Author Archives: Arooshi Barua

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.



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



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.


Informant Description/ Context of performance: I asked my friend if she had any traditions or superstitions, and she told me about one her dance teacher had passed down to her.

Original Script:

Interviewee: So this is kind of a mix between a saying and just like… something you’re supposed to do. My dance teacher told me that if you have a lot of good luck, you don’t want to jinx it with the evil eye, “Nazar,” so to remove the evil eye, you should take salt and throw it over your shoulder and then walk in the opposite direction. You CANNOT look back otherwise that’s bad luck.

Me: So when did she tell you? And have you ever actually done that?

Interviewee: Oh yeah, she’s superstitious. We’d do it before all our dance performances just to cast away any like, negative energy.

Me: Have you ever done it in any other context like before a test or something?

Interviewee: Umm… I think I’ve done it a couple times before like college decisions came out and at like weddings or graduations.

Me: Oh is that like customary within your culture or just something you do that you got from your dance teacher?

Interviewee: I mean I know it’s in our culture to put a little black spot at the top of your cheek to cast away Nazar, but I pretty much got the salt thing from my dance teacher. I’m sure other people do it though, because like where did she get it from? Like I’ve seen her kids do it too, and all my friends who danced with me did it too.

Conclusion: Being from the same culture, I have heard of “Nazar” before. I have never heard of this custom before, but I had learned about the evil eye many times before. I find it interesting that each culture develops its own way to cast away the evil eye, and each subcategory within a culture has its own unique method.

Yiddish Phrase

Informant Description/ Context of performance: My friend’s grandma always used to tell her this proverb while growing up.


Mit eyn tokhes ken nit tantsn af tsvey khasenes.

Translation: You can’t dance at two weddings with one behind.

Meaning: You can’t do everything at once.

Conclusion: It is rather a simple and direct saying. This Yiddish proverb is seen throughout various cultures. For example, my grandpa used to always say “one thing done well is a very good thing, as anyone can tell.” It encompasses the same idea of taking on the appropriate workload and doing it to the best of one’s ability.

Tanzanian Poem

Informant Description/ Context of performance: My friend’s aunt recited this poem to me over the phone to give me an example of African folklore. Her father passed it down to her, who heard it from his grandmother.

Original Script:

Interviewee: I’ll recite a poem my father told me when I was very young. Can I say it in my language?

Me: Of course!

Interviewee: Mkulima mwenye shamba alipana viazi,

Akachimba chimba chimba akaona almaasi

Lololo bahahati lolo bahaato ya mtu menye shamba

Akatupa jembe upande akaenda mjini,

Kununua motokari sasa ni tajiri,

Lolo bhaato lololo bahati ya mtu menye shamba.

Me: It sounds a little bit like a song; is there a particular time or place you traditionally say this poem?

Interviewee: It’s more of a story really, like a fable for children.

Me: What does it mean?

Interviewee: The translation is roughly: There was a farmer, who had a potato farm. One day as he was plowing, he saw a diamond. He threw away his plow and ran to town. How lucky, how lucky, how lucky was the farmer? He went to buy a new car and house, oh how lucky the farmer was.

Me: So what lesson or moral does this children’s poem teach?

Interviewee: Everyone wants to be rich, but luck does not come when you are just sleeping in or stay home. In order to get rich, you still have to get up and work hard! It takes strength and courage to be poor and still work hard… but one day, you could be lucky!

Conclusion (written by Interviewer): I really enjoyed this story because it was an interesting twist on the usual “work hard, you will attain success” moral. I like that they incorporated luck into the fable; it may be reflective of the class constraints in their culture. For example, in America, it’s usually more viable to say you can become successful through hard work and dedication. Perhaps in their culture, it takes hard work and luck which is why this could be a popular fable to tell children. It encourages them to work hard in hope of some luck, which could lead them to success.

Japanese Dinner Etiquette

Informant Description/ Context of performance: My friend and I were having dinner with her mom in our living room. We were having a traditional Japanese dish called shabu shabu. We were sitting on the ground around this small table with dinner served family style when my mom’s friend looked at her lovingly annoyed.

Original Script:

Me: Is everything okay, Mrs. Mizuno?

Interviewee: Yes, yes. It’s just she knows she should not sit like that at the dinner table.

Me: Huh?

Interviewee: In Japanese culture, it is very rude to sit with your knees popping about the table. It is a form of disrespect to others you are dining with, so put your knees down!

Conclusion (written by Interviewer): Every culture I know has unique food etiquette. I had never heard this one before, so I found it particularly striking. Apparently having your knee above the table in Japanese culture is disrespectful to the people you are dining with, so maybe it shows laziness or a lack of interest by sitting like that.