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Origins: Kumbaya

Related threads:
(origins) Lyr Add: Come By Yuh (Spiritual) (18)
Holding hands and singing 'Kumbaya' (55)
Why is Kumbaya a dirty word? (115)
(origins) Composer: Kumb Bah Yah (19)
Lyr Req: Kumbaya / Kum Ba Yah (10)


acorreia@if.usp.br 22 May 98 - 08:27 PM
wolfz 23 May 98 - 01:32 AM
Bruce O. 23 May 98 - 02:36 PM
Chet W. 23 May 98 - 07:33 PM
Peter Jeffery 18 Nov 98 - 09:32 PM
Joe Offer 19 Nov 98 - 12:01 AM
Paula Chavez 19 Nov 98 - 11:34 AM
Allan S. 19 Nov 98 - 11:18 PM
Ethereal Purple 06 Dec 03 - 11:50 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 06 Dec 03 - 11:57 AM
Ethereal Purple 06 Dec 03 - 12:06 PM
jaze 06 Dec 03 - 01:16 PM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 06 Dec 03 - 01:33 PM
Q 06 Dec 03 - 02:12 PM
Dave the Gnome 06 Dec 03 - 03:31 PM
Tattie Bogle 06 Dec 03 - 08:16 PM
Joe Offer 07 Dec 03 - 12:09 PM
GUEST 07 Dec 03 - 12:11 PM
Q 07 Dec 03 - 01:10 PM
Kent Davis 07 Dec 03 - 10:16 PM
Q 07 Dec 03 - 10:29 PM
GUEST,Les in Chorlton 08 Dec 03 - 02:32 PM
PoppaGator 08 Dec 03 - 04:19 PM
nancyjo 08 Dec 03 - 10:03 PM
Les in Chorlton 09 Dec 03 - 03:12 PM
Bill Hahn//\\ 09 Dec 03 - 06:27 PM
DaveA 10 Dec 03 - 04:37 PM
Tattie Bogle 13 Dec 03 - 11:50 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 13 Dec 03 - 12:41 PM
Candyman(inactive) 13 Dec 03 - 01:36 PM
GUEST,Nancy King at work 13 Dec 03 - 02:00 PM
GUEST,joyce3162003@yahoo.com 02 Sep 04 - 08:27 PM
GUEST 02 Sep 04 - 08:32 PM
Uncle_DaveO 02 Sep 04 - 08:36 PM
Strollin' Johnny 03 Sep 04 - 07:33 AM
GUEST,winterbright 03 Sep 04 - 02:31 PM
Q 03 Sep 04 - 02:55 PM
Wyrd Sister 04 Sep 04 - 02:09 PM
GUEST,Azizi 04 Sep 04 - 05:17 PM
Peace 04 Sep 04 - 06:44 PM
Q 04 Sep 04 - 06:55 PM
Q 04 Sep 04 - 10:14 PM
Q 04 Sep 04 - 10:44 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 05 Sep 04 - 09:22 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 05 Sep 04 - 09:45 AM
Jeri 05 Sep 04 - 10:47 AM
Azizi 05 Sep 04 - 05:26 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 05 Sep 04 - 09:06 PM
Q 05 Sep 04 - 09:07 PM
GUEST,ruler 31 Jan 07 - 08:54 AM
Q 31 Jan 07 - 12:22 PM
Azizi 01 Feb 07 - 07:02 AM
GUEST 01 Feb 07 - 08:08 AM
Azizi 01 Feb 07 - 08:32 AM
Azizi 01 Feb 07 - 08:57 AM
Azizi 01 Feb 07 - 09:57 AM
Q 01 Feb 07 - 03:43 PM
Stilly River Sage 17 Apr 07 - 10:28 AM
Q 17 Apr 07 - 12:50 PM
Stilly River Sage 17 Apr 07 - 04:52 PM
Q 17 Apr 07 - 05:50 PM
pirandello 17 Apr 07 - 06:06 PM
Mr Happy 30 Apr 07 - 08:29 PM
Richie 17 Jun 07 - 07:20 PM
Q 17 Jun 07 - 07:45 PM
Stringsinger 17 Jun 07 - 07:47 PM
guitar 18 Jun 07 - 01:42 AM
Q 18 Jun 07 - 01:34 PM
GUEST,me 10 May 08 - 12:38 PM
Big Al Whittle 10 May 08 - 01:32 PM
GUEST,Nerd 11 May 08 - 01:32 PM
Nerd 12 May 08 - 11:33 AM
kendall 20 Sep 08 - 07:29 AM
Tattie Bogle 20 Sep 08 - 03:31 PM
GUEST 16 Nov 08 - 03:41 PM
Art Thieme 16 Nov 08 - 09:18 PM
Q 16 Nov 08 - 09:28 PM
GUEST 15 Dec 08 - 08:52 AM
Q 15 Dec 08 - 02:03 PM
Nerd 15 Dec 08 - 04:48 PM
Q 15 Dec 08 - 07:17 PM
Nerd 16 Dec 08 - 11:35 AM
Q 16 Dec 08 - 01:22 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 16 Dec 08 - 01:46 PM
Nerd 16 Dec 08 - 01:52 PM
Joe Offer 16 Dec 08 - 02:13 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 16 Dec 08 - 02:21 PM
Q 16 Dec 08 - 03:03 PM
Nerd 16 Dec 08 - 03:20 PM
goatfell 19 May 09 - 04:22 AM
Leadbelly 19 May 09 - 02:42 PM
Q 19 May 09 - 02:58 PM
GUEST,Luis 11 Jan 11 - 11:48 AM
Q 11 Jan 11 - 01:28 PM
GUEST 27 Jul 11 - 10:35 PM
Beer 27 Jul 11 - 10:56 PM
GUEST,Moses 09 Aug 11 - 01:09 PM
GUEST,Moses 09 Aug 11 - 01:25 PM
Azizi 21 Jan 12 - 10:55 AM
GUEST,Nopina 01 Oct 14 - 01:36 AM
GUEST,Nopina 01 Oct 14 - 02:02 AM
GUEST,Nopina 01 Oct 14 - 02:19 AM
GUEST,Nopina 01 Oct 14 - 02:20 AM
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Subject: Origin of "Kum-ba-ya"
From: acorreia@if.usp.br
Date: 22 May 98 - 08:27 PM

Hi, there. I'm trying to find out what is the origin of the word "Kum-ba-ya". I heard someone saying it was after the name of a god in afro-american culture, but others say it's just a distortion of "Come by here". Could it be a combination of the two things?

Any help is welcome. Please answer directly to me.

Thanks,

Alex Correia - Brazil


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Subject: RE: Origin of Kumbaya
From: wolfz
Date: 23 May 98 - 01:32 AM

I asked a friend of mine that teaches Afro-American history and music and was told that this song was introduced to African tribes by missionaries and was translated into the African languages. This was the version that was easiest to sing by English-speaking people.


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Subject: RE: Origin of
From: Bruce O.
Date: 23 May 98 - 02:36 PM

I don't now remember the details, but I was told that the missionaries got the song from a 'Campfire Songs' type booklet used in the U.S. at religion-based retreats. [Joe Hickerson of the Library of Congress Folklore Archive has the details. He's retiring on July 3.]


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Subject: RE: Origin of
From: Chet W.
Date: 23 May 98 - 07:33 PM

It's quite possible that the song was created solely to torture and humiliate Baptist young people (of which I was one). Back in the sixties you could not go to a camp or a picnic in my community without somebody whipping out an instrument and starting "Kum Ba Ya". Seriously, though, if it is a distortion of the English words "Come By Here" I'd bet that it started somewhere on this side of the Atlantic. Reminds me a lot of the Gullah dialect spoken in many communities here on the coast(s) of South Carolina and Georgia. And of course there are quite a few old hymns and spirituals that contain "Come by Here" or "Jesus Won't you come by Here."

Good luck, Chet W.


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Subject: Kumbayah
From: Peter Jeffery
Date: 18 Nov 98 - 09:32 PM

Anybody know the real story of the song Kumbayah? It's always presented as Zulu, or Gullah, or Pidgin, in origin. Was it really written in the Brill Building? Anybody know?

pj


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Subject: RE: Origin of Kumbaya
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Nov 98 - 12:01 AM

Here's what's said in the Folk Song Abecedary (James F. Leisy, Hawthorn Books, 1966):
There is a widely circulated theory that this song was based on the words "come by here" as Africans attempted to imitate these words spoken by missionaries. In any event, this fragmentary song became traditional in Africa, where it was "found" and brought to America, to become part of our tradition. As the world gets smaller and cultures mix, more of this tradition swapping is bound to take place.
The words are pronounced
koom bah yah, and the song is usually sung very slowly and with dignity. Many people use the English words "come by here" instead. New verses are constantly being coined. A few examples are shown here. The chorus may be repeated after each verse.

    Kum ba ya, my Lord, Kum ba ya.
    Kum ba ya, my Lord, Kum ba ya.
    Kum ba ya, my Lord, Kum ba ya.
    Oh, Lord, Kum ba ya.

    Someone's singing, Lord, etc....

    Someone's praying...

    Someone's hoping...
The only theory I found that was printed on actual paper was the one above, but I've also heard that the song was gullah, taken over to Africa by American missionaries, and then brought back as a so-called "authentic" African song. Whatever the case, it seems to be as good a case of misinterpretation and misunderstanding as you'll ever find in folk music. There are so many theories that it's doubtful that anyone could ever find out the truth.

Do I like the song? No comment.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Kumbayah
From: Paula Chavez
Date: 19 Nov 98 - 11:34 AM

Good Lord, does this bring back long-ago memories of playing in the guitar Mass every Sunday.

We ALWAYS sang Kum ba yah during Communion, over and over until everyone was back in their pews. We used to roll our eyes at each other when we sang the "Someone's dying, Lord" verse. How on earth an African folk song found its way to St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in San Diego, I'll never know, but once it arrived it became a fixture. For years afterward I dreamed of endless (C)(F)(G7) runs.

Peter, thanks (I think) for bringing back it all back to me.

-Paula


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Subject: RE: Kumbayah
From: Allan S.
Date: 19 Nov 98 - 11:18 PM

My Afrikaans Dictionary as follows Come=Kom Bye=By Here=hier As Afrikaans is a mix of Plat Duits [German] English, And words from many native languages anything is possible As I am not fluent in Die Taal I am not sure. I could write to friends in South Africa but it would take some to get an answer. Can give it a try. Tot Seins Allan S.


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Subject: Kumbaya
From: Ethereal Purple
Date: 06 Dec 03 - 11:50 AM

Does anyone here like Kumbaya?... no one seems to! I love that song. Especially when it's sung by Joan Baez. But then I love most of what's sung by her :-). Oh, especially her version of Guthrie's 'Hobo's Lullaby'... I'm quite obsessed right now.

Oh - is it Kumbaya or Kumbayah? And does it mean 'come by here'?


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 06 Dec 03 - 11:57 AM

This song is still sung in black churches... probably in folk Masses, too. It got WAY too oversung over here. For me, it falls into the category of Jingle Bell Rock and It's A Small World After All. The question eventually isn't whether a song is "good" or not... more a question of whether you can stand to hear it anymore. Tie someone in a chair with a pair of headphones and make them listen to endless repetitions of Mony Mony and you'd get the same effect...

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Ethereal Purple
Date: 06 Dec 03 - 12:06 PM

lol.

Yeah - well, I heard it for the first time a month or so ago :-). But then, here in India - even 'It's a Small World After All' isn't oversung. Hmm... maybe it is - but only in our school.


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: jaze
Date: 06 Dec 03 - 01:16 PM

It gained the reputation of being an oversung folkie staple. But one rarely hears it now. I enjoy hearing it now and then. I like Joan Baez' version,too.


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 06 Dec 03 - 01:33 PM

And it's a song that has room for really wonderful harmonies that can take the edge off the over-familiarity.
I haven't sung it in years; maybe it's time to dust it off, for my school kiddies, at least.
Allison


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 06 Dec 03 - 02:12 PM

Kom bye (variant spellings) in Afrikaans means come here. Mentioned in a previous thread somewhere.
I don't believe that the origin of the song has been documented here. Unknown in South Africa prior to the Seegar-Terry song?


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 06 Dec 03 - 03:31 PM

My Daughter in Law made her singing debut at our folk club a few weeks ago with Kumbaya - Went down a bomb! I still enjoy listening to it every now and again. After all, no matter how often it is sung, a good song is always a good song:-)

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 06 Dec 03 - 08:16 PM

Also used to be a camp-fire song when I was in the Girl Guides: could that also be because of the Baden-Powell: S Africa connection or just that I was a Guide in the 60's when Joan Baez's version was popular?


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Subject: RE: Origin of Kumbayah
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Dec 03 - 12:09 PM

Hmmm. I wouldn't think there would be a Baden-Powell connection. This is one of those basic differences betweek the male and the female of the species. No self-respecting Boy Scout would sing kumbaya - unless it was done in in an attempt to impress a woman.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Dec 03 - 12:11 PM

Hobo's Lullaby was written by Goebel Reeves. Arlo sings it well too.


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 07 Dec 03 - 01:10 PM

Thanks, Joe, for putting the thread with the composer of "Kumbaya" (Martin V. Frey, 1957 and other copyrights) at the top. Kum* works but somehow I missed it. Written by him in the 1930s?

Did it became so popular that it need not be put in the DT? Perhaps the lyrics and chords given in Rise Up Singing should be put in the DT with credit to the author.

Whose versions sold the most recordings? I've got Baez stuck away somewhere, but others must have been big sellers as well. I know there was Peter, Paul and Mary, and .....? Did the Smothers Brothers make a parody or was that just an old TV episode that I vaguely remember?


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Kent Davis
Date: 07 Dec 03 - 10:16 PM

According to Cecil Adams of "Straight Dope" fame, both the song and the word "Kumbaya" came from the Gullah people of the South Carolina Sea Islands. The song was then carried to Angola by missionaries and later carried back from Angola by other missionaries (who apparently thought it had originated in Angola).
Gullah is a dialect of English, which explains the coincidence that "Kumbaya" sounds so much like its translation "Come by here".
(Enter "Kumbaya Gullah" on Google for more.)


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 07 Dec 03 - 10:29 PM

Lots of fakelore about Kumbaya. Very difficult to sort out, but there is no evidence of the song in Sea Islands collections, and only late anecdotal evidence of it being transmitted by missionaries.


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: GUEST,Les in Chorlton
Date: 08 Dec 03 - 02:32 PM

"No self-respecting Boy Scout would sing kumbaya - unless it was done in in an attempt to impress a woman".

This stirred a very deep memory for me. Something to do with guides and nurses,songs and the effect of being able to play 2 chords and groan a bit.

Don't knock Kumbaya, it was ok and very useful for a yoof moving from grunting to joined up words in the presence of young women!


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: PoppaGator
Date: 08 Dec 03 - 04:19 PM

I'd much rather hear Joan Baez sing "Kumbayah" than "The Night They Drove Old Dixe Down"!


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: nancyjo
Date: 08 Dec 03 - 10:03 PM

Personally, I like the version by Geoffrey the Toys R Us giraffe. Have you seen the commercial? They're in sleeping bags, only Geoffrey's is so long it doesn't all fit on the tv screen. The other's are trying to go to sleep and he starts singing something like "someone wants to play, Kumbaya". Cracks me up.

nancyjo


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 09 Dec 03 - 03:12 PM

Has the sexual tension has gone out of this thread?


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Bill Hahn//\\
Date: 09 Dec 03 - 06:27 PM

Jerry r. is right---probably over played. Just today I was doing some shopping--super market, Comp USA, ==then lunch in a Chinese Restaurant.    I was happy to leave and get in my car and turn the radio OFF. How many more Jingle Bells Rock, etc; can one bear?   I guess when I was 10 I felt differently---but the season also seemed different.

Reminscence: You could play with the electric trains at Macys, you went to stores and not malls. Tom Lehrer had it right in his A Christmas Carol----listen to the song.

Bill Hahn


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: DaveA
Date: 10 Dec 03 - 04:37 PM

I guess we can be a bit patronising from a distance, but I still remember discovering Joan Baez in Concert II in 1962 & feeling goosebumps as she sang Kumbaya. Yes, I did play it over & over (along with Danger Waters & What Have They Done to the Rain & Matty Groves) & yes my parents freaked & christened her "Moaning Joan" & certainly performance & production standards have changed over 40 odd years.
But, IMHO, that was THE seminal folk album of the early 60s & Kumbaya was the standout song. So I remember it fondly for the impact it had on me and revisit it now & again for nostalgic rather than musical reasons.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 13 Dec 03 - 11:50 AM

Hear, hear to that! Well said, Dave! Don't let the cynics drive you down! (to Dixie or anywhere else!!) I've got a ticket to see her in Celtic Connections! Wonder if she'll sing Kumbaya then??


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 13 Dec 03 - 12:41 PM

I'm not being cynical... there are songs I'VE written that I'm, sick of... maybe it's time for a new thread..

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Candyman(inactive)
Date: 13 Dec 03 - 01:36 PM

Especially when it's sung by Joan Baez. But then I love most of what's sung by her :-). Oh, especially her version of Guthrie's 'Hobo's Lullaby'... I'm quite obsessed right now.

Just for the record, "Hobo's Lullaby," said to be Woody Guthrie's favorite song, was written by Goebel Reeves.

As for "Kumbaya," it is a lovely song, especially when being sung by a roomful of people.


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: GUEST,Nancy King at work
Date: 13 Dec 03 - 02:00 PM

I seem to recall from thirty-odd years ago that "Kumbaya" makes a wonderful lullabye! Maybe that's why my kids grew up to love folk music....

Cheers, Nancy


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Subject: RE: Songs whose emphasis or meaning changed
From: GUEST,joyce3162003@yahoo.com
Date: 02 Sep 04 - 08:27 PM

I want to know do kum ba yah mean come by here


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Subject: RE: Songs whose emphasis or meaning changed
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Sep 04 - 08:32 PM

no, it do'nt.


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Subject: RE: Songs whose emphasis or meaning changed
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 02 Sep 04 - 08:36 PM

So what do it?


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Strollin' Johnny
Date: 03 Sep 04 - 07:33 AM

And does anyone really care? It's a bloody awful dirge anyway. IMN-S-HO.
:0)


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: GUEST,winterbright
Date: 03 Sep 04 - 02:31 PM

I never objected to the song, but a year or two ago I heard Nick Page, a Unitarian Universalist song leader and music teacher BELT it out like you ain't never heard it before. That version, I LOVED!!!!!


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 03 Sep 04 - 02:55 PM

Guest Joyce, the word comes from the Afrikaans kum bye (var. spellings) which means come here (posted somewhere above). Much fakelore about this song.


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Wyrd Sister
Date: 04 Sep 04 - 02:09 PM

A comment for those brought up in the north of England, working-class style: a little boy at school would always sing "Come back yard milord..."


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: GUEST,Azizi
Date: 04 Sep 04 - 05:17 PM

I am a guest of your site and polite guests are supposed to ignore any crap they see or smell, but it makes me puke to read the comments that the song Kumbaya comes from Africaaners,the same people that brought us apartheid.

As a non-Gullah African American, I stand by the position that this spiritual is from the Gullah traditions and means "Come by here".

We {African Americans} need to be better at protecting our heritage from well meaning misstatements and conscious theft.

That being said, I do like reading posts here and am learning more about folk music in the United States and across the Atlantic.

However, it doesn't appear to be very many African Americans or other people of color posting here.

Sometimes race and ethnicity does matter.


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Peace
Date: 04 Sep 04 - 06:44 PM

"According to Cecil Adams of "Straight Dope" fame, both the song and the word "Kumbaya" came from the Gullah people of the South Carolina Sea Islands."

I had heard this or something a whole lot like it about 'Michael rowed the boat ashore'.


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 04 Sep 04 - 06:55 PM

Written as the gospel song "Come by Here" ca. 1930 by Marvin V. Frey, who is not Gullah. Possibly taken to southern Africa by missionaries, but no proof of this. How it acquired the translated name 'Kumbaya' is uncertain. Either from the missionaries or possibly Pete Seeger during a trip he made to South Africa.
'Kumbaya" is possibly a word in one of the Angolan indigenous languages but there are similar words in Afrikaans: kom=come; by or na =near or beside. Where or how the migrated song was picked up in southern Africa remains uncertain.

No evidence of the song before Frey's text.


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 04 Sep 04 - 10:14 PM

Another guess at origin in "The Joan Baez Songbook," Amsco (1964, 1989): "...this song had to travel to foreign lands and be brought back to us before it achieved its rightful place in our songlore. It started as a Negro gospel song, "Come By Here, Lord," was exported to the West Indies where it was rephrased in 'pidgin-English' as 'Kumbaya,' and returned to the United States where it is now a great favorite..." Was Marvin V. Frey African-American? He wrote other religious songs that may be found via Google.
"Joan Baez Songbook," pp. 130-131 with music and chords.

Marvin Frey, composer of 'Kum Ba Ya' [Come By Here, Lord] died in 1992 of heart failure in North Tarrytown, NY. He had composed over 2000 songs of faith according to an article in Time Magazine.

Pete Seeger has a different story. "...in the Library of Congress they played a recording for me of that song sung in 1920. Marvin Frey made up the slow version about 1936-1937. He taught it to a family of missionaries that was going to Angola and there they changed 'come by here' to Kumbaya, the African pronunciation [Note- there are several linguistic groups in Angola and it is entirely possible that a 'pidgin' was used, possibly incorporating some Afrikaans words from the then Southwest Africa to the south]. Then it was brought back here." SEEGER
It is not clear whether Seeger is referring to the music or to the lyrics in what he heard at the Library of Congress. I can't find anything that seems like it in American Memory. Closest I can find is "Come Lord Jesus," by Root, but not likely.
Chorus: Come, come, Lord Jesus;
Born to set thy people free...'

It seems to me that the S. Af. story of Seeger's came later.


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 04 Sep 04 - 10:44 PM

Correction- I can't find any record of Pete Seeger visiting South Africa. He performed in aid of composers from there, and translated "Mbube."


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 05 Sep 04 - 09:22 AM

Azizi: Glad to see you posting here. It is true that there are very few (if any) blacks who post on Mudcat. That says less about the interest of white folks in here in black music (because the interest is very high) than it does about the lack of interest of black folks in America in black folk music and blues. I'm kinda checkerboard on this. I have a black gospel quartet and sing in a black Men's Gospel Chorus in church but am white and of Danish descent. My wife is black, and so is half of my family, now.

A few weeks ago, I had a very exciting weekend when my wife's grandaughter and her fiance stayed with us. He is a young black minister from the south who is spiritually on fire, and has a great desire to learn more about music. When he told me that he loves blues, I started mentioning names like Mississippi John Hurt (because the young man is from Mississippi), Reverend Gary Davis and Leadbelly and he had heard of none of them. He had never heard of Robert Johnson, even though just about every white kid in America and England in the 60's and 70's was familiar with his name, if not his music, through performers like Eric Clapton. Now, I'm introducing him to his "roots." In the meantime, I'm trying to find more Scandinavian music to become more familiar with my family hostory's roots.

Songs like Kumbaya (when not played as background music over the speakers in the mall) are finding their way back into the black churches. There is a wonderful new hymnal, African American Heritage Hymnal published by GIA pulbications out of Chicago which has become a regularly used hymnal in the black church my wife and I attend. When the choirs and congregation sing Kumbaya, it takes on a different life.

Anyway, Azizi, why not become a member of Mudcat. We could use your thoughts and perspectives. I'm the only white male member of a church of over 1,500 black members and I feel right at home there. I think you'd find yourself right at home in here.

My gospel quartet will be singing at the NOMAD festival in New Haven in November, and I know we will once again be warmly greeted there.
The three other members of my quartet are black... two grew up in the south, and formed their musical tastes singing in black churches, listening to blues and jump tunes in juke joints, listening to stories from family members who were freed slaves, and listening every week to the Grand Ole Opry. They love bluegrass and old-time music, just as I love black gospel. The third member is from Kingston, Jamaica and has his own reggae band.

Music can transcend all artificial boundaries that man creates.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 05 Sep 04 - 09:45 AM

And by the by:

Kumbaya is in the African American Hymnal as Kum Ba Yah with lyrics credited to Marvin V. Frey. Unfortunately, there is no commentary on the background of the song.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Jeri
Date: 05 Sep 04 - 10:47 AM

Azizi, I also hope you hang around and post from your perspective.

There are the origins of songs, and then there are where they end up. A couple I can think of that are usually known because white folks sing them, but got from black folks are 'Michael Row the Boat Ashore' and 'Sloop John B'. Song origins are interesting to know about, but I think songs 'belong' to whoever sings them. It's good that the songs are kept alive, but I wonder how they sounded when previous caretakers sang them. I hope they still do, but it seems increasingly rare to hear about people who sing songs they learned in and from their own communities.

Songs' journeys are interesting, as is the way people adapt them to fit their musical style. Heard a heck of a version of 'Amazing Grace', which was call-and-response, and it was syncopated. Someone had heard it in a southern African American church and remembered.

As to dissing the song, yeah, Kumbaya was mandatory material for small children at camps accross the US. I wonder if we don't sing it very often now simply because it seems everybody knows it. Every once in a while, somebody will start it at a folk festival, and the harmonies are grand and glorious, and it's a powerful song.


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Azizi
Date: 05 Sep 04 - 05:26 PM

Thanks for the invite Jerry and Jerri. As you see I have joined the club!

I'm not obsessed with the origins of Kumbaya but I will add that it is composed using common African American characteristics such as repetition, and short 4 line open ended verses such as someone's weeping/praying/singing/shouting etc etc etc.) Also see yourDictionary.com which states that Kumbayah started in the 1920s as a Gullah spiritual song. However, that website also states that the Uncle Remus tales was written in Gullah language, and I'm not sure that's true.

Regarding the need for more African Americans to embrace blues, jazz and other folk music..true true.

While my primary interest is in children's game song, rhymes, and cheers and United States secular slave songs, I am very interested in helping to raise awareness about other Black music genres.

I also love to learn about other musical genres in the USA and elsewhere.

I learned about this website two years ago from someone named Frank, I believe, who visited my website www.cocojams.com because I had included an example of Jim Along Josie. I wasn't ready to join Mudcat then but I have told others about your site and will continue to do so.


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 05 Sep 04 - 09:06 PM

I can't add anything about the history of Kumbaya, but like much good music, it's no surprise to me that it would cross back and forth across the ocean. When my wife and I were in Africa three years ago, it shouldn't have been a surprise to hear such wonderful reggae as we did. Jamaican reggae crossed the ocean back to the Mother land where it was embraced and claimed as a music that could speak directly to African problems. Now, Africa has a very rich heritage of reggae music all its own.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 05 Sep 04 - 09:07 PM

Hi, Azizi. Long ago I was Frank.
I would like to get correct information on Kumbaya aka Come by Here, Lord. I have posted the information 'as I know it' but that, of course, is not the last word. Some of the singers of Seeger's time, I think, have put their own spin on the song.

Does anyone have a means of finding out about the song Pete Seeger supposedly heard at the Library of Congress, on a 1920 recording? It may be one of those songs with the same form (look at all the attempts to compare "Amazing Grace" with some Irish melody or another) but really unrelated- or it may be a clue to the origin.
As it stands, we know nothing earlier than the remake of the Marvin V. Frey gospel tune, which has not been posted. Does anyone know it?

"Michael Row the Boat" was sung by the boatmen in the Beaufort-Sea Islands area, and some 29 verses were noted by Allen in 1867. Unfortunately, the DT has an abbreviated representation and its origin with the black freemen and slaves of the Coast is not credited. It is likely new verses were added with each trip. See threads 31019 and 39335.
Michael
Michael


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: GUEST,ruler
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 08:54 AM

Just to add my 10 pennorth.

I was under the impression that Kumbayah was from the South Welsh dialectual phrase "come by yer" - still used in South Wales/West of England.

Yer, is a prevelant form for here in the South Welsh dialect (some speakers use "hyer" - not too sure of the cross-over point) and in the Gloucestershire, and Forest of Dean dialect:

"yer t'is" - here it is.

is there any evidence to suggest that the writer was South Welsh? the phrase "Come by here" is not natural English, but is certainly a good Celtic [I am referring to the language family]construction.

Is kom bye natural Afrikaans? I understood the equivalent Dutch phrase to be kom op hier, which ruins the kumbayah sound altogether. I am aware that Afrikaans is a distinctly different language to Dutch, although ultimately derived from that language. Perhaps someone else can shed some light on the matter.

Likewise, Azizi, is Kum ba yah natural Gullah use? Would the additional preposition be added to the pronoun in that language, or, if the language is based on English, would not the useage be different?

Regards

Steve.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 12:22 PM

No one has come up with lyrics for the 1957 copyright Frey gospel song. Anyone have it or a source for it?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Azizi
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 07:02 AM

Steve, I wish I were a scholar or researcher with sufficient knowledge and skills that I would be able to answer your question. But I'm not. Maybe I'll be that [plus a singer and a dancer and more in another life :o)

But here are some excerpts from online resources on the Gullah language which I found:

"The Gullah language is a creole language spoken by the Gullah people (also called "Geechees"), an African American population living on the Sea Islands and the coastal region of the U.S. states of South Carolina and Georgia.

Gullah is based on English, with strong influences from West and Central African languages such as Mandinka, Wolof, Bambara, Fula, Mende, Vai, Akan, Ewe, Kongo, Umbundu, and Kimbundu...

In the 1930s and 1940s an African American linguist named Lorenzo Dow Turner did a seminal study of the Gullah language. Turner found that Gullah is strongly influenced by African languages in its sound system, vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, and semantic system. Turner identified over 300 loanwords from various African languages in Gullah and almost 4,000 African personal names used by Gullah people. He also found Gullahs living in remote sea-side settlements who could recite songs and story fragments and do simple counting in the Mende, Vai, and Fulani languages of West Africa. Turner published his findings in a classic work called Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect (1949). His book, now in its 4th edition, was most recently reprinted with a new introduction in 2002.

Before Lorenzo Turner's work, mainstream scholars viewed Gullah speech as substandard English, a hodgepodge of mispronounced words and corrupted grammar uneducated black people developed in their efforts to copy the speech of their English, Irish, Scottish, and French Hugenot slave owners. But Turner's study was so well researched and so convincingly detailed in its presentation of evidence of African influences in Gullah that academics soon reversed course. After Turner's book was published in 1949, scholars began coming to the Gullah region on a regular basis to study African influences in Gullah language and culture"...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gullah_language

-snip-

"The origin of the Gullah language is as unique as the cadence and rhythm of its sound. Slaves from the Sea Islands of South Carolina and northern Georgia were brought to America largely from different communities on the Rice Coast of West Africa. Therefore many spoke similar but distinctive languages, and in order to communicate with each other and with their owners, they combined the similarities with the English they learned to form the unique Gullah language. This process of combining different languages is called "creolization."

For years, linguists referred to the Gullah, or Geechee, language as a dialect of standard English. But in the 1940s, as African-American linguist Lorenzo Turner researched African languages, it became apparent that Gullah did indeed have its roots in Africa. According to Turner, the most noted similarities between Gullah and the languages spoken in West Africa include the use of nouns, pronouns, verbs, and tense. Almost all Gullah nouns are singular, and no distinction is made between singular or plural verbs either. These charactertistics are the same in many African languages. Also, Gullah and various African languages rarely account for when something actually happened - the present verb tense is also often used to refer to the past.
http://www.islandpacket.com/man/gullah/language.html

[this article then presents a number of Gullah words and their West African language source]

-snip-

"The Gullah language, a Creole blend of Elizabethan English and African languages, was born of necessity on Africa's slave coast, and developed in the slave communities of the isolated plantations of the coastal South. Even after the sea islands were freed in 1861, the Gullah speech flourished because access to the islands was by water only until the 1950's. Today, one hears phrases like

Come Jine We.
Ketch ob de Day
Lok Ya Wantem Shrimps
http://www.coastalguide.com/gullah/

[This is a short tourist blurp that doesn't go into detail about the language]


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 08:08 AM

This song was written by a person called Marvin Frey

And I like the song as well.

Tom


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Azizi
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 08:32 AM

Here's another online comment:

A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

What does "kumbaya" mean?

September 11, 1998

Dear Cecil:

This has probably been answered somewhere before, but I was getting my teeth drilled that day. Just what does kumbaya mean?

Cecil replies:

Oh Lord, kumbaya. Also spelled kum ba yah, cumbayah, kumbayah, and probably a few other ways. If you look in a good songbook you'll find the word helpfully translated as "come by here," with the note that the song is "from Angola, Africa." The "come by here" part I'll buy. But Angola? Someone's doubtin', Lord, for the obvious reason that kumbaya is way too close to English to have a strictly African origin. More likely, I told my assistant Jane, it comes from some African-English pidgin or creole--that is, a combination of languages. (A pidgin is a linguistic makeshift that enables two cultures to communicate for purposes of trade, etc.; a creole is a pidgin that has become a culture's primary language.) Sure enough, when we look into the matter, we find this conjecture is on the money. Someone's grinnin', Lord, kumbaya.

Kumbaya apparently originated with the Gullah, an African-American people living on the Sea Islands and adjacent coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia. (The best known Sea Island is Hilton Head, the resort area.) Having lived in isolation for hundreds of years, the Gullah speak a dialect that most native speakers of English find unintelligible on first hearing but that turns out to be heavily accented English with other stuff mixed in. The dialect appears in Joel Chandler Harris's "Uncle Remus" stories, to give you an idea what it sounds like. In the 1940s the pioneering linguist Lorenzo Turner showed that the Gullah language was actually a creole consisting of English plus a lot of words and constructions from the languages of west Africa, the Gullahs' homeland. Although long scorned as an ignorant caricature of English, Gullah is actually a language of considerable charm, with expressions like (forgive my poor attempt at expressing these phonetically) deh clin, dawn (literally "day clean"); troot mout, truthful person ("truth mouth"), and tebble tappuh, preacher ("table tapper").

And of course there's kumbayah. According to ethnomusicologist Thomas Miller, the song we know began as a Gullah spiritual. Some recordings of it were made in the 1920s, but no doubt it goes back earlier. Published versions began appearing in the 1930s. It's believed an American missionary couple taught the song to the locals in Angola, where its origins were forgotten. The song was then rediscovered in Angola and brought back here in time for the folksinging revival of the 50s and 60s. People might have thought the Gullahs talked funny, but we owe them a vote of thanks. Can you imagine sitting around the campfire singing, "Oh, Lord, come by here"?

http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a980911a.html

And here's an excerpt from "Talkin And Testifyin-The Language of Black America" {Geneva Smitherman, Wayne State University Press, 1977, pps.14, 15}:

"Our look at the history of Black English would be incomplete without attention to the special case of Gullah Creole. This dialect, also known as Geechee speech, is spoken by rural and urban blacks who live in the areas along the Atlantic coastal region of South Carolina and georgia. While some Geechees inhabit the Sea Islands along the coast, many also live around Charleston and Beufort. Most of the ancestprs of these blacks were brought direct from Nigeria, Liberia, Gambia, Sieraa Leone, and other places in West Africa where Ibo, Yoruba, Mandingo, Wolof, and other West African languages were and are still spoken. Today, Gullah people form a special Black Amerian communitiy because they have retained considerable African language and cultural patterns. Even the names Gullah and Geechee are African in origin-they refer to languages and tribes from Liberia...

In black linguist Lorenzo Turner's fifteen-year study of this dialect, he found not only fundamental African survivals in sound and syntax, but nearly 6,000 West African words used in personal names and nicknames, in songs, and stories, as well as in everyday conversation. It is important for our understanding of Black English to recognize that black speech outside of Geechee areas was undoubtedly once highly similar to Gullah and is now simply at a later stage in teh de-creolization process, For example, both Gulah and non-Gullah blacks still use the Westr African pattern of introducing the subject and repeating it with a personal pronoun. Thus, the Gullah speaker says, "De man and his wife hanging to the tree, they licked to pieces." {The man and his wife hanging to the tree, they were licked to pieces."}. The non-Gullah speaker handles the subject in the same way: "Yesterday, the whole family, they move to the West Side." On the other hand, only Gullah blacks still use the West African pattern of placing the adjective after the noun: "day clean broad". Other speakers of Black English follow the same pattern as White English speakers: "Broad daylight".

We can say, then, that contemporarary Black English looks back to an African linguistic tradition which was modified on Amerian soil. While historial records and documents reveal a good deal about the development and change of this Africanized English, there is much that the rcords don't tell us. As a former slave said, "Everything I tells you am the truth, but they's plenty I can't tell you."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Azizi
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 08:57 AM

In true full circle effect, I found this online column http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2006/08/someones_dissin.html [Eric Zorn; Change of Subject
A Chicago Tribune Web log; Originally posted: August 31, 2006]
that references this Mudcat thread as having the best online discussion of the origins of Kumbayah.

{On behalf of the other posters to this thread, "Thanks for the shout out, Eric!]

Here's an excerpt from that article:
    "Someone's dissin', Lord, kumbaya

    Poor "Kumbaya."

    Its title has become synonymous with sappy, saccharine naiveté and peace-`n'-love, all-join-hands Pollyannaism that afflicts the starry-eyed. I've used the metaphor myself, even though I know it's a cliché that unfairly maligns a stirring and storied piece of music.

    "Kumbaya" - also commonly spelled "Kumbayah" and "Kum-Ba-Yah"- is a glorious song, really. That's how it got popular enough to become a cliché in the first place.

    The stately melody invites harmonies and is as simple as the words to the refrain: "Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya" repeated three times. Then "Oh, Lord, Kumbaya."

    Its origins are in dispute. Some folk historians say it started as "Come By Here," a 1930s-era composition by New York City clergyman Martin Frey. Missionaries took it to Africa, where natives pronounced the title, "Kum Ba Yah."

    Others say the song originated far earlier among the Gullah people-- African-Americans living in the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia-and that "Kum Ba Yah" is "Come By Here" in their dialect.

    Either way, the song had cross-cultural bonafides that lifted it out of the ordinary when it appeared on the scene during the folk boom of the 1950s and 1960s.   It's gentle call for divine presence struck a spiritual but non-sectarian tone.

    The Weavers, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger and many others covered "Kumbaya," and it turned out to be perfect for campfires, hootenannies and guitar masses (giving rise to the expression, "Kumbaya Catholics"). Perhaps too perfect.

    Chicago folklorist Paul Tyler says that the song "became banal at the hands of non-African-American camp counselors and church youth workers--include me in that number--who stripped it of any rhythmic integrity." (more from Tyler below)

    The stately melody turned into vanilla dirge. And, in the backlash, "Kumbaya" came to represent shallow goodwill based on nothing more profound than the humdrum participles that differentiate the verses ("someone's sleeping, Lord..." "someone's praying, Lord..." and so on)...

    [Pete Seeger interview cited]:

    The man who wrote "Kumbaya my lord, Kumbaya," thought he wrote that until the day he died, he was sure he wrote it. He was very proud that African-Americans had speeded up his song and they liked to sing

    "Come by here my lord
    Come by here
    Oh Lord, Come by here."

    However, in the Library of Congress they played a recording for me of that song sung in 1920. Marvin Frey made up the slow version about 1936 or 37. He taught it to a family of missionaries that was going to Angola, and there they changed 'come by here' to Kumbaya,' the African pronunciation. Then it was brought back here." ...
    -snip-

That online Chicago Tribune column starts with a link to this Youtube clip of a TV commercial for Bazooka bubble gum which began airing in August 2006:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XId0KW9Uy0U&eurl=

Here is Eric Zorn's description of that tv commercial/YouTube:
    Smarmy, 20-ish bearded dude with hair down to his shoulders, wearing a tie-dye T-shirt and head scarf and sitting at a campfire with a guitar on his knee: Hi kids, welcome to Camp Chippewa. And let's all sing "Kumbaya."

    Contemptuous campers, rhythmically: We don't want no "Kumbaya," All we want is bubble-gum! Bazooka-zooka bubble gum.

    The Heights, a rap group, suddenly appearing: Bubble-gum! Bazooka-zooka bubble gum! Some gum!"


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Azizi
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 09:57 AM

Correction: the name of Geneva Smitherman's book is "Talkin And Testifyin-The Language of Black America"


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 03:43 PM

Several attempts with various combinations for 'come by here,' 'my Lord,' etc., have turned up no 1920s recording in the Library of Congress Online Catalogue.
Can anyone give a specific reference?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 17 Apr 07 - 10:28 AM

There was a brief remark in the early posts of this thread about the Uncle Remus stories. While Joel Chandler Harris (apparently) collected the stories and published them as his own (I say this off the top of my head, without having delved back into this subject for a long time) there are several possible origins to consider. The Choctaw nation from Mississippi have a strong claim on those trickster stories. The Trail of Tears swept up many southeastern tribes during that relocation to the Oklahoma Territory, and as with some of the Cherokee who vanished deep into the mountains to avoid removal, many Choctaw disappeared into the bayous and swamps to eek out very modest lives, commingled with escaped slaves. Only in later years did the Oklahoma branches of those tribes (to name only two of the many who were moved) make a effort to formally reconnect with the home territory. Stories and cultures mingled, and given a little time, I can pull up some citations to offer as a starting point for anyone wanting to pursue this subject further. (I touched on this in my master's thesis on American Indian literature, so the sources aren't too difficult to dig out.)

The point being, that songs, like stories, have legs, and they move around. Recognizing them in their various versions is one of the delights of scholarship.

I opened this thread because I wanted to see what Azizi's first post at Mudcat looked like, in the context of a different discussion. Such is the way with Mudcat threads--they suck you in!

SRS


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 17 Apr 07 - 12:50 PM

Joel Chandler Harris amply gave credit for the source of the stories he published. In his introductions to the volumes, he noted the studies of African, European, and American Indian stories made by others, and drew parallels. He did draw the tales together and invented Uncle Remus in order to present them in a form that the reading public would accept.

In his Introduction to the first volume, "Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings," 1880, the first paragraph states, ".... With respect to the Folk-Lore series, my purpose has been to preserve the legends in their original simplicity, and to wed them permanently to the quaint dialect- if, indeed, it can be called a dialect- through the medium of which they have become a part of the domestic history of every Southern family; and I have endeavored to give to the whole a genuine flavor of the old plantation.
"Each legend has its variants, but in every instance I have retained that particular version which seemed to me to be the most characteristic, and have given it without embellishment and without exaggeration. ..... Nevertheless, if the language of Uncle Remus fails to give vivid hints of the really poetic imagination of the Negro; if it fails to embody the quaint and homely humor which was his most prominent characteristic; if it does not suggest a certain picturesque sensitiveness- a curious exaltation of mind and temperament not to be defined by words- then I have reproduced the form of the dialect merely, and not the essence, and my attempt may be accounted a failure. At any rate, I trust I have been successful in presenting what may be, at least to a large proportion of American readers, a new and by no means unattractive phase of Negro character-...." :

He goes on to speak of the work of "Professor J. W. Powell, of the Smithsonian Institution, who is engaged in an investigation of the mythology of the North American Indians,...." and notes the appearance of similar tales among the Indians, and even notes a study of tales from Siam.

Harris was, and remains, one of the founders of American Folklore studies. An amateur, but his journalist training was ample to the task.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 17 Apr 07 - 04:52 PM

That's interesting. I haven't seen a copy of the original, I've only read reproductions of the shortened stories in children's books or anthologies without any attribution. And it seems that there are N.A. authors who have responded to some version or other without reference to the remarks you cite.

Ah, well. Another trip to the library one of these days, or ILL, if need be. Thanks!

SRS


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 17 Apr 07 - 05:50 PM

Perhaps the best "Remus" is "The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus," compiled by Richard Chase, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1955, but even this 'better' more recent edition leaves out some material, including introductions to succeeding volumes, and some of the material itself. Somewhere I have noted this in a thread, but I am not sure which one. Introductions to the volumes may be found at http://xroads.virginia.edu/~UG97/remus/preface.html. Unfortunately, xroads has put only selections from his stories on line.

"Legends of the Old Plantation" is the original title of the first volume, cited above as "Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings."

His second volume, "Nights ...." is on line at http://www.archive.org/details/nightsuncleremus00harrich
I haven't looked further.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: pirandello
Date: 17 Apr 07 - 06:06 PM

If I never hear that bloody song again it'll be way too soon; and if there was a way of travelling back in time to ensure it never was foisted on us I'd be booking tickets.
Other than that I think it's great.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Mr Happy
Date: 30 Apr 07 - 08:29 PM

'Come by' is a command by shepherds to their dogs

http://bowlingsite.mcf.com/Border/Commands.html

maybe a connection to the song, 'the good shepherd'?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Richie
Date: 17 Jun 07 - 07:20 PM

From a 2006 newspaper article:

    How did 'Kumbaya' become a mocking metaphor?
    Sunday, November 12, 2006 By JEFFREY WEISS / The Dallas Morning News:

    What may be the best chronicle of "Kumbaya" has been written by Lum Chee-Hoo, a doctoral student in music education at the University of Washington. His article is to be published in Kodaly Envoy, a scholarly music journal.

    "I was interviewing some undergrads on camp songs they know and found out that 'Kumbaya' was top of the list, and so decided to do a little investigation," he said.

    Here's what Mr. Lum found:

    The earliest known threads of "Kumbaya" history are in Washington, D.C., at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.

    Sometime between 1922 and 1931, members of an organization called the Society for the Preservation of Spirituals collected a song from the South Carolina coast. "Come By Yuh," as they called it, was sung in Gullah, the Creole dialect spoken by the former slaves living on the Sea Islands.

    Another version was preserved on a wax cylinder in May 1936 by Robert Winslow Gordon, founder of what became the American Folklife Center. Mr. Gordon discovered a woman named Ethel Best singing "Come By Here" with a group in Raiford, Fla.

    The music and lyrics in both cases were similar, though not identical, to the modern version.

    So how could Mr. Frey, a pastor and composer, claim authorship? According to Mr. Lum, Mr. Frey said that he had been inspired by a prayer he heard delivered by "Mother Duffin," a storefront evangelist in Portland, Ore.

    Mr. Frey's first lines: "Come by here. Somebody needs salvation, Lord. Come by here." A lyric sheet of Mr. Frey's final version, printed in 1939, indicates it was written in 1936 – well after the versions collected by the music historians.

    So was Mr. Frey inspired by a woman praying by using a song she had learned on the other side of the continent? Or was he one of many white artists of his era who piggybacked on the creativity of African-Americans without giving credit? The history is silent.

    Mr. Frey went to his grave claiming the song was his own. In any case, by the early 1940s, Mr. Frey's copyrighted version had made it into church hymnals and onto live radio broadcasts.

    Next, according to Mr. Frey, he taught the song to missionaries headed for Africa. By the late 1940s, other missionaries had returned to America from Africa singing "Kum By Yah" – with no idea where it had originated.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 17 Jun 07 - 07:45 PM

Essentially as posted by Azizi previously; an article in the Chicago Tribune in August, 2006.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Stringsinger
Date: 17 Jun 07 - 07:47 PM

The best way to sing this song "Come By Here" is in three/two time. (A slow three). The four/four rhythm gives it a dirge-like flavor.

It is possibly Transoceanic. You can't always tell a song's travel path only by printed collections. Sometimes the academicians miss.

I go with Gullah as the origination point.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: guitar
Date: 18 Jun 07 - 01:42 AM

It was written/collected by Marvin Frey from Angola.

Tom


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 18 Jun 07 - 01:34 PM

And guitar, ignoring all previous posts, starts the nonsense circle again.


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Subject: RE: Kumbayah
From: GUEST,me
Date: 10 May 08 - 12:38 PM

heard this being sang last night..
by a group of drunken teenagers sat in a circle on the street
what a laugh !


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Subject: RE: Kumbayah
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 May 08 - 01:32 PM

Its probably Welsh. They shout that sort of thing at sheep dogs.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: GUEST,Nerd
Date: 11 May 08 - 01:32 PM

By the way, we can now correct Richie's Post of 17 June 07 (or more accurately, correct the newspaper quotation).

The recording of Ethel Best singing "Come by Here" was not a cylinder recording made by Robert Winslow Gordon (who had left the Library long before 1936), but a disc recording made by John A. Lomax. We can also see that, between that recording and 1941, the archive recorded it several times in Mississippi, Texas, Florida and Alabama.

You can find this by visiting the Archive's online card catalog. Search for "come by here." The search engine doesn't recognize the word "by," so you'll get some extraneous results, but still, you'll agree it's rather neat.

This card catalog covers only the archive's disc-era recordings from about 1933 on, so a first encounter in 1936 doesn't mean the song wasn't out there much earlier. The cylinder recordings are indexed elsewhere, and that isn't yet online, so I can't check except when I'm at the archive. The fact that The archive got this in 1936, three years before the first printing of Frey's version (which he wrote in 1936, an interesting coincidence), is pretty clear evidence it was in American folk tradition first.

Also, the reference in the newspaper to the Society for the Preservation of Spirituals and the confusion over Robert W. Gordon suggests to me that the song appeared in the 1931 book "The Carolina Low-Country," which was published by the Society and contained a chapter on spirituals by Gordon. I can check on this when I'm at the Library...

The statement that a


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Nerd
Date: 12 May 08 - 11:33 AM

Here is the full history of recordings of Kumbaya in the AFC archive, and other early evidence.

Robert W. Gordon did indeed record something that looks like "Kumbaya," in Georgia in 1926. It was the sixth verse of a longer spiritual, but he was convinced enough it was related to other recordings he made of songs called "Come by Here" that he cross-referenced it to those songs. Unfortunately, these other "Come By Here" cylinders were damaged, and so are unplayable. However, they were all recorded in Georgia and South Carolina, so a Gullah provenance for at least some versions of the song is quite plausible.

The 1926 recording must be the one Pete Seeger was remembering. It has been transcribed by AFC reference librarian Todd Harvey, and is available to researchers in the AFC reading room.

Cards for the other early playable recordings in the archive can be found using the link I gave above. They date from 1936 on.

In 1931, the Society for the Preservation of Spirituals published the book The Carolina Low-Country, which contains a version called "Come by Yuh." The exact date and location are not mentioned, but given the activities of the group's members, it must have been noted between 1922 and 1931.

As an aside, the Lum Chee-Hoo article in Kodaly Envoy, referenced in Richie's post above, gets it mostly right. The newspaper accounts of Lum's work conflated Gordon's 1926 recording with Lomax's disc recording a decade later. In any case, both existed before Frey wrote or published his song "Come By Here."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: kendall
Date: 20 Sep 08 - 07:29 AM

I've never cared for this song, and like so many others, if it's playing I simply walk away. Too many people love it to want to do away with it.

Just for the record, Lions don't sleep in the jungle. They are strictly plains animals.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 20 Sep 08 - 03:31 PM

It was our first song in a session at Innerleithem this August, after some local cynic said (after we'd invaded HIS bar!)"Oh you folk singers, guess you'll be singing Kumbayah next" - he guessed right!!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 03:41 PM

Hi there i've been wanting to know the meaning of KUMBAYA for many years as my father used to sing my sis and i to sleep with it,and

finally today i went to the dictionary that led me to this site and i found that it means COME BY HERE thats great to know but i think

theres more to it than that as it is spelt origionally like this KUM BA YAH now YAH is used alot in the bible and it is GODS NAME in short which is YAHWE being a bible student i also learned that HALLELUYAH

means Praised be YAHWE as you can see they both end with Yah, so i am assuming that KUM BA YAH actually means COME BY YAH if it is i love it even more,but i'll tell you why when i get your reply,til then MAY YAH bless you!! hope to hear from you soon tata.....


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Art Thieme
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 09:18 PM

It's from a little known, but fine, Australian musical theater production.

The aboriginal cast recording; not the movie...

Art Thieme

;-)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 16 Nov 08 - 09:28 PM

It's not Come buy a? What the merchants holler in the bazaars?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 08:52 AM

it does mean 'come by here'. Kum ba Yah is creole for come by here. The slaves in south carolina first sang this song in creole dialect.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 02:03 PM

Guest- documentation please.
I presume you are referring to the Society for the Preservation of Spirituals. I have not seen it listed among their collections.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Nerd
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 04:48 PM

Q,

I presume you're kidding?

See my post of 12 May 08 - 11:33 AM, for the full details, but in short, it is indeed in the collections of the Society for the Preservation of Spirituals, as "Come by Yuh," and appears in their book The Carolina Low Country, pp. 307-308.

Whether the word "yuh" or "yah" means "here" or "God" is actually pretty irrelevant. The "come by" obviously means where the singer is (ie "here"), and the request is indeed addressed to God. So the meaning of the song would be the same. But I think it means "here," not "jah."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 07:17 PM

Having neither the book nor any Gordon transcriptions, I cannot compare.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Nerd
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 11:35 AM

Sorry, Q...I only assumed you were kidding because it was in a previous post. But that WAS a long time ago.

So, to recap: Robert W. Gordon collected songs with the refrain "Come by here" in its various pronunciations (including "come by yuh") four times on his Georgia trips in 1926-1928. Lomax recorded a version in 1936. These were all prior to Frey's composition.

The version in the Society for the Preservation of Spirituals book is probably not from one of the Gordon cylinders. The exact date and location of collection are not mentioned, but given the activities of the group's members, it must have been noted in South Carolina between 1922 and 1931.

Some versions of the song were certainly in the Gullah dialect. Whether it originated that way is not known.

So GUEST is mostly right. The one thing that cannot be proven is that the song dates back to slavery times. There is no evidence of that...although such evidence is scarce for any spirituals. So it is at least somewhat likely that the song does date back that far.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 01:22 PM

So- what are the lyrics to the song(s)?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 01:46 PM

This is a classic example of familiarity breeding contempt. I would be willing to bet that many of us have gone through a similar series of phases: I liked it when I first heard it. I sang it on a regular basis. I sang it less and less. I gave up on it. I got tired of hearing it. I resented hearing it. It became a bloody cliche'. At some point, it became a rather unfortunate metaphor, as in, "are we having a kumbaya moment?"

From a distance in time, I've come to accept it again, depending on who performs it and how they present it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Nerd
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 01:52 PM

We don't have the lyrics to all the songs, because three of the four Gordon cylinders were damaged or lost. All we have is the card catalog records he created for the cylinders. The one cylinder that we DO have was a longer spiritual about Daniel in the Lion's Den.

Each verse was just one line repeated six times. The lines were:

(1) Daniel in the Lion's Den
(2) Daniel [went to?] God in prayer
(3) The Angel locked the Lion's Jaw
(4) Daniel [took a deep night's rest?]
(5) Lord, I am worthy now
(6) Lordy won't you come by here

(What I am posting here are transcriptions by my colleague Todd Harvey. I haven't heard these recordings. In some cases, these are his "best guesses" as to what is being sung.)

On the Ethel Best recording from 1936, made by John Lomax, each verse was a single line repeated 3 times, followed by "oh, Lord, come by here."

(1) Come by here, my lord, come by here
(2) Well we [down in?] trouble, Lord, come by here
(3) Well, it's somebody needs you lord, come by here
(4) Come by here, my lord, come by here
(5) Well it's somebody sick Lord come by here
(6) Well, we need you Jesus Lord to come by here
(7) Come by here, my lord, come by here
(8) Somebody Moanin', Lord, come by here

Two of the Gordon card catalog records, for cylinders that cannot now be played, are almost certainly versions of the same song; one is called "Come by here, Lord, come by here," and the other "Somebody need you Lord, come by here."

The version from The Carolina Low Country, exactly as transcribed in that book:

Somebody Need you, come by yuh [X3]
Oh, Lawd, Come by yuh

Wan' tuh git tuh heben, come by yuh [X3]
Oh, Lawd, Come by yuh

Soon een de mawnin' come by yuh [X3]
Oh, Lawd, Come by yuh

Jesus duh call you, come by yuh [X3]
Oh, Lawd, Come by yuh

Cyan' cross de ribbuh, come by yuh [X3]
Oh, Lawd, Come by yuh

Yo' fadduh duh call you, come by yuh [X3]
Oh, Lawd, Come by yuh

On duh way tuh Glory, come by yuh [X3]
Oh, Lawd, Come by yuh

Gwine down tuh Jerdan, come by yuh [X3]
Oh, Lawd, Come by yuh

Pain got duh body, come by yuh [X3]
Oh, Lawd, Come by yuh


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Joe Offer
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 02:13 PM

I, too, grew to hate this song. HOWEVER, one perfect day about ten years ago, a spent a lovely afternoon at The Huntington, an art gallery, library, and gardens in a gorgeous setting in San Marino in the Los Angeles area. The Huntington is the home of the famous Blue Boy and Pinkie. After the museum closed, I went to my car. In a garden next to the parking lot, there were eight or ten little girls, sitting in a circle in their Gainsborough-era pastel dresses, singing Kumbaya.

It was a lovely end to a very nice day, and I think of that day whenever I hear mention of "Kumbaya." When I hear "Kumbaya," I think of those earnest, innocent little girls. Well, I also think of how obnoxious my little sister was when she sang it all the time - but in kinder moments, I remember that she was earnest and innocent, too.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 02:21 PM

Joe:

I have been to The Huntington gallery and, though I was not privileged to see those girls, I can certainly visualize your scene. I see it in my four-year-old grandson, who is endlessly happy. Innocence is so scarce and precious a commodity these days that we ought to embrace it whenever we can. Cynicism is cheap enough. We can have all we want, any time.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 03:03 PM

Thanks, Nerd. Without the texts and tunes, comparisons can't be made.

"The Carolina Low-Country" has been priced at $80-$100+ by the used book stores, but checking again today, a couple of exlib. are in the $30 range, a little closer to my ability to pay.
"Gullah Lyrics of Carolina Low Country" also seems to be out of print.
A SC bookstore shows these items, and the cds by the SPS, but I haven't heard back from them. I don't know if "Come by Yuh" is on those cds.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Nerd
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 03:20 PM

Yes, The Library of Congress copy is in the rare book division, which makes it hard to get hold of. But we (The Library's American Folklife Center) have a photocopy of the "Come By Yuh" pages in our subject file on that song.

It's long been an area of interest to the Library of Congress folk archive, even before the creation of the American Folklife Center. The longtime reference librarian and then head of the archive, Joe Hickerson, had been in the group The Folksmiths, who in 1957 recorded the first folk revival version of the song.


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Subject: RE: Kumbayah
From: goatfell
Date: 19 May 09 - 04:22 AM

Marvin Frey wrote this song Kumbaya and it used durning the American Civil Rights movement


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Subject: RE: Kumbayah
From: Leadbelly
Date: 19 May 09 - 02:42 PM

It's a fine song. I do prefer the live version of Joan Baez from the 60'.


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Subject: RE: Kumbayah
From: Q
Date: 19 May 09 - 02:58 PM

Lyrics to the orignal song, "Come By here" (or dialect), are posted in the thread linked by Nerd.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: GUEST,Luis
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 11:48 AM

Kumbaya (Kumbayah, Cumbiyah) is actually a word that traces way back to the ancient Hebrews when they had a lot of work ahead of them they sang this song to gain strength and to take their mind off of work. The slaves was not taught this song by missionaries one believes that the slaves was just speaking their language through song since they was not allowed to speak their original tongue they sung it and mixed it with english so the masters would not say anything.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: Q
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 01:28 PM

Interesting speculation, but no more than that.


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Subject: RE: Kumbayah
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 10:35 PM

I know the real truth behind kumbaya.It really says "COME BY YAH" YAH is short for YAHUWAH (YHWH)They were leaving a bread trail,without getting caught,and put to death like most were.The white man was forcing the False Jesus on them.They have never heard of any word that had a letter "J" in it.


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Subject: RE: Kumbayah
From: Beer
Date: 27 Jul 11 - 10:56 PM

WHAT!!!


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Subject: RE: Kumbayah
From: GUEST,Moses
Date: 09 Aug 11 - 01:09 PM

kumbayah came from the jews that fleed to what we now know as Africa
to get away from the evil of the romans. It was never an african song but a jewish song. THat is why when people was being sold to the white man they were singing that song. Africans now would even tell that they would never sell their own people.

so they sold the people that was not from there land which were the jews. AN yes the jews were of dark color. read and you shall know the truth


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Subject: RE: Kumbayah
From: GUEST,Moses
Date: 09 Aug 11 - 01:25 PM

Yes the jews that ran to what we now know as ARICA where slaves before the americans came an got them. So you see it was never an african song but a slave song from the jewish slaves of africa. I know this because i for one is of a dark race myself but i do have caucasian in me as well, But in my island country we still have and use the old jewish ways. And we still use the word Yah. So there is no jesus there is only yahshuah, or yahweh.


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Subject: ADD: Kumbaya (sung by the Soweto Gospel Choir)
From: Azizi
Date: 21 Jan 12 - 10:55 AM

Here is my transcription of the (Gullah) African American spiritual "Kumbaya" as sung by the Soweto Gospel Choir & several other choirs. This transcription is based on this YouTube video sound file http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuchTB8CVD4 as well as other videos of that South African choir. However, it doesn't include the African words or the (possibly) ad lib flourishes that ar sung toward the end of that rendition.


KUMBAYA
(a contemporary version as sung by The Soweto Gospel Choir)

Somebody's cryin, Lord
(Kumbaya)
Somebody's prayin, Lord
(Kumbaya)
Somebody's cryin, Lord
(Kumbaya)
Somebody's prayin, Lord
(Kumbaya)

Oh Lord, hear my prayer
(Kumbaya)
As I lift my voice and say
(Kumbaya)
I need you, Lord today
(Kumbaya)
I need you right away
(Kumbaya)

Somebody's cryin, Lord
(Kumbaya)
Somebody's prayin, Lord
(Kumbaya)
Somebody's cryin, Lord
(Kumbaya)
Somebody's prayin, Lord
(Kumbaya)

Somebody's in despair
(Kumbaya)
Somebody feels like no one cares
(Kumbaya)
I know You'll make a way
(Kumbaya)
Yes, the Lord will make a way
(Kumbaya)

Somebody's in despair
(Kumbaya)
Somebody feels like no one cares
(Kumbaya)
I know You'll make a way
(Kumbaya)

Yes, the Lord will make a way
(Kumbaya)

Somebody's in despair
(Kumbaya)
Somebody feels like no one cares
(Kumbaya)
Oh, oh - o - o, kumbaya
Oh, Lord, kumbaya
(Come by here)
Oh, Lord, kumbaya
(Come by here)
Oh, Lord, kumbaya
(Come by here)
Oh, Lord, kumbaya
(Come by here)
Oh, Lord, kumbaya

(Continue repeating with flourishes.)


-snip-

I posted this transcription on my blog http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/01/kumbaya-lyrics-as-sung-by-soweto-gospel.html.

I also published a related post http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/01/kumbaya-song-around-world.html "The Kumbaya Song Around The World"

That blog post has video renditions of "Kumbaya" from the USA, Hungary, Germany, Japan, and France. There is also a rendition by a Spanish speaking group, (nation not given).

Visitor comments are welcome on that blog.

-Azizi Powell


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: GUEST,Nopina
Date: 01 Oct 14 - 01:36 AM

Vietnamese has the syllables "không bao giờ" which means "never". If you see to the meaning of the first two syllables, which from Google Translate shows as "no cover"/does not cover/does not include" etc, there might be a third, unknown word here, that makes this reasonable. I'm not a Vietnamese... maybe with the last syllable changing into a Vietnamese word like "jaa".

Perhaps some Africaans borrowed the Asian expression adopted from trading and used it into an American traditional.

Google translate makes it sound not too good in this relation, better examples are foound here in this video, maybe you can observe why I suddenly got to think of and search for the meaning with good old "Kum-ba-yah".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rw6M1xwX7g0

at 03:12 minutes.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: GUEST,Nopina
Date: 01 Oct 14 - 02:02 AM

A very similar expression, "không bao bỏ", means "never give up" in Vietnamese. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the answer.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: GUEST,Nopina
Date: 01 Oct 14 - 02:19 AM

Following this link, the meaning of "không bao giờ" is also "never-to-be-forgotten".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
From: GUEST,Nopina
Date: 01 Oct 14 - 02:20 AM

http://www.wordhippo.com/what-is/the/vietnamese-word-for-cd66911cc753e7b386694d23059ac3665d30043b.html


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