USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘songs’
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.

Kinesthetic
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Rain Song from Living Earth Camp

Abstract:

This piece is about a rain song that is sung at Living Earth Camp when it hasn’t rain in awhile. It stems from “native” songs, but there is no evidence.

Main Piece:

“L: I went to like a nature camp in the years I was in middle school over the summer. So it was like a sleepaway camp, but it only lasted a week. And it was weird because it was mostly white people, but they’d be like “oh this is the ancient song, this ancient rain song.” I don’t think they realized how problematic it was. We had this one time when it hadn’t been raining lately, like we we in a drought or something, so they took us down to the river and said “so we’re going to sing this rain song.” So you sing this when you are splashing the water around and it goes like “wishita-do-yah-do-yah-do-yah, wishita-do-yah-do-yah-do-yah. Washa-ta-day-ah-day-ah-day-ah.” And you do that over and over again. And it actually ended up raining the next day.

C: Wow, so it worked?

L: Yeah, so now I have all this white guilt singing it.

C: What is the camp’s name?

L: Living Earth Camp. And it was or felt very spiritual and connected to nature. But it was still like a $500 camp for a bunch of kids to cover themselves in mud.

C: Where was it?

L: Like an hour away from where I lived, so still in Virginia.”

Context:

The informant is a 19 year old girl from Charlottesville, VA. She attended this camp for 3 years in middle school and learned this song the first year she was at the camp when she was in 6th grade.

Analysis:

Rain songs that are based on “native” traditions never seem quite genuine, but the intention behind them is interesting. I thought it was curious that a rain song has to have roots in “native” folklore, and not from somewhere else. This reminds me of learning of tourist items that were labeled as “authentic” or “native.” I think a lot of people try to go back to the roots of Native culture because of it’s connection to the Earth and spirituality. Though there is more to Native culture than that, in today’s popular culture that is what is most projected. Since children are little, we learn that there are certain things to sing to cause things to happen. When we want the rain to come, we sing things like this – the rain song, to bring rain. When we want rain to go away, we sing “Rain, Rain, Go Away.” It is important to recognize when songs are a bit problematic like the informant did as well.

Customs
Folk speech
general
Musical

Coconut Willy Song

The lyrics to “Coconut Willy” according to Marjie Hughes are as follows:

 

“Coconut Willie lives in a tree,

plenty papuli it’s easy to see,

all the malahinies, think he’s a king,

they come to Waikiki to see his opu swing!

One night when the moon was high,

Willie took a trip to Molokai,

he flew so high he touched the sky,

thought he was a Minah bird and tried to fly.

Ho ho ho ho.

When the tourists  come to town,

Willie treats them with a smile not a frown,

he rubs them with oil so they won’t boil,

he doesn’t like to see a piece of shark bait spoil!

Ho, ho, ho!

Coconut Willie lives in a tree,

plenty papuli it’s easy to see,

all the malahinies, think he’s a king,

they come to Waikiki to see his opu swing!”

 

Background Information: Marjie is a 78-year old women living in Los Angeles, California. Her father was in the navy; when she was 7-years old she moved to Honolulu, Hawaii and lived on base where she learned to play the ukulele (year was 1947).

Context: Marjie is my grandmother and has sung this song for me with her ukulele since I can remember. I most recently heard her sing her version of Coconut Willy this spring while vacationing in Hawaii with my family. I have grown up hearing her play this song, and when I asked her when she first began playing “Coconut Willy” she shared that she learned the song living in Honolulu and continued to play it with her sisters at family gatherings.

Analysis: This song has been a personal part of my childhood, as I was raised hearing it sung as both a lullaby and sung when on vacation or somewhere tropical. Because of that, this song carries a very specific connotation for me, so it was interesting to consider the song from another perspective, since I know many people must perform it in different ways. For my Grandma, this song reminds her of living on the navy base as a child and singing songs while playing the ukulele with her two sisters, one of whom is no longer living and the other with severe Dementia. Songs carry extreme emotional content that is very individual person to person.

Folk speech
Game
general
Life cycle
Musical

Jewish Day Camp Traditions and Songs

The informant is from New York City and told me of his summer camp experience.

“Okay so I went to a Jewish Day Camp, so like you’d go, everyday you’d go to a bunch of different bus stops and then you go to the campground and do whatever camp shit you’d do and then come back like, so it was a Jewish camp and we celebrated Shabbat, and we even like one of the activities would be like, so every friday you’d celebrate Shabbat and then alongside the other activities like archery, ceramics, we would sing Jewish songs, so there’s like um, oh man, oh there’s “who knows one” and it’s like, i think it goes up to twelve and there’s like different hebrew or like old testament things like, or like, definitely like “nine” is the months of a -, I don’t remember but it’s like “Who knows one?” “I know one!” “one is the da-da-da-da-da-duh” “who knows two? I know two! Two is the da-da-da-da-da-duh.” And I know like one of them is like, twelve is the tribes of Israel, um, I think nine for whatever reason is the months a woman is pregnant? Um, uh, and just like seven is like the days of the week that god made, and all these other Jewish songs of like um, wait ok, so there’s who knows one, and there’s like, uh, I don’t remember anymore. But like the main part about the songs that’s pretty funny is that like seventy-five, no maybe like two-thirds of the camp were like black and hispanic, and were like not Jewish, because it was like, a somewhat cheap day camp in, like Manhattan, and they had a lot of bus stops in like Harlem, so like we made these black and hispanic kids eat Challah and drink grape juice and like sing these Jewish songs, and they were like kinda into it, none of them were like, “why are we doing this?” all of them were like “okay””

Analysis:

What is most interesting is that the songs were of religious connotation, but that many of those who attended the camp were not of that religion (Jewish). So they were learning all these songs and stories that did not directly affect them at all, opening up Jewish ceremonies to the wider world. It is also interesting to see how these “children’s songs” deal with adult themes such as pregnancy, which as a child did not really comprehend until much later.

general
Humor
Musical

Oh Alice

“One of the things I remember about growing up was that my mom would sing me funny songs and after she would sing them she would crack up. Even though my family experienced a lot of loss and pain, it was always great to hear my mom’s laugh. One of the songs she used to sing was about Alice. When she sang it she thought it was so funny, but it would scare me. I was a little girl and I thought I might go down the drain!”

The lyrics are as follow:

Alice, where are you going?

Upstairs to take a bath

Her shape is like a toothpick

Her head is like a tack

Oh my goodness, oh my soul there goes Alice down the hole!

Oh Alice, where are you going?

An audio recording of Gloriadele Guzman (the mother of the informant, referenced above) singing the song has been provided: Oh Alice

I collected this song from my mother. It was fun for me because I also remember my grandmother singing me this song when I was a little girl. I had always thought it was a song my grandmother had made up but I found some other versions of the song online. My grandmothers version is slightly different. Some of the other version include more details that has caused some people to infer that the song is actually about Alice in Wonderland.

For one of the other versions of this song please see: http://www.rahelmusic.net/lyrics-kidsongs.html

Humor
Musical

Mexican Boy Scouts song

My informant is my father, a 48 year old pediatric oncologist at Stanford University. He is bilingual, binational and bicultural, born to a white American father and a Mexican mother. He grew up in both countries but spent his formative adolescent years in Mexico City, where he joined the Mexican Boy Scouts or “los escouts” as he calls them. It was there that he learned this joke from a fellow Escout, who he is still good friends with today.

He performs this piece of folklore frequently, usually in the presence of children—before, when my sister and I were little, he would teach it to us when we were camping, and now, since we’re older, he usually does it around our younger cousins, especially around mealtimes.

Here is the song:

“Queremos comer!
Sangre coagulada
revuelta en ensalada
higado encebollado
de sapo reventado
y de postre!
Helado con caquita de venado!!”

Translation:

We want to eat!

Coagulated blood

Mixed up in a salad

Onion-fried liver

of a scrambled frog

and for dessert!

Ice cream with little deer poops!

This little song has gone from being a piece of his adolescence to being passed on to our generation, so it means a lot to him as both a part of his past, and a reminder of old friendships, as well as a part of his family life now. He uses it to bond now with his younger relatives over the humorous idea of such a disgusting meal, and to reconnect, I think, with his inner child.

Folk Beliefs
Humor
Musical

Cure to Song Stuck in Head

Information about the Informant

My informant is a college student at a community college in San Jose. He’s an avid amateur photographer, and we know each other through going to the same online high school. His family’s very closely-knit, with his parents very involved in the lives of their children. I collected this piece of folklore that him while he was visiting me on campus at USC. I mentioned having a song stuck in my head, and that reminded him of this piece of folklore that he had heard from his father.

Transcript

“My dad has said that, uh, the cure to having a song stuck in your head is the Beatles. It might have been because…that’s an easy one to get stuck in your head and replace whatever else was there before. And it…it’s good, but I’m not actually sure.”

Collector: “Did he just make that up?”

“I don’t know. I think so, but he might have gotten it from one of his more-musical friends.”

Analysis

My informant and his father share a common interest in music, largely fostered through his father sharing his collection of CDs and records with him since my informant was a child. His father constantly shares interesting music and trivia about music with my informant, and this piece of folklore is one of them. The Beatles, in addition to being an English band that’s well-known in America, is also a band that both my informant and his father enjoy, which is probably why my informant’s father decided to share this with him. There are various supposed “cures” for a song that’s stuck in one’s head, usually involving engaging oneself in a mentally strenuous activity, such as a sudoku puzzle or a crossword. This “cure” however isn’t really a cure at all, as it merely replaces one song with another, making it more of a joke with regards to how easily Beatles songs will stick in one’s mind rather than an actual cure.

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.

Game

Inny, Minny, Miny, Moe

Dione Surdez Oliver was born in Santa Ana, California in 1969.  She moved to Crooks, South Dakota when she was four years old.  She grew up on her family’s small dairy farm.  At the age of eighteen she moved back to Southern California.  She worked in the music industry for some time as well as a legal assistant for a number of years.  In 2003 Dione decided to pursue her educational endeavors and began studying at Santa Monica Community College.  She transferred to the University of Southern California in the fall of 2006 and was granted the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund Scholarship.  In 2009 Dione graduated with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative writing and a minor in Cultural Anthropology.  She graduated with honors and received the Order of Troy.  She currently resides in Manhattan Beach, California and where she is the director of CrossFit Zen and is working on entering the Masters of Professional Writing program at USC.

Inny, Minny, Miny, Moe

Catch a nigger by his toe

If he hollers, let him go

Inny, Minny, Miny, Moe

___

This is an oicotype of a very common childhood game.  Usually, it says “Catch a tiger by his toe.”  Dione informed me that this is the original version of the song.  Apparently, it was changed because of how derogatory it is towards African Americans.  As a native Californian, it would make sense that I have never heard this, as California is a little more tolerant state and a lot more diversified than most.  However, I bet that if I travelled to the South or the Midwest I would hear it more commonly.

Life cycle
Riddle

Humpty Dumpty

Me: Can you tell me some familiar story or rhyme you remember?

Informant:       “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

                               Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,

                               All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,

                               Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

Me: When did you hear this?

Informant: “This nursery rhyme was something I heard in grade school.”

The informant thought of this rhyme first when prompted for a piece of folklore, and demonstrated that despite an inter-cultural upbringing, this rhyme still featured prominently in her childhood. It would seem the Mother Goose style nursery rhymes, of which this is one, have become globalized and are no longer a purely western phenomenon, since despite an international heritage, the informant still seemed to associate their childhood most strongly with this rhyme, and recited it in its traditional form.

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