USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘song’
Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Novenas

Novenas 9 days before Christmas, novenas happen. They are a custom done at home in Columbia in which family gets together and has potluck style meals as well as praying together. The meals usually consist of home grown fruits as well as white meats. The Novenas, are usually more prayer oriented, the potluck tradition just grew as a well-mannered custom. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people. This tradition kind of reminds me of when someone dies, you light a candle for 9 days as well as praying together with family and sharing potluck meals.

Musical

Salvadoran Children Song

Sana, Sana culito de rana

Si no sanas hoy, sanaras manana

Translate to: Heal, heal, little bug of frog, if you don’t heal today, then you’ll heal tomorrow.

This song is usually sung to small children that have been hurt. it is a way to keep children from crying to when they get hurt.

My informant is a service coordinator. She likes to help people. She also migrated from El Salvador to the United States. Most of her stories are from her mother or personal experiences.

I talked to my informant over coffee in our house.

 

Customs
Holidays
Humor
Musical

There’s No Seder Like our Seder

Informant is grandmother, currently living in Florida having lived most of her life in New Jersey. The following is printed on a series of old, twice-photocopied documents which she stores in a closet in a large bin. These are a familiar sight for the family during Passover, in which the entirety of the song is sung together before beginning with the dinner service.

 

There’s No Seder Like our Seder

(sung to the tune of “There’s no Business like Show business”)

There’s no seder like our seder,

There’s no seder I know.

Everything about it is Halachic

nothing that the Torah won’t allow.

Listen how we read the whole Haggadah

It’s all in Hebrew

‘Cause we know how.

There’s no Seder like our seder,

We tell a tale that is swell:

Moses took the people out into the heat

They baked the matzoh

While on their feet

Now isn’t that a story

That just can’t be beat?

Let’s go on with the show!

 

Of course this song is not traditional jewish canon, as it’s inspired by the song “There’s no Business like Show business.” Somewhere down the line, at a time she does not remember, these papers were copied and it was decided to sing it before opening the Hagaddah (Passover prayerbook read at dinner). I think this song, to her, is a fun family activity which gets all ages singing together and warmed up for the night.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
general
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Unitarian Universalist Church

Context: Gathered from one of my roommates once he found out about my collection project.

Background: My roommate has never had a set religious background, and was always in something of a melting pot of faiths when he went to churches like the one described here.

Dialogue: So, I don’t know exactly how Unitarianism, like, started, but… At some point it was just this sort of culmination of, like, various Christian sects, like Episcopalian or Protestant or whatever was around Massachusetts going on. Just a bunch of them sort of, like, coalesced into one group that’s like… “You know what, Trinity or Unity, doesn’t matter! We all have spirit!”

Analysis: The intereseting thing about this piece of folklore to me is how much is blended together in a church like this. It’s not only a mixing of various religious sects, either: at one point, my roommate sang a song he was taught as a kid, about the “Seven Guiding Principles of Kindness.” He remembers only these lines:

One, each person is important
Two, be kind in all you do

The song, interestingly enough, is set to the tune of “Do-Re-Mi” fromthe mucial The Sound of Music. So we have a mashup of popular culture, religion, and folk belief, all in this single church.

Customs
Holidays
Life cycle
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Birthday songs for Colombians in the US and in Colombia

When I explained the scope of the of the folklore projects that it could include folksongs, Juliana did think of one that she has heard here in Southern California a lot. In Colombia when a girl turns 15 (American equivalent to sweet 16) there is an elaborate party with musicians typically “mariachis” who will sing “Las Manaitas” song. Usually becomes a father-daughter dance. But this is the only time it is sung because it is a special time in a girl’s life when she become a woman.

“Estas son las mañanitas que cantaba el rey David.

Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a ti.

Despierta mi bien, despierta, mira que ya amaneció

ya los pajaritos cantan la luna ya se metió.

Qué linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte

venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte.

El día en que tu naciste nacieron todas las flores

y en la pila del bautismo cantaron los ruiseñores.

Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz el día nos dio.

Levántate de mañana mira que ya amaneció.”

(Translated: These are the little mornings that King David used to sing.

Today being the day of your saint, we sing them to you. Wake up my dear, wake up, see that the day has already dawned, the little birds are already singing, the moon has already set. How lovely is this morning, when I come to greet you, we all come with joy and pleasure to greet you. The day on which you were born all the flowers first were born, and in the baptismal font all the nightingales sang. It already comes dawning, the day already gave us light. Rise up with the morning and see that it’s already dawned.)

Recently, in Colombia, the song has gained popularity and is sung at small children birthday parties as well but never to other teenagers or adults especially not to men. Juliana, was at a birthday party recently in Santa Monica for a fellow male student, who was from Mexico City, and they sung La Mañanitas followed by the English version of the Happy Birthday song. She was surprised that everyone seemed to expect it. I asked her what other song is sung when an adult has a birthday in Colombia? She said it is the same chords to the American Happy Birthday song but the words are different:

“Feliz cumpleaños ha ti,

desudamos feliz,

que los saigas cúmplanlo

hasta año 3000 mil!”

(Translation, “Happy birthday to you, we wish you much happiness, we hope you have more birthdays, until the year 3000 AD.)

Analysis: Having been to countless Latino birthday parties, here in Los Angeles, what usually occurs is that both Spanish songs and the English version of Happy Birthday song are sung because that way you get to make more wishes and make a lot more noise, which seems like the goal of most Latino parties in general. It usually starts with Las Mañanitas and will continue to Feliz Cumpleaños followed by the Happy Birthday song. This allows for plenty of time to take pictures and get candle wax all over the cake. The songs seem to cement the occasion and be the final mark of the birthday festivities. People usually understand that once the cake is served after the songs then the party is going to come to an end unless of course there is a band or DJ, which means the party is now really getting started and will continue until very late or early morning. The actually singing by all the participants seems significant because it is not about talent or pitch of the voices but the unified showing of support and love for the birthday person.

Humor

Don’t make me snap my fingers

Main piece:

This is a song and dance.

“Don’t make me snap my fingers in a Z formation” *Snap right hand then make a Z shape in air while snapping at each turn*

“Exclamation” *4 snaps vertically downwards at each syllable*

“Booty rotation” *put hands on hips and rotate hips*

….

*Informant thinks there might have been more but doesn’t recall the rest*

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

Informant said she remembers doing this song/dance as a middle schooler with her classmates. They did it for fun, and she remembers the boy in her class who would exaggerate his hip movements. She said there was more at the end of this song but can’t recall it all. She didn’t think of this as folklore but remembers it as a part of growing up.

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It is performed by young elementary to middle school aged children. It might be done during recess or when kids are spending time together for fun.

Personal Analysis:

I knew this dance personally in my elementary school. It’s funny how someone who grew up in LA and another who grew up in Texas know the same song. I don’t know if kids these days still do this dance for fun. Especially because technology has grown, they might not pass down these traditions. This dance seems like a part of my childhood as well as my informant’s, and although I forgot about it, it is interesting that I remembered it when I heard the first verse.

 

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.

Festival
Musical

Midsummer

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

Informant: There is a ritual, kinda like a Swedish holiday, but not really. It’s called a Swedish name that means something like midsummer. And it’s generally in June, and it’s basically welcoming summer, so you get a big big cross and you decorate it with flowers and on each arm you put circles, you hang them on the cross, it looks like the things you put on your door for Christmas. Midsummer this year is on the 24th of June. Also what you do is pluck flowers and make flower crowns that you wear for this thing. All that you really do on this day is you just like get together with people. There are different parties or you can do this cross thing with your family or you can go to a big party with everyone in your town depending on your preference and then you usually picnic over there. You have food outside, and you dance around the cross and sing different songs.

Collector: What kind of songs?

Informant: These are typical songs for midsummer, this one song is called the small frogs, literally translated. It goes like this:

Smoagruden na

Smoagruden na

Ad lustiga asia

Ad lustiga asia

A aron A aron

Svan sa hava dia

A aron A aron

Svan sa hava dia

Cua ca ca Cua ca ca

That last part is supposed to be a like a frog sound. So when they say the first part you run around the cross until the second part, and then you put your hands on your ears and make them look like cow ears, and when it says svan sa you put your hands on your butt making it look like a tail. And during cua ca ca you jump with your two feet at the same time around the cross like a frog.

Collector: Why do you like this particular piece of folklore?

Informant: I think it’s a cute tradition that you do with your family. It’s the small kids that really enjoy it, I liked it a lot when I was a kid. It’s a good time to spend with your family and friends, and have fun with them. It’s one of the biggest rituals in Sweden. And even people who go abroad like me carry it with them, and when I lived in France we used to make our own cross in our garden. It’s just like a really nice time to get together with my family and it’s just like really fun. More than celebrating summer, it’s a family thing

I think it’s interesting that two of the pieces of folklore that my Swedish friend told me involved songs with small creatures and gibberish at the end. It makes me wonder if that is a common pattern in Swedish folk songs. I think this is a cute little tradition, and although I’m not Swedish and have never done anything like Midsummer, I remember how much I used to enjoy doing similar things as a kid. I also think it’s cool that my friend carried it abroad with her, and that she still celebrated and underwent this ritual with the cross even though she was no longer in the country that celebrated it.

Game
Musical

London Bridge

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in England and currently lives in Los Angeles. She lives in my hall, and I interviewed her.

Informant: Do you know the London Bridge song?

Collector: Yes.

Informant: Ah, yes. Well, I guess it’s pretty popular over here too. But basically, it’s a song that goes like this:

London Bridge is falling down,

Falling down, falling down.

London Bridge is falling down,

My fair lady.

I think the actual song is longer than that, but that’s all that people really use. So what we do, it’s usually a kids game, but what we do is we get two people to stand together and hold their arms together like they’re making a bridge, and then people have to run under it, until the last line. And then the people drop their arms and trap whoever is under it, and like that person loses. It’s like a song, but it’s also a game, which is cool.

Collector: Do you have any idea where it might have come from?

Informant: I actually have no idea the history behind the song. I just know that it’s a really old game, and a lot of kids play it. It’s pretty popular. I don’t think the London Bridge has ever really fallen down. I hope it won’t.

I remember playing this game when I was a kid, and it’s interesting to hear that it’s popular all over the world too. Despite mentioning London in part of the lyrics, I didn’t actually know that this was a traditional English song. I thought that the Americans had made it up during the revolution to show patriotism and strength to beat the British. It’s funny to see that I was completely wrong my entire life, and that the song is nothing more than a mere game that people used to play in England, and passed on to the people in America and all over the world.

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