Monday, April 7, 2014

"La Hoola Boola", The African American Source Of The Yale University Song "Boola Boola" & The University Of Oklahoma song "Boomer Sooner"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents information about the 1898 song "La Hoola Boola" that is documented as the source of the Yale University Fight Song "Boola Boola" & The University Of Oklahoma song "Boomer Sooner. Documentation about the connection between these three songs, and a sound file example of "Boola Boola" are also given in this post.

In addition, an example of an unrelated Somalian (Northeast Africa) song with the name "Boola Boola" and an example of the also unrelated Indonesian national anthem whose tune is quite similar to "La Hoola Boola" are included in the Addendum section of this post.

The content of this post is provided for folkloric, historical and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Bob Cole and Billy Johnson for composing the song "La Hoola Boola". Thanks also to the vocalists who are featured on these sound files and videos and thanks to the publishers of these sound files and videos on YouTube. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post.

Hat tip to Slam20011 for sharing the information about the connection between "La Hoola Boola" and "Boola Boola".

INFORMATION ABOUT THE AFRICAN AMERICAN SONG "LA HOOLA BOOLA" From Yale Alumni Magazine Arts & Culture “You can quote them” by Fred Shapiro | Sep/Oct 2009
Yale law librarian Fred R. Shapiro is editor of the Yale Book of Quotations.
"The authorship of Yale's iconic fight song “Boola Boola” has traditionally been ascribed to Allan M. Hirsh, Class of 1901...

But the claim of two men with no Yale connection -- Robert Allen “Bob” Cole and Billy Johnson -- appears to shift the role of Hirsh (and his classmates) from creating to adapting. Hirsh himself acknowledged as much, if somewhat obliquely, in his 1930 letter.

Cole and Johnson were extremely popular African American singer-songwriters of the time. They wrote, directed, and produced the first full-length musical with an all-black cast and all-black management, which opened on Broadway in 1898.* Also in 1898, they copyrighted a song called “La Hoola Boola.” In addition to using the word “Boola,” their song, according to James J. Fuld's authoritative Book of World-Famous Music (1971), has the same melody “virtually note for note in the important bars” as the Yale song. Fuld adds that, when the first edition for piano of “Yale Boola” (with A. M. Hirsh listed as author) was published in 1901, it included a notice: “Adapted by permission of Howley, Haviland & Dresser.” Howley, Haviland & Dresser was the successor publisher of “La Hoola Boola.”

In his 1930 letter, Allan Hirsh wrote: “The song was not altogether original with us, but was undoubtedly adapted from some other song but we were unable to definitively designate this song, although later on we did discover that there had been published a song, which at that time was out of print, called 'La Hula Boola,' and the air was quite similar but the time was different.” Given that Hirsh's publisher had felt obligated to get permission for adapting “La Hoola Boola,” Hirsh seems, at the least, to have failed to give proper credit to Cole and Johnson.”...
* The Robert Allen "Bob" Cole and [William] Billy Johnson Broadway production in 1898 was "A Trip To Coontown".

From The Book of World-famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk, James J. Fuld [Google Books, p. 150]
"The first printing of this melody [for "Boola Boola"], virtually note for note in the important bars is in the song “La Hoola Boola” where the words “Hoola Boola” are also frequently used. “La Hoola Boola” was copyrighted by Howley, Haviland and Company in 1898 although the year in the copyright notice on the music is from the previous year. “La Hoola Boola” is described as “an Hawaiian Ditty” ...Up To Dated” by Bob Cole and Billy Johnson. First edition front cover [of the musical score] has a drawing of two Hawaiians and is orange, black, and white in color..."
I've not been able to find either the words to the song "La Hoola Boola" or any rendition of that song online. However, given the description of that song by James L. Fuld , it's very likely that "La Hoola Boola" includes a refrain similar to that of the Yale song "Boola Boola" except for the word "hoola" instead of the first "boola". Here's the refrain for "Boola Boola":

"Well-a Boola, Boo, Boola, Boola, Boo,
Boola, Boo, Boola, Boola, Boola, Boo!

Boola, Boola, Boola, Boola,
Boola, Boola, Boola, Boola,"
The complete lyrics to the Yale song "Boola Boola" are found at

The word "hoola" is pronounced the same as the word "hula", a form of hip shaking/hand motion dance that is now (if not in the late 19th century) very closely associated with Hawaii. It seems very likely to me that that dance and its association with Hawaii is the meaning of the word "hoola" in that Cole/Johnson song. And the word "boola" is a word with no meaning that rhymes with the word "hoola" ("hula").

According to this website, the song “La Hoola Boola” was later added to the production of Bob Coles & Billy Johnson's Broadway play "A Trip To Coontown". That website includes a complete list of the songs that were featured in that production.

An excerpt from the article "Forgotten Manuscripts: A Trip to Coontown" written by Krystyn R. Moon, David Krasner, Thomas L. Riis, and included in African American Review Volume 44, Numbers 1-2, Spring/Summer 2011 (pp. 7-24 | 10.1353/afa.2011.0012) provides interesting information about that 1898 play and one of the songs that was originally written for that play “The Wedding of the Chinee and the Coon” (1897)”:
..."Bob Cole and Billy Johnson’s A Trip to Coontown first appeared on the stage during the 1897–98 season. Although African Americans had written numerous short theatrical and musical works, none had written a full-length musical production. To add to its historical significance, A Trip to Coontown was performed, directed, and produced by African Americans, an astounding feat in an era where few independent theaters could even consider taking a chance on such a production. Unfortunately, the play—like so many other nineteenth-century African American documents and artifacts—was lost, and scholars could only make conjectures (based mainly on newspaper reviews) about what it looked and sounded like.

...In A Trip to Coontown, Cole and Johnson reworked a skit originally titled At Jolly Coon-ey Island that Cole had written for Black Patti’s Troubadours (the operatic variety company formed by Sissieretta Jones) and named the new production to spoof one of the most popular musicals of the 1890s, A Trip to Chinatown (1891).3 Despite positive reviews in the fall of 1897, Cole was unable to produce his work except in third-rate American and Canadian theaters over the course of several weeks. By the end of the nineteenth century, the theater industry was owned and operated by a handful of European American men who could blacklist any performer and destroy his/her career. Not until after World War I did actors and writers have some success unionizing, but African Americans were almost unilaterally excluded. Cole’s previous employers organized a boycott of Cole and Johnson’s play because they chose to work independently. Despite this hurdle, its success grew, and Klaw and Erlanger, one of the major theatrical booking agencies in New York City, finally broke the boycott in April 1898 and opened A Trip to Coontown at the Third Avenue Theater.4A Trip to Coontown toured the United States for..."
[end of Project Muse excerpt]
As per this article, the original title for the play "A Trip To Coontown" was "At Jolly Coon-ey Island". That title includes a clever play on words since "Coney Island" was (and still is) a popular amusement location in New York City and "coon" was a somewhat common referent for a Black person. [The word "coon" as a referent for a Black person is considered a pejorative referent and as such is no considered appropriate to use.). The word "coney" in the name "Coney Island" is an English adaptation of a Dutch word for "rabbit".

Given that the first cover of "La Hoola Boola"'s musical included drawings of two Hawaiians (as per the statements of James J. Fuld), and given that song's later inclusion in the play "A Trip To Coontown", it could be said that that composition provided a stereotypical depiction-albeit probably "friendly" stereotypical depiction- of Hawaiians. Since the play "A Trip To Coontown" apparently also included other stereotyped depictions, I can see how the song "La Hoola Boola" was added to that production.

The SingALong Gang - Boola Boola

Technotherapie, Uploaded on Dec 17, 2011

Boomer Sooner (University of Oklahoma fight song)

2011mrkingofkings, Published on Dec 7, 2013

My third Big Eight Conference fight song.

One of my favorite fight songs of all time, it's Boomer Sooner by The Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band, which WWE play-by-play man and Sooners fan Jim Ross uses as his theme music...
A "fight song" is a song that is used to cheer on the athletes in a competitive game.

Here's information about the University of Oklahoma Fight Song "Boomer Sooner":
"Boomer Sooner" is the fight song for the University of Oklahoma (OU). The lyrics were written in 1905 by Arthur M. Alden, an OU student and son of a local jeweler in Norman. The tune is taken from "Boola Boola", the fight song of Yale University (which was itself borrowed from an 1898 song called "La Hoola Boola" by Robert Allen (Bob) Cole and Billy Johnson)."
The lyrics to the University of Oklahoma song "Boomer Sooner" are found on that song's Wikipedia page.



ABAKFAY,Published on Jul 8, 2013
There are several videos or sound files of this song on YouTube. Those performances are credited to Abdallah Lee. From the comments and summaries I believe that this song is Afar music from Somali, Africa.

Indonesia National Anthem "Indonesia Raya" (Great Indonesia)

NationalAnthems12, Published on Oct 9, 2012

The official national anthem of Indonesia "Indonesia Raya" (Great Indonesia)
Lyrics include in both languages Indonesian and English

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