Tag Archives: chant

Chants for Good Luck


H is a spring admin freshman at USC, studying Music Industry. H grew up in Taiwan, but moved when she was 8 to San Jose. 


H: “Whenever I encounter something bad, I basically chant like something from Buddhism. It goes like ‘大慈大悲, 救苦救难, 管旭音菩萨’ (Pinying: da ci da bei, jiu ku jiu nan, guan yin pu sa; Translation: great mercy and great compassion, save the suffering, guan xu yin bodhisattva). It’s basically what I chant so they can give me power, something like that. I think it’s just telling them I’m in trouble, it’s not asking them to come to me, but I feel like they’re going to do something about it and that’s why I do it.”


H’s chant is something along the lines of a conversion, a superstitious charm that negates or balances out an event. In H’s case, the chant is religious, referring to a god in Buddhism, but meant to offset something bad in her life using her god’s power. Her chanting is ritualistic, in the sense that H will do it on the principle or possibility that her god may be listening, while not knowing if anything will change. Just the act of chanting, the practice of a charm that’s believed to give good fortune, makes her believe that good will come, which is a faith nearly more powerful than the tangible confirmation that there really is a god up there, in my opinion. H creates a sense of order for herself in the midst of a crisis or hardship through this learned chant, and always repeating it to herself, she maintains faith that her chant comes true. Essentially, her ritual chant is believed to bring good luck for her, therefore it does bring good luck.  

High School Marching Band ‘Flute Salute’

Informant Background:

My informant RA is a 22-year-old senior at USC and a member of the Trojan Marching Band. She was also a flute section leader in her high school marching band in Chicago, Illinois.  


RA: “It was just something we would do at the end of every rehearsal. Like we’d get, we’d meet up with the section after the band director dismissed us and just like give announcements like we do in the TMB and then we would all do our little cheer when we were holding our flutes and then we would say:

Row. Row. Row. Row.

Kayak.  (the word is elongated to ‘Kaayyaaak’)

Flute Salute.

[With each “row”, the person speaking will move their flute side to side in a motion mimicking paddling. While saying “kayak” the person will change to move their flute horizontally in front of themselves and dip each end left to right in a motion mimicking kayaking. When saying ‘flute salute’ the person will thrust their flute into the air twice with their dominant hand.]

RA: “Typically, the section leader would start [the chant] and then the whole section would join in.”


The ‘flute salute’ chant is a fun unifying activity for the flute section of a high school marching band. The chant likely serves the purpose of creating section pride by using specific gestures that only a flute (or a clarinet) could do easily. The chant is also a fun way to end practice helping to ensure that flute members keep their interest in the band and section. Marching band sections spend a lot of time practicing with each other so it is crucial for the people within each section to get along and, at least, partially enjoy their time in the band. Chants and other unique quick activities that solidify the status of a section as a whole are therefore so important.

Theatre Tongue Twisters- A Pre-Performance Chant


“Whether the weather be cold or whether the weather be hot, we’ll be together whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.”


NW is a USC senior who went to high school in San Diego. She was a member of her high school’s theater production. Before going on stage, the cast would perform this tongue twister as a “little good luck thing” to do together. To NW, it gave “the same energy as a huddle… I don’t think it was an actual good tongue twister. It was just for fun.” It was a dynamic performance; they would start off in a whisper and spread out, then would grow louder and clump together. It was a “little button” to boost the cast morale amidst skyrocketing nerves.


Especially in the theatre community, tongue twisters can be practical exercises that enable performers to practice their diction and pronunciation, which is crucial for storytelling and communicating a message to the audience from the stage. Beyond its functional implications, this tongue twister has become ritualized in NW’s community. The pre-show routine has been extremely important in boosting the morale of the group and calming down their nerves. Specifically with live performances, there can be a lot of angst and fear of things going wrong; having a stable, consistent routine, such as the recitation of a tongue twister, can bolster focus and channel calmer energy. NW mentions that the tongue twister wasn’t even a “good” tongue twister, but it doesn’t change because it’s familiar and effective. Unlike proverbs, tongue twisters often don’t make sense or mean anything in particular, but they are performed out of habit and custom. It’s not necessarily about the content–it’s more about the setting and the people you are sharing this folklore with, which applies to the general essence of occupational folklore. The cast is no longer related just because they’re in the same show, but also because they embrace the customs that come with being a member. There’s no rule dictating what they do before their performance, but the tongue twister has become a tradition that is almost second nature.

Beginning a School Wide Chant

Background: The informant  is a 22 year old male currently living in San Luis Obispo, California. He attended CalPoly-SLO and is currently working as a manager for a boy and girls volleyball club. He played volleyball and basketball throughout high school, and played and coached volleyball while in college. His story is from his time in college.

Context: The context was the informant was, after a sporting event, the informant was reminded of his time in college when he and his friends started a cheer. He performed the cheer.


WC: In college, since I was on the club volleyball team and was a coach for the girl’s team, I would always attend the volleyball matches whenever they were at home. So, my friends and I thought it would be funny to start a cheer, or a chant, at the games, as we knew all the players. 

Me: What was the cheer?

WC: Every time, someone got a block, we would say “booboo” and then clap twice. [does it]

Me: Was there significance behind it?

WC: Uh, not really, it was more to show the girls that we were there and we were supporting them. I mean, cheers in sports are really just to build morale and boost the team’s spirit so that was all that we were trying to do.

Me: What happened to the chant?

WC: Actually, since we did it at every D1 game, the other people around us started to pick it up. And then, the girls on the team started to do it after every block. So, what started as just our little firendgroup chant became a CalPoly-wide thing.


Informant: He was clearly very happy with the chant becoming a sports-wide occurrence at his school, especially that the girl’s themselves started using it. His intention was simply to have a morale boosting chant, but it did much more than that.

Mine: Cheers have long been used in sports in order to reveal a certain community of people. Typically, cheers are created in groups and spread through word of mouth, at least initially. People spend time in order to create someone that will stand out and boost morale. While initially it was simply something between friends, it became a much bigger thing, spreading to other fans and the players themselves. It demonstrates that folklore starts from the people, no matter who they are, and that anyone can contribute to the culture of the group they are in. The main form of communication in sports is cheering from the sidelines, and anyone should be able to contribute to that. There doesn’t need to always be people leading the cheers; instead, the cheers can start on their own.

Pre-Show Warm Up Chant


“Tarzan, swinging from a rubber band, crashed into a frying pan, ow that hurts. Now Tarzan has a tan, and I hope it doesn’t peel! (peel is said in a falsetto voice) like a banana (beat chest). Jane, flying in an aeroplane, swept up by a hurricane. Ow, that hurt. Now Jane has a pain, and Tarzan has a tan, and I hope it doesn’t peel! Like a banana!”


According to my informant, this chant is a repeat-after-me type of chant that’s used as a pre-show warm-up in school theatres. My informant says that there will be one or two leaders who will start the chant, and after every line, the rest of the cast in the theatrical production will loudly repeat after them. According to her, it’s been done before nearly every single show she’s ever been in, and is used to bring everyone’s energy levels up before the show officially starts. Alongside different inflections in the voice when one performs this chant, there are also some bodily movements done as well, including beating ones chest like a gorilla during following the like “like a banana.”

My Analysis

Being involved in theatre myself, I immediately recognized this pre-show chant when my informant brought it up in our interview. Immediately, I could remember all of the vocal inflections done in the chant, and how it really did bring everyone’s energy levels up in order to create a great show for the audience. My informant and I grew up together, but now live in very different places, and I thought it was immensely neat that theatrical productions all across the United States are utilizing this pre-show chant as a means to hype everybody up.