Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Flea Fly Flow (Cumala Vista) Rhyme & Songs That Helped It Grow

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents three examples of songs that I believe help influence the development & popularity of the playground rhyme "Flea Fly Flow (Cumala Vista)". One video & six text examples of "Flea Fly Flow" are also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for historical, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Example #1: Desi Arnaz - El Cumbanchero (1946)

Uploaded by MaryLouBrown on Sep 18, 2008

... with pics of the first "I Love Lucy" Season.
It's my theory that the 1940 Latin Jazz song "El Cumbanchero" is the primary source of the R&B songs Cu Ma La Be Stay (Chubby Checker - 1964), "Oh, No! Not the Beast Day!" (Marsha Hunt- 1973), and the numerous playground rhyme which are known as "Flea Fly Flow" ("Cumala Vista"). My theory is based on the similarity of the word "Cumbanchero" and the title of those other songs & rhymes, as well as the similarity between the first two lines of "El Cumbanchero" and lines in those other composition. Also, my theory is based to a lesser extent, to "El Cumbanchero"'s tune, and the tune of those other compositions.

A rendition of "El Cumbanchero" was performed by Cuban American musician Desi Arnez in 1946. It's likely that the popularity of Desi Arnez as the producer & star of the mega-hit American television show "I Love Lucy" which first aired in 1951, helped familiarize people in the United States with the "El Cumbanchero" song.

Here's information about the composer of the song "El Cumbanchero":

Rafael Hern├índez (October 24, 1892 – December 11, 1965), was one of the most important composers of Puerto Rican popular music during the 20th century....
[Among the song's composed by Rafael Hernandez was]
"El Cumbanchero"[6] (also known as "Rockfort Rock" or "Comanchero" (sic) to reggae aficionados)"...

Click to find the lyrics to the song "El Cunbanchero" by Rafael Hernandez. Here's an excerpt of those lyrics:
"A cumba-cumba-cumba cumbanchero
A bongo-bongo-bongo bongocero
Pri-qui-ti que va sonando
El cumbanchero bongocero que se va
Bongocero que se va"

Example #2: Chubby Checker - Cu Ma La Be Stay [1964]

jimmytheferret, Uploaded on May 12, 2008

After he'd finished with all the twistin', limboing, flying and mashed potatoing, Chubby came along with this great sound that was actually issued as a B side over here in the UK. It went on to be a big sound in the soul discos of the late sixties and early seventies. Always a floor-filler, so bounce around with Chubby to this one.

Example #3: Marsha Hunt - Oh, no! Not the Beast Day! [1973]

mackiemesser, ploaded on Feb 11, 2009

Example #4 "Kuma La Vista" with the kids of Sola Fe [2010]

Uploaded by amandastacyhill on Mar 28, 2010


FLEA FLY FLO (Example #1)
...Used to sing it as a brownie and guide. the rhythm is done by slapping your thighs then clapping your hands.

(All lines are done by the leader then echoed)

Flea fly
Flea fly flo

Cumala, cumala, cumala vista
Oh no no no no da vista
Eeney meaney decimeaney ooh wala wala meaney ex a meaney sal a meaney ooh wala wa
Beat biddley oten doten bobo da beeten doten Shhhhht.

Then you do it FAST!!!
-alison,:// meaning -musha ring dumma do dumma da, February 1, 1999
"Brownies and guides" are Girl Scouts levels. Notice that this example includes lines from the huge "Eeny Meanie" playground rhyme family.

FLEA FLY FLO (Example #2)
My version is the same as Alison's until the first line that ends with vista (but I learned vistey not vista).

Each line is echoed back to the leader.

Flea (Flea) Flea fly (Flea fly) Flea fly flo (Flea fly flo) Vistey (Vistey)

Cumala, cumala, cumala vistey

Oh no no no not the vistey

Vistey ( and then it really changes!)

Eeney meney dis a leenee, ooh ahh ahh meleenee Otchicotchee oochirachee, ooh ahh ooh. Ish bibili oaten doten, why not in doten toten, bo bo ski doten toten hey don areema!

This was always a camp song that was lots of fun because you got faster each time until everyone just collapsed in laughter. I've heard other versions but this is the only one I've ever been able to learn.
-karen k, ":// meaning -musha ring dumma do dumma da, February 1, 1999

FLEA FLY FLEW (Example #3)
flea (flea)
fly (fly)
flea fly flew (ditto)
coomalata coomalata coomalata beestay
no no no no not the beestay

and ended in a sort of scat-rhythm: eee-biddlety-oaten-doaten-wahbat-skee-watten-tatten-SHHHHHHHHHHHHH !!!!
-Bonnie S.; RE: eena meena mackeracka (children's rhymes);7/1/2006

FLEA (Example #4, #5, #6)
In this song, the song leader sings (says) a line and the audience repeats the line. Keep the beat by alternately slapping thighs and clapping hands:

Flea Fly!
Flea Fly Mosquito!
Oh no no no no Mosquito!
Get that big bad bug with the bug spray!
PSSSSSSSSSSH (spray can sound)

Repeat three or more times, each time a little faster.

Another Version:

Flea Fly!
Flea Fly Flo!
Eenie, meenie, decimeenie, oo wall a wall a meenie!
Ex a meenie, zoll a meenie, oo wall a wall!
Beep billy ott in dotten oh bo ba beaten dotten shh!

Flea fly!
Flea fly flow!
Kumalata kumalata kumalata veeslay!
Oh, no no no, not the veeslay.
Ich a mini, satch a mini, oo walla walla mini.
Des a mini, satch a mini, oo walla wall.
A beat billy oaten bobin obo a boatin bobin obo a boatin bobin boatin bobin boatin bobin boatin bobin sssshhh...

Fleas (audience repeats)
Fleas Flies (audience repeats)
Fleas Flies Mosquitos (audience repeats)
Calimine, calimine, calimine lotion
Oh no, no more calimine lotion
Itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, itty bitty
Nasty bitey mosquito -- SQUASH (squash is yelled at top of lungs)


Flea Fly!
Flea Fly Flo!
Coo-ma-la, Coo-ma-la, Coo-ma-la Vista
Oh no-no, no, not the vista
Eenie, meenie, decimeenie, oo walla walla meenie!
Ex a meenie, zoll a meenie, oo walla wall!
Beep billy ott in dotten oh bo ba beaten dotten shh!
- Susan Best, Ev Holm, Cathy Porter, [retrieved 1/27/2013]
Click for examples of the rhyme "bobo ski otten botten (or similar titles) which is often included in "Flea Fly Flow" rhymes.


Thanks to the composers of these songs, and all of the musicians, vocalists, and other performers in the featured videos. My thanks also to the websites and individuals whose examples of this playgroup rhyme are featured in this post. In addition, thanks to the uploaders of these featured sound files and videot.

Also, thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.


  1. Hat tip to Rich Banker (olvinyldude) for sending me a link on January 9, 2014 to a recording of Coma-La-Vista by Janice&the Little People.

    Here's a link to a sound file of that recording:


    1. Olvinyldude indicates that this song was recorded in 1964.

  2. Beep billie oaten goaten bo bop an beepen boppen shhhhhh.....����������

    Loved this chant when I was a girl scout. still do!

    1. Sokensal, thanks for reminding me of the beep ott in dotten (or something like that) rhyme and this pancocojams post.

      I plan to showcase more Girl Scout songs and rhymes in the near future so keep checking out this blog.

      Best wishes!