-walking, through the deep woods a-stalking came a little girl with blonde hair

Her name was Goldilocks and upon the door she knocks but no one was there

So she walked right in and had herself a time coz she didn’t care

Then she got sleepy, went upstairs to bed, when…

Home, home, home came the three bears!

Someone’s been eating my porridge said the daddy bear,

Someone’s been eating my porridge said the mama bear,

Hey Ba-ba Re-bear said the little wee bear someone has broken my chair!
Someone’s been sitting in my chair said the daddy bear,

Someone’s been sitting in my chair said the mama bear,

Hey Ba-ba Re-bear said the little wee bear someone has broken my chair!

Just then Goldilocks woke up, broke up the party and beat it out of there
Bye-bye! Bye! Bye! said the daddy bear

Goodbye, Bye said the mama bear

Hey Ba-ba Re-bear said the little wee bear

So ends the story of the three bears!”

N: When Cathy and Mike were very young I would read to them or tell bedtime stories until I would get so sleepy I couldn’t read any more. I would then start to sing a little song that went like this ‘ Once upon a time there were three bears, A Papa Bear, A Mama Bear and a Wee Bear’. They would cry out “No, don’t sing the song”. I never knew if they didn’t like my singing or they didn’t want the stories to end.

M: Do you remember any of the song?

N: Um… no. No more than what I just sang to you.

M: Do you remember where you learned it?

N: I think I had learned it from my mother. She would sing it to me when I was little.

M: It’s funny. I never knew there was a song for Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

I really like my grandmother’s response to why my dad and aunt had such a bad reaction to the song. Personally, I think it was because they knew after the song, the stories would end. I think people tell lullabies they heard as children because it reminds them of when they were little, and they want to have that in common with their children. When I asked my dad about it, however, he said he barely remembers the lullaby. It interesting what some people hold very important, and others forget about.

For other versions of this lullaby, visit http://dragon.sleepdeprived.ca/songbook/songs4/S4_36.htm

general

A Mom’s Lullaby

“Lullaby,

Don’t you cry,

Go to sleep my little Meowser,

 

Close your eyes,

And start to yawn,

Sweet dreams until the dawn

 

Lullaby,

Don’t you cry,

Go to sleep my little Matt

 

Lullaby,

Don’t you cry,

Go to sleep my little Meow.”

 

This is a lullaby that my mom used to sing for me when I was a child. It definitely borrows the tune and theme from Brahm’s lullaby, but I couldn’t find that version of the lyrics anywhere. Additionally, my mom inserted my name (Matt) and my nicknames (Meowser and Meow) into the song, something her mother did for her. My mother said that it reminded her of the stressful but adorable task of getting me to bed at night, but she also has a very loving memory of it. For me, the song evokes strong emotion because my mom is the person that I’m closest to in my family, and i connect that song with my mother and with my childhood.

Childhood
Musical

Indonesian Lullaby

This is a lullaby that the informant’s father used to sing to her and her sister.

Translation

“Miel, go to sleep. Miel, go to sleep. If you don’t go to sleep, you’re going to get bit by ants.” The alternate ending means, “you’ll get bit by a fly.”

Informant’s Thoughts

The informant described this as a dark lullaby, and even mentioned that her sister used to hate the song and that it would keep her up. The informant herself said she never had a problem going to sleep, despite the lullaby being dark. Her father most likely learned it from his parents, since it is meant to be a song that parents sing to their children to scare them into sleeping. The informant doesn’t know of any name for the lullaby, but her father would call it “Informant bobo”, meaning “Informant sleep.”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s parents are from Indonesia, however the informant herself was born in the U.S., but is fluent in both Indonesian and English. The informant and I live in the same residence hall, and for this folklore collection, we got pizzas together and just sat down and ate them in my room while talking and sharing stories. I think it is an interesting, if somewhat backwards logic, that parents sing this song to coerce their children into going to sleep, since in American culture, lullabies are generally supposed to be sweet and gentle songs that “lull” a child to sleep. Perhaps the lyrics are supposed to be a sort of joke and meant to be ignored, however it would be difficult not to take the words seriously when living a country (Indonesia) that is home to a host of exotic insect species.

Musical

Chanda Mama

Original Text:

“Chanda Mama Door Ke

Puye Pakaye Bhur Ke

Aap Kaye Taali Mein

Mune Ko De Pyali Mein” (Hindi)

Direct Translation: 

Uncle moon from far away

Is making Puye (dessert) with sugar

You eat in a plate and

give the little child a little plate

Background:

This is a lullaby that the informant remembers hearing as a child. His dad mainly sung it to him, although his mom would sing it from time to time too. There was one night that his dad didn’t sing it to him and he couldn’t sleep. The informant said that it reminds him of his childhood now and going to bed.  When I asked if there was a deeper meaning to the lyrics, he said that it seemed pretty nonsensical, but he said that it’s significant that you let parents eat first out of respect.

Context:

The informant’s parents sung this lullaby to him when he was a child. He said it’s a pretty common song that parents would sing to their children in Indian culture.

Personal Thoughts:

When I first asked him what it meant, he said he didn’t know. But when I asked him to type out the lyrics, he started to realize what it meant because he speaks Hindi. I thought this was interesting because the song had simply started to represent a warm feeling of bedtime with parents, rather than what the lyrics actually were talking about.

 

Musical

Tuntun-Tuntun-Taara

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Chhat par billi bhaagi hai,

Neend se (Baby) jaagi hai

Chhat par billi bhaagi hai,

Neend se (Baby) jaagi hai

Billi ne chuhe ko maara

Hai!

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Galli me bola chawkidaar,

“Choron se rehna hushiyar”

Galli me bola chawkidaar,

“Choron se rehna hushiyar”

Chawkidaar ne chor ko maara

Hai!

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

 

Translation:

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

It struck 12 o’clock (Chorus)

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

It struck 12 o’clock

The cat ran along the roof

(Baby) woke up from her sleep

The cat ran along the roof

(Baby) woke up from her sleep

The cat killed the mouse

Hai!

(Chorus) x 2

In the street the guardsman said,

“Beware of thieves!”

In the street the guardsman said,

“Beware of thieves!”

The guard killed the thief

Hai!

(Chorus)

Analysis: For some reason, similar to many Western nursery rhymes and lullabies, this song is a particularly violent one. It talks about the elimination of a small threat (a mouse) and then of a much larger, much more serious threat (a thief). But this elimination takes place in a very definitive, violent manner–murder, essentially. Unlike Western lullabies, however (some that come to mind are Rockabye Baby, Rain Rain Go Away, Old Daddy Long Legs, and Sing a Song of Sixpence), the violence is not perpetrated on children or seemingly innocent bystanders, but on entities who do pose a real threat to the health and safety of the child and indeed the whole family and therefore could be said to “deserve what they got”. Mice spread disease and could ruin a family’s crop and thereby cause them to starve. Thieves also could cause financial ruin and would not hesitate to do away with any family member who discovered them robbing the house in the dead of night. In rural areas, or places that didn’t have a very trustworthy law enforcement and protection system, the idea that there were people (or animals) that would be able to protect a child from harm must have been very comforting.

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