Monday, June 19, 2017

"Ooh Ungowa", "Funky Chicken" & Five Other Camp Songs & Cheers From Contemporary African American Sources

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post showcases seven American children's camp songs or cheers that I believe have their source in contemporary (post 1960) African American songs, rhymes, cheers, or rhymes.

These examples are from the website [the Girl Scout camp named Camp Maripai in Prescott, Arizona].

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, and recreational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
This post is not meant to be a comprehensive listing of contemporary children's camp songs or cheers that have African American sources.

I believe that some song examples* on that showcased website may be post 1960s variant forms of older African American (or Caribbean) songs or rhymes. However, in this post I chose to focus on post 1960s examples or post-1960s songs or rhymes.

*For example, "Little Sally Walker, walkin’ ‘round the street" is a contemporary form of the very old singing game "Little Sally Walker".

I happened upon this web page of children's camp songs while looking for examples of children's rhymes that include the term "FBI". After reading the example entitled "Emerald’s Chant" on that website's page and given below, I published a pancocojams post on the 1988 Hip Hop track (song) "Rollin With Kid N Play"

I consider children's rhymes, cheers, singing games, camp songs etc. to be folk material and as a self-identified "community folklorist", I'm interested in documenting sources for folk material-including demographic information (race, ethnicity, gender, geographical location). Also, as a community folklorist, I'm interested in documenting how rhymes are spread across geographical areas, including nations- in this case from the United States to Canada.

I'm also interested in documenting continuity or changes in the lyrics and/or performance activities of American children's rhymes, cheers, singing games etc. over time or in different populations at the same time.

No songs from that camp's website mention race, and I consider a few examples to racially offensive- the most offensive example is entitled "The Washerwoman" which (I believe) stereotypes Asians -note the speech patterns and the references to doing laundry in that example:

Washerwoman Song
I live-ee in-ee a teeny weeny house-ee
I live-ee on-ee the thirty-first-ee floor
I take-ee in-ee the dirty dirty laundry
Ruffles on the petticoat ten cents more.
I like a pow pow better than a chow chow
I like a little girl, she like-a me.

One day in Hong Kong
Bigga Momma come along-a
Take away my little girl
Poor poor me.'

That website also includes a form of the traditional African American song "Dry Bones" that includes the African American dialectic use of the word "dem" for "them": .
"Dry Bones
Dry bones sittin’ in a canyon, some of dem bones are mine
Dry bones sittin’ in a canyon, some of dem bones are mine
Some of dem bones are (enter person or unit name here)
Some of dem bones are mine
Some of dem bones are (enter person or unit name here)
Some of dem bones are mine"

Also, given the racist use of "monkeys" as a derogatory referent for Black people, the line in the example entitled "Emerald's Song" which is given below "Those girls are funky/Always acting like monkeys!" could be considered offensive or could at least be problematic if Black or Brown girls were part of the group who was singing this song.

These example provide me with an opportunity to share the following links to some of the pancocojams posts that I've published about children's rhymes and race: "Racialized Versions Of "I Like Coffee I Like Tea"

** "Anti-Asian Rhymes - I Went To A Chinese Restaurant"

** "Stereotypical References To American Indians In "I Went To A Chinese Restaurant" Rhymes"
Here are comments that I wrote from some of those posts:
I believe that the stereotypical content in playground rhymes should be documented for the folkloric record, and also for the purpose of encouraging people interested in an eradicating stereotypes to the presence of this content.

In spite of children's attachment to the version of a rhyme that they first learned, given the large number of non-stereotypical versions of "I Went To The Chinese Restaurant, I believe that children can be complimented for their creativity but still be redirected to alternative, non-stereotypical examples of that rhyme. It's up to adults to educate the children in their care that the words and/or accompanying actions of these & some other playground rhymes are problematic and hurtful.

The children's rhyme "Eenie Meenie Miney Mo" stands as a strong testimony to the fact that offensive references can be completely excised from playground rhymes, as many adults today who grew up with that rhyme and are surprised to learn that it once included a pejorative reference for Black people.

Although most of the video examples and, presumably, also most of text examples that I've found of this rhyme are from White children and White adults, I'm including this subject in this blog that focuses on Black cultural indices because non-offensive and some offensive examples of "I Went To A Chinese Restaurant" appears to have become a part of the cultural body of playground rhymes in the United States and in some other English language nations to a large extent regardless of children's the race/ethnicity. Note that a link given below to another pancocojams post given includes a video of two young Black women who indicate that they remember reciting this rhyme in their childhood. Also, there are people with Black/Asian (or Asian/Black) descent in the United States and elsewhere. Therefore, this topic is quite suitable for a blog about Black culture & customs in the United States & throughout the world.

It's important to consider that the words to examples of "I Went To The Chinese Restaurant" may appear to be non-offensive, but those words might be accompanied by the gesture of holding the skin at the ends of both eyes to mimic a squinting look. And while there should be no question that gesture is offensive, it clearly is something that children have to be made aware of, even if they don't intend to be hurtful or otherwise cause offense.

Some of the examples featured in this post are from the sub-category of children's recreational material that I call "foot stomping cheers". Here's a quote from one of several pancocojams post on foot stomping cheers "At The Playground" - A Foot Stomping Cheer That Combines Words From A TV Commercial, The "Homey Don't Play That" Saying, & A Kiddie Hip Hop Record
"Foot stomping cheers" is the term that I coined in 2000 for a relatively new category of children's recreational play that is (was?) performed mostly by preteen and younger girls and that involves chanting and choreographed foot stomping combined with (individual) clapping movements.

Foot stomping cheers" have a textual structure and traditionally* have a performance style* that is distinct from hand clap rhymes, jump rope rhymes, other cheerleader cheers, and other categories of children's recreational rhymes. That record featured four examples of African American girls from Washington D. C. performing cheers in 1973-1975.

*By traditional, I mean the way that foot stomping cheers were performed by African American girls in the 1980s and 1990s, and perhaps in the early 2000s. I've noticed changes in the way that these cheers are performed as they become more mainstream (i.e. are performed by White or predominately White cheerleader squads.)"...


Pancocojams Editor:
These examples are given in alphabetical order on this pancocojams website. I've assigned numbers to these examples for referencing purposes only.

A link to a pancocojams posts about (what I believe are) the African American sources for these examples is given below the camp example itself.

[website Last Updated: May 20, 2009

1. A Boom Chicka Boom
(a repeat song)
I said a boom-chicka-boom!
I said a boom-chicka-boom!
I said a boom-chicka-rocka-chicka-rocka-chicka-boom!
Uh huh!
Oh yea!
(Put next name of style here) style!
Underwater: sing with fingers dribbling against your lips
Loud: as loud as you can!
Slowly: as slow and drawn out as possible
Opera: sing in an opera voice
Alien: high-pitched, beep sounds
Valley Girl:
I said, like, boom-chica-boom!
I said, like, boom chicka-boom!
I said, like, booma-chicka, like, rocka-chicka, like, rocka-chica like boom!
Like, uh-huh!
Like, for sure!
Like, same thing...
Janitor style:
I said a Broom-Pusha-Broom,
I said a Broom-Pusha-Broom,
I said a Broom-pusha-mopa-pusha-mopa-pusha-broom.
This is listed in that camp song website under "FAST songs"

I've categorized "A Boom Chicka Boom" as a song (chant) with an African American source even though I haven't been able to track down the earliest example of that song/chant. "A Boom Chicka Boom"'s text (words) and its call & response format are the elements that strongly suggests to me that it originated among African Americans (or was composed in imitation of African American cheers). I've collected similar foot stomping cheers such as "A Rah Rah A Boom Tang" in the 1980s among African American girls in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

2. "Big Fat Pony
Ride around that big fat pony
Ride around that big fat pony
Ride around that big fat pony
This is how she does it:
Front to front to front my baby
Back to back to back my baby
Side to side to side my baby
This is how she does it.
Actions: This is a dancing game that is done in a circle. One girl is in the center of the circle, and while the whole group sings the first three lines and claps, the girl in the center gallops like a horse around the circle. When the fourth line of the song is reached,the girl much stop in front of the girl she is nearest, and both shimmy towards each other, then turn and shimmy away from each other, then turn to the side and shake their hips back and forth. The partner for the center girl now becomes the new center girl."
This is listed on that camp song page under "DANCING/GAME/CHANT songs"

Click for a cocojams2 post about this game song.

3. "Emerald’s Chant
(repeat song)
Oh-la, oh-la, eh!
Roll, roll, roll to the beat, now
I don’t know
Just what it is
Those girls are crazy
Always shakin’ their daisies!

Oh-la, oh-la, eh!
Roll, roll, roll to the beat, now
I don’t know
Just what it is
Those girls are funky
Always acting like monkeys!"
This is listed on that camp song page under "DANCING/GAME/CHANT songs"

Click for the lyrics and videos of the 1988 Hip Hop song "Rollin With Kid N Play".

4. "Funky Chicken
(Leader) Let me see your funky chicken!
(Leader) Let me see your funky chicken!
(All) WHAT'S THAT YOU SAY? I said....

Chorus: (everyone)
Ooo, ah-ah-ah ooo, ah-ah-ah ooo, ah-ah-ah ooo,
One more time, now!
Ooo, ah-ah-ah ooo, ah-ah-ah ooo, ah-ah-ah ooo,
One more time now!

Other Verses: Dracula, Orangutan, Elvis Presley, Cleopatra, John Travolta, do the polka, shopping car

(Actions: During first and third line of chorus, do silly movement that corresponds with verse)
This is listed in that camp song website under "FAST songs"

Published on Dec 25, 2014
Provided to YouTube by Universal Music Group International

Click for a video of the 1970 Jackson 5 R&B song "How Funky Is Your Chicken"

Since I can find no record that I've previously posted online the example that I collected around 1999 from three sisters under the age of 12 years (Faith, Grace, and ?, I remember that her name wasn't "Charity", African American girls in Braddock, Pennsylvania), here's that example- The girls said it was a cheerleader cheer:

[chanted in unison]

How funky is the chicken
How loose is the goose
So come on everybody
and shake your caboose
Shake your caboose
Shake your caboose.

[The girls shook their butt to the side while saying "Shake your caboose".]

5. "Gigalow

Person 1: Hey (insert Person 2’s name here)!
Person 2: Hey what?
1: Hey (Person 2’s name!
2: Hey what?
1: Show us how you gigalow, I said, show us how you gigalow!
2. My hands are high, my feet are low, and this is how I gigalow.
All: Her hands are high, her feet are low, and this is how she gigalows!"
This is listed on that camp song page under "DANCING/GAME/CHANT songs"

Click for the pancocojams post "The Children's Rhyme "Gigalo" - Examples & Probable Sources"

6."Humpty Dumpty Song
Hump-dee, dump
Hump, hump, dee, dump-dee dump-dee
Hump-dee, dump
Hump, hump, dee, dump-dee dump-dee
(enter any nursery rhyme and sing for 12 beats of song)

(i.e.) Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey (HEY!)
Along came a spider and sat down beside her…|
Singing UHH! Ain’t that funky now?
This is listed in that camp song website under "FAST songs"

Click for the pancocojams rhyme "Pre-The Dozens Girls' Foot Stomping Cheer "Hump De Danda""

7. "Ooh Ungowa
My back’s a-breakin’, my belt’s too tight
My hips a-shakin’ from left to right
Singin’ ooh Ungowa, (enter person or unit name here)’s got the power
You know it, you said it,
And now you represent it.
Singin’ OOH UNGOWA (enter name here)’s GOT THE POWER!"
This example is listed on that camp song page under "DANCING/GAME/CHANT songs"

The lines "my back's achin and my bra's too tight" are found in the African American children's rhyme "Bang Bang Choo Choo Train". However, those children's rhymes adapted those lines from African American military cadences which probably lifted those lines from the risque social song "Bang Bang Lulu".

Also, click for the pancocojams post entitled "The REAL Origin Of The Word "Ungawa" & Various Ways That Word Has Been Used In The USA"

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visiting comments are welcome.

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