Tag Archives: folksong

Armenian Song – “Garun a”

(This conversation took place in Armenian)

Main Piece

Lyrics (Original Script):

Գարուն ա ձուն ա արել, 

Վայ լէ լէ, վայ լէ լէ, վայ լէ լէ, լէ լէ 

Իմ եարն ինձնից ա սառել, 

Ախ չորնա, վախ այ եար, 

չար մարդու լեզուն 

Վայ լէ լէ, վայ լէ լէ, վայ լէ լէ, լէ լէ 

Phonetic Script

Garun a dzyun a arel

vay le le, vay le le, vay le le le le

Eem yar-n indznits a sarrel

Akh chorna, vakh ay yar

char martu lezun

vay le le, vay le le, vay le le le le


It is spring, it has snowed

Oh le le, Oh le le, Oh le le le le.

My sweetheart, from me, is frozen

Oh, dry up, my sweetheart, 

the evil man’s tongue

Oh le le, Oh le le, Oh le le le le.

Lyrics (Translation):

It is springtime and yet it has snowed

Oh le le, Oh le le, Oh le le le le.

My sweetheart has turned cold

Oh, how I wish for the evil man’s tongue to dry

Oh le le, Oh le le, Oh le le le le.


My informant explained that when she lived in Armenia, this song was a significant part of the day of remembrance for the Armenian Genocide, which took place on April 24, 1915. She explained that it is a song to be understood by the heart and felt by the soul. The song remembers not only those who lose their lives in the Genocide of 1915, but also the Armenian Massacre of 1894, which is what the song is originally referencing. When asked where she learned this song, she told me she could not remember, and does not remember a time when she didn’t know the song. 

This song has no known author but was popularized by Father Komitas, who was an Armenian preacher and singer. This song is a very powerful aspect of Armenian culture about the Armenian Massacre of 1894, which occurred during the Spring. The lyrics emphasize the notion that during the Spring, a time that brings flourishment and growth, there was “snow.” This snow is metaphorical and represents the cold and bitter nature of the massacres during a time that is usually celebrated for bringing flowers and warm weather. Komitas’s rendition of this song became the canon.


This song is sung by various members of the community on April 24 every year. This is a recurring tradition in Armenia, but can be performed by Diasporan Armenians in other countries.

My Thoughts

Being Armenian myself, I completely understood the emotions my informant was trying to communicate. The gravity of this song is not easily communicated to one who is not Armenian. I found it interesting that, in times of mourning, the people unite to sing a song. Music has always been a big part of my life, so I understand the unity that singing this song may bring to a people. As mentioned above, Garuna is a folk song that was popularized by Komitas. With that being said, it is difficult to find an interpretation or arrangement of this song that is not in some way a cover of Komitas’s interpretation. It is difficult to trace the original version of this song, and it is just as difficult to verify how close Komitas’s version is to the actual folk song.

I encourage you to listen to the song, sung by Komitas himself, to understand the feeling the song communicates. I have cited a link to a YouTube video below.


“Komitas – Garuna (Live Voice).” YouTube, 5 Dec. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8PK51TKepc.

Main Piece: The Bonnie Banks o’Loch Lomand

The Bonnie Banks o’Loch Lomand

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes

Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond

Where me and my true love will ne-er meet again 

On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.


O you’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road

And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye

For me and my true love will ne-er meet again

On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.

Background: The informant sang this Scottish folk melody in her high school choir. Every year at graduation, the chorus would perform this song in honor of the graduating seniors, it was a tradition. When she graduated, the most emotional part of the ceremony was hearing the students she had to leave sing to her just after receiving her diploma. 

Context: I asked the informant to tell me her favorite song. Instead of giving me her favorite, she gave me the most meaningful and explained to me why The Bonnie Banks o’Loch Lomand holds so much significance. 

Thoughts: The Bonnie Banks o’Loch Lomand is a Scottish folk song about two soldiers who were held in captivity when by the Brits in 1945. One soldier escapes imprisonment and travels back to Scotland, and the other is executed, but his spirit returns to Scotland on a different path. The traditional understanding of this song is important to the culture and history of Scotland. However, the way that my friend interprets the song has less to do with the narrative in the lyrics, and more to do with the feelings and associations that surface when she hears the chorus. The literal meaning is irrelevant to her life but speaks to how one folk artifact can hold spark many different sentiments depending on the context in which it is learned. 

*see  Douglas, Ronald Macdonald. Scottish Lore and Folklore. Crown Publishers: New York: 1982 for more information on the origin of this text.  

Colombian Kids Folk Song

Folk Song:

“El Marinero que se fue a la mar y mar y mar a ver qué podía ver y ver y ver y lo único que pudo ver y ver y ver fue el fondo de la mar y mar y mar” which translates to, “The mariner who went to the sea and sea and sea to see what he could see and see and see and the only thing he could see and see and see was the bottom of the sea and sea and sea.”


“So you know how kids learn patty cake patty cake and all that, that’s just one of those things that you learn as a kid. It’s almost like a tongue twister. It’s just a thing kids learn as something to do and play and occupy their time. A lot of girls do with clapping of the hands and circles and things like that. You are suppose to start slow and speed up as you go along.”


The informant is from Medellin, Colombia, but now resides in San Diego. He is 58.

My Analysis:

Colombia has coastlines on the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, so the rhyme being about the mariner could be significant of the seafaring culture in these regions in Colombia. However, based on my informant’s understanding, this is a predominately linguistic training exercise. Spanish pronunciation of “r” requires the rolling of the tongue, which is a skill that requires practice at a young age to achieve properly. This rhyme has a lot of “r’s” in it to help kids acquire this skill. The progressive speeding up of the rhyme enables players to practice making the noise faster. Clapping helps children with coordination.

To see this done in practice, see this Youtube video: Solis, Maru. “Marinero Que Se Fue a La Mar…” YouTube, YouTube, 29 Sept. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXpsCJqf6n0&feature=youtu.be.

Soren Banjomus

Skillema-dinke-dinke-du, skillema-dinke-du!
Hør på Søren Banjomus, han spiller nemlig nu.
Skillema-dinke-dinke-du, skillema-dinke-du!
Kom og syng og dans med os, det syn’s vi, at I sku’.
Vi glæder os til juleaften, så bli’r træet tændt,
og vi får fine julegaver, ih! hvor er vi spændt.
Skillema-dinke-dinke-du, skillema-dinke-du!
Bar’ det altså snart var nu.

Interviewer: What is being performed?


Informant: A Danish Folksong Soren Banjomus by Jens Sweeney


Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where     or who did you learn it from?


Informant: From my mother. It’s a Christmas Carol about singing and dancing in the joy of Christmas.


Interviewer: What country and what region of that country are you from?


Informant: West Jutland


Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?


Informant: Danish heritage


Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?


Informant: Christmas time. From my first memory.


Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?


Informant: It’s a Danish children’s song, sung on Christmas.


Interviewer: What does it mean to you?


Informant: Home, Family, Warmth, Love, Joy


Context of the performance-  conversation with a classmate


      Thoughts about the piece-  If you listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hasJBmVzt-U you may find that you recognize it. I thought it was a preschool nonsense song that I learned as a child from Barney (the purple dinosaur) “Skidamarink a dink a dink, Skidamarink ado, I love you.”  It turns out that the Danish was actually adapted from an American Broadway musical from 1910!

Waltzing Matilda

Once a jolly swagman camped out by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang and he sang as he waited by the billabong:
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?”

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me
And he sang and he sang as he waited by the billabong:
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Waltzing Matilda is a famous Australian folksong from the outback about a workman sitting by the riverbed. This version from the informant is much shorter than some other versions. However, this change is what makes it folklore. The song was “originally” written by A.B. Patterson, but since then it has been appropriated by may people and turned into a folksong. The song is held dearly in Australia. They have even created a Waltzing Matilda Centre and a Waltzing Matilda day. (http://www.matildacentre.com.au) I found another longer version of the song on this website as well, at http://www.matildacentre.com.au/the-song.

The informant learned this Australian folksong back home in primary school and when growing up. He can’t remember the first time he heard it. However, this shorter version is all he remembers. When he moved to America, he brought this folksong with him and taught it to his children and wife. Thus, he spread the song across the globe. The informant says that the song means a lot to him, because it reminds him of his home and his heritage. There isn’t much in America that celebrates Australian culture, so little ditties like this one serve to reaffirm his Australian roots. Furthermore, he says that the song is pleasant to sing and to listen to. It has a cheerful tone.

I also like this song, and I have heard it before. It’s fun to sing. I looked up the song online and was surprised to find the the real meaning is not about a man by a river singing to his lover, Matilda, like I originally thought. Instead, Matilda refers to a specific type of bag, and the song is about a man who hunts a sheep and then drowns himself to avoid being arrested. (http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/3530822107858856415/) However, I still like the song and it still reminds me of my ties to Australia. There are people who assert that the song is a protest song against the law, and others who believe that it is just a song with a sad narrative. I think it could probably be both, because even if it wasn’t written with protest in mind, people could still appropriate it as a song of protest. I also think it’s interesting that such a sad and graphic song is regarded so highly by the Australian population. It shows the power of romantic nationalism.