Monday, December 15, 2014

Four Examples Of The Liberian Folk Song "Banuwa"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents four videos of the Liberian folk song "Banuwa" ("Don't Cry"). This song appears to be part of the repertoire for a number of music classes in schools throughout the world.

The content of this post is presented for cultural and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the composer of this song. Thanks also to the transcriber of these featured lyrics, the vocalists & musicians who are featured in the videos, and the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

From wilcokloosterman,, [given as Example #1 below], 2011
"Banuwa is a Liberian folk song used as a love song, lullaby, or even a processional. Here is the original text and translation:
Banuwa, Banuwa,
Banuwa yo
A la no
nehnio la no
Nehnia la no

Don't cry, Don't Cry,
pretty little girl don't cry.
Don't cry, Don't Cry,
pretty little girl don't cry.

Your father off at the village
your mothers out for a while,
your brothers down by the river.
No need to sit and cry."
This comment is reformatted for this post. Two other commenters wrote the same or similar lyrics for this song.

Clearly, these lyrics in a Liberian traditional language aren't the complete lyrics for the English translation.

These examples are presented in chronological order with the oldest dated video presented first.

Example #1: Banuwa

mananachorus, Uploaded on Feb 5, 2007

Example #2: {Ugandan] African choir sings banuwa

Nico van den Berge Uploaded on Jun 1, 2009

One by one the choir members appear from their seat and walk to the stage in front. The choir of the African Bible University in Uganda sings Banuwa during the gradution ceremony of 2009. The Mzungu in the choir is my wife Inge. Does anybody know what the word Banuwa means? (we don't)
"Mzungu" = colloquial Swahili for White person

Here's what this video's publisher wrote in response to the question is this the original version of this song:
Nico van den Berge, 2010
"@jesst666 Well, uh, don't know if this is THE original version. We tried to have it as original as possible, but who on earth knows the original version of a folk song like this?"

Example #3: BANUWA.MPG

Charles Hiram Romão Bruno, Uploaded on Feb 14, 2011

Portuguese to English partial translation - music from chorale class for student teachers
Notice the chest body patting alternating with individual hand claps, and thigh slaps that the choir does for percussive accompaniment for their singing.

Example #4: Banuwa Yo

Various Artists - Topic; Published on May 30, 2015

Provided to YouTube by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Banuwa Yo · The Song Swappers and Pete Seeger

Folk Songs of Four Continents

℗ 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / 1955 Folkways Records

Update: January 2, 2019- This video replaces one that was originally embedded in this post but is no longer available.

It's likely that this 1955 Folkways record is the one that introduced this Liberian, West African song to the USA, if not also to other "Western" nations.
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