Sunday, January 27, 2013

"The Flea Fly Flow" ("Cuma La Vista") Rhyme & Songs That Helped It Grow

Edited by Azizi Powell
Latest revision April 15, 2023

This pancocojams post presents three examples of songs that I believe helped 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 Hernández (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"

UPDATE: July 4, 2021
Here's part of a comment  that was published in this post's comment section by Carlos Arias on July 3. 2021. (The complete comment is found below)
"What about this. "El Cumbanchero" from Desi Arnaz (1946), has cuban origins, with spanish lyrics, presents a similar melodic phrase. In 1964 Chubby Checker presents (Cum-ba-la-be-stay), then in 1973 Marsha Hunt (Oh, no! Not the beast day!) (¡Oh no!, ¡No el día de la bestia!), all three of them sharing afro - caribbean roots. What if they present a transliteration from Spanish lyrics: "Ama la macumba, la macumba, la viste. ¡Oh, no, no, no!; ¡No debiste¡" (Thou! Love the Macumba! The macumba, you saw it!, oh no! no, no, no you shouldn't)"...
Thanks for your comment, Carlos Arias!
Example #2: Chubby Checker - Cu Ma La Be Stay

Soul Sauce, Feb, 8, 2015
Here's the summary for the sound file that was originally published in this post, but is no longer available:
"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."- jimmytheferret, Uploaded on May 12, 2008

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 video.

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!

  3. What about this. "El Cumbanchero" from Desi Arnaz (1946), has cuban origins, with spanish lyrics, presents a similar melodic phrase. In 1964 Chubby Checker presents (Cum-ba-la-be-stay), then in 1973 Marsha Hunt (Oh, no! Not the beast day!) (¡Oh no!, ¡No el día de la bestia!), all three of them sharing afro - caribbean roots. What if they present a transliteration from Spanish lyrics: "Ama la macumba, la macumba, la viste. ¡Oh, no, no, no!; ¡No debiste¡" (Thou! Love the Macumba! The macumba, you saw it!, oh no! no, no, no you shouldn't). Macumba, from Bantú languaje, is associated with rhythm, instruments and rituals. As, "Macumba" from "La Sonora Dinamita" o "Kumbala" from "La Maldita Vecindad y los Hijos del 5to. Patio", (with transposition of Kumba-La ma Kumba-la). Then Hunt makes the rendition of tongue twisters, or jazz scat singing as vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, or praying in tongues as a charismatic chant... or a magic enchantment that probably goes: (2:18) "Be the biddy, cause a lady, uh! ah! ah! the lady ama la macumba, la macumba... Ash! Why you?"(bis). (Sé la viejita, porque la dama, Uh! Ah! Ah!, loves the macumba, the macumba! ¡Ay! ¿Por qué tú?") Just an idea.

    1. Thanks Carlos Arias for sharing your thoughts about the afroCuban roots of DeSi Arnaz's "El Cumbancherp" and their connection to the African American songs that developed into the "Flea Fly Flow" rhymes.

      I support your ideas about these African American songs coming from Desi Arnaz's song but doubt whether Chubby Checker, Maraha Hunt, and other early singers of those songs/rhymes knew that they were singing transliterations of any Spanish lyrics, although the words "Ama la macumba" etc are an interesteting fit to the words that are now commonly chanted for thos rhymes.

      I'm going to add a reference to your comment in this post.

      Thanks again!

    For what it's worth here's the one I recall.

    Flea, FLEA!
    Flea fly, FLEA FLY!
    Flea fly flow, FLEA FLY FLOW!
    Kumala kumala kumala vista
    Oh no no no not the vista, VISTA!
    Eeny meeny decileeny ooh ah ah maleeny
    Achi kachi kumarachi ooh ah ahh
    Ish kiddely oaten boaten bo bo baditten datten watten datten sh I T! I T!

    1. Hi Vandreyer.

      Thanks for your comment and thanks for sharing your example of this fun rhyme.

      I'm glad to add it to this collection.

      But did you and your friends actually spell that word out loud- and not get in trouble for it?

      Was this just chanted or what movements did you do to accompany the chant? for instance, partner hand clap game or group hand slapping game with the person whose hand was slapped last on the letter T declared out of the game?

  5. Is there a translation for these lyrics?

    1. no, I've been searching for over an hour now and have come to the conclusion that this song is gibberish.

    2. Anonymous May 14, 2022.

      I'm sorry that I am just reading your comment.

      I agree with what Anonymous wrote that the words in the song is gibberish. However, my position is that "Flea Fly Flow" came from a song that did indeed make sense.

    3. Anonymous,January 29, 2023

      Thanks for your comment. I agree with what you wrote. I believe this rhyme comes from the Cuban song "El Cumbanchero" or another song that that does indeed make sense.

  6. I had learned this in the late 80s. It's cool to see that there are several versions, and some are close to what I remember. Each line repeated of course

    Fee fi
    Fee fi fo

    Cumela cumela cumela vista
    Oh no, no , no, la vista
    Eenee meenee decimeenee oowa oowa a meenee
    Atcha catcha cumeracha oowa oowa
    Ish billy oaten doaten bobo ba ditten dotten notten watten shhhhh

    1. Hello, Cerise Casbeer.

      Thanks for sharing your version of what I call "Flea Fly Flow" and thanks for including when you learned it.

      I agree that it's cool to see the different versions of this rhyme, and none of them are wrong ;o)

  7. My son and I were talking about this song this morning, prompting to look up where it came from. What I love about children’s playground songs is that any kid will tell you their version is the correct one, the only one, and they’d be right! :) Because these songs picked up as a child become a part of you. Our version that I picked up in Stockton CA in the 60’s didn’t have the call and echo thing but rather a pause that I feel gave it a dramatic effect before it really got going. Someone probably learned it at camp but didn’t relay the echo part to the neighborhood kids, and we ended up singing without it.

    Flea fly

    Coma lama cooma lama cooma lama vista!
    Ohhh no no no not the vista!
    Eenie meenie dissaleenie ooh wahh la wala meenie -
    Ahtcha cahtcha coomerahtcha boddie oh woo!!
    Ish biddley oten boten bo dote n deet n dat n whad daht n shhhhh!

  8. Hello, Anonymous. Thanks for sharing the version of "Flea Fly"/"Cumala Vista" that you remember and thanks for including demographic information.

    I love your point that "What I love about children’s playground songs is that any kid will tell you their version is the correct one, the only one, and they’d be right! :) Because these songs picked up as a child become a part of you."...

    I whole heartedly agree.

    Best wishes to you and your son!

  9. I'm a little surprised to see that no one has commented on this song being turned into a very different version called "... Vista" by an 80s band called Guadalcanal Diary. The author said it was inspired by a campfire song he heard as a child. It can be found on services like Spotify, as well as YouTube

    1. Anonymous, thanks very much for sharing that information about the song "Vista" by the 1980s band "Guadalcanal Dairy. i didn't know about that record before reading your comment.

      I listened to that YouTube sound file. It's definitely based on the children's rhyme that is the topic of this pancocojams post. For some reason the link you provided led me to this hyperlink:

    2. Here's a comment from the discussion thread of that YouTube sound file:
      @duffydogbooks, 2019
      ""I first heard this song back in 1989 when I was a camp counselor at Camp O-Ongo in Running Springs (it's no longer there). One of the counselors did an air-guitar version with his group using tennis rackets as guitars. It took forever to find the song since I didn't know the name of the band nor the song and their was no real internet back then. There is also a pop version called "flee Fly Flo" by a European girl band called Fe-M@il @duffydogbooks"
      That link leads to a video of that group singing that song.

      Thanks again Anonymous, May 8, 2024 for sharing these links!

    3. Thank you for your reply and further research. It is amazing the twists and turns that happens to things like this song, and how it can morph into something different, yet similar. This is yet another example of how much of our western culture is derived from Africa and the tragic enslavement of its people in America.. The banjo (and guitar) being one more example.

    4. You're welcome, Anonymous. I wholeheartedly agree with your comments.

      As a result of your comment alerting me to Guadalcanal Dairy's 1980s Vista song, I plan to publish a pancocojams post soon that includes versions of this children's rhyme that song, and the pop song version that that rhyme inspired. I'll add a link in this discussion thread when I publish that post.

      Best wishes and keep on keeping on!

    5. Thank you. One last comment: i just now realized my typo. It should be Guadalcanal Diary and not Dairy.

    6. :o))

      I read that band's name in that YouTube sound file and I didn't even catch that the word "dairy" wasn't "diary". I guess that may mean that people see what they expect to see. That's a benign example of that tendency.

      Thank you and you're welcome.