Friday, June 27, 2014

Bluefield, Nicaragua's Tulululu Songs & Dances

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post continues pancocojams's focus on the May Pole celebrations in Bluefield, Nicaragua.

This post presents the lyrics to what I believe is an old version of "Tututula" (also known as "Tututulu Pasa"). Three YouTube examples of "Tulululu" songs & dances are also showcased in this post.

Click for the first post in this series. That post provides general information about Bluefield, Nicaragua as well as some information about its May Pole celebrations.

Also, click for a post on the Nicaraguan group Dimension Costena.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who keep alive the traditional celebration of May Pole Festival In Bluefield, Nicaragua. Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. In addition, thanks to those featured in these videos and thanks to the publishers of these YouTube videos.

From my reading it seems clear that "Tulululu" is the title of certain traditional Bluefield, Nicaragua songs. Those songs are also given as "Tulululu Pasa" and "Tululu" (with or without the Spanish word "pasa"). Unfortunately, no date is given for this song or any other song given in that article. However, given the subject of that article, it seems likely to me that this example of "Tulululu" is considerably older (and thus "more traditional" ?) than those songs that are featured in the YouTube examples that are found below. Then again, maybe those versions of "Tulululu" that are sung in those videos are also traditional.

I'd love to "hear" from those who are familiar with "Tulululu" songs and dances. I admit that I just learned about "Tulululu" today when I went YouTube surfing for traditional Afro-Nicaraguan music & dance.

[I added this passage because I realized that this post didn't include any time frames for when Nicaragua's Palo De Mayo celebration began.]

"Vibrant Caribbean rhythms and colorful processions, marks the start of the Palo de Mayo festival, a tribute to Mayaya African goddess of fertility. This celebration dates from the early nineteenth century, is an adaptation of the British tradition who celebrated first day of May with a feast.

Considered the highest expression of culture and tradition of the Caribbean of Nicaragua, the first of May starts with a presentation around a tree which is decorated with colored ribbons and around which dances are performed as welcome to the rainy season , production and new life.

Initially took place on Corn Island, then in Pearl Lagoon and now is celebrated in Bluefields attracting spectators from all the surrounding area and from all over the country who not only witness but are passed with the energy and joy this activity....

Throughout the month of May and especially on weekends, a variety of cultural events at night, highlighting the dances like punta, zumba, the guanara and Gulye, sensual dance movements are showen, so common on Afriocaribean dances...

Definitely this festival, that has disappeared in other countries where was celebrated, in Nicaragua has passed from generations to generations and lived with great intensity year after year."
Read more comments about the statement that Mayaya is an African goddess of fertility in this pancocojams post:

Del Palo De Mayo History; Mr. Johnny Hodgson Deerings, Historian Costeño
From [English translation of an article written in Spanish]

Note: The English version of this article translated the title of the song "Tulululu" to "Your Lu Lu Lu" ("tu" being a Spanish form of the English word "your".) Obviously, that's not a correct translation. However, that mistake makes me to wonder if the word "tulululu" might have been a folk etymology form of a word or words (or words and sounds) that started with the Spanish word "tu".

I'm quoting this excerpt three ways- its Spanish* passage, the English translation that was given to that passage, and my attempt to reformat that English translation into what I consider to be more Standard American English.
*I'm referring to this as a Spanish passage, but some of the words in the song are in English and Creole.

Esta canción se bailaba en la despedida; el baile-desfile se desarrolla a lo largo de las calles entre el norte y el sur de Bluefields. A medida que llegan a los distintos barrios de la ciudad, se van quedando las bailarinas que viven en dichas secciones o barrios.

Este baile requiere la participación de todos los que están en el festival. Las personas van pasando debajo de un arco hecho por los brazos de los participantes. Cuando una pareja pasa, se coloca adelante para continuar el arco que avanza al ritmo de la música.

Tu lu lu lu
Pass anda
Gial an buay de
Pass anda
Pass pass pass anda
Gial an buay de pass anda
Beholden gial
Pass anda
Old Bank gial
Pass anda
Cotton Tri gial
Pass anda
Pass pass pass anda

The article's English translation
"This song was danced at the bachelor; dance-parade takes place along the streets between the north and south of Bluefields. As we come to the neighborhoods of the city, the dancers are left living in these sections or neighborhoods.

This dance requires the participation of everyone in the festival. People are passing under an arch made by the arms of the participants. When a couple passes, standing forward to continue the arc moves to the beat.

Your lu lu lu
Pass walks
Gial an buay of
Pass walks
Pass pass pass goes
Buay pass an Gial of walks
Gial Beholden
Pass walks
Gial Old Bank
Pass walks
Cotton Tri gial
Pass walks
Pass pass pass goes

Standard American English translation:
This song was danced at the young people’s dance-parade that takes place along the streets between the north and south of Bluefields. As the parade arrives at different neighborhoods of the city, the people who live in those neighborhoods leave the parade.

This dance requires the participation of everyone in the festival. People pass under an arch made by the arms of the participants. When one couple passes under the arch, the next couple in line moves forward and people continue to move under the arch, dancing to the beat.

Pass, walks
Every girl and boy
Pass, walk
Pass pass pass go
Boy pass [passes under] and girl walks
Beholden girl
Pass walks
Old Bank girl
Pass walks
Cotton Tri girl
Pass walks
Pass pass pass walks

I think that "pass" [Spanish "pasa"] here means "go under" [the arch made by hands held high]. This movement is the same as that done in the singing game "London Bridge Is Falling Down".

I think that "Every girl and boy" fits what I think is the meaning of that line better than the words "girl and boy of" [a particular neighborhood?]

I wonder if "go"/"goes"" would have been a better translation for the words "walk"/"walks".

"Beholden", "Old Bank", and "Cotton Tri" [Cotton Town] are names of neighborhoods in Bluefield, Nicaragua.

Please add your corrections and ideas about the correct transcription of this particular "Tulululu" song.
Here's another excerpt from that article which is given in the English translation that was made for that page. Note: I italicized a word that is similar to "Tulutulu" toward the end of this article to highlight it. I also added a word in brackets toward the end of this article that I think was meant for that passage.

"A tree of a special kind known as Palo de Mayo was cut and decorated in May with fruit and ribbons of red, yellow, blue, and green, the tree was placed in the square of the two communities or neighborhood Bluefields where it remained throughout the festival until the last day of the month.

Originally in the way that the British teachers taught the maypole to Caribbean, danced around the tree only women, over time some of them dressed in men's clothes occasionally dancing couples, then also allowed the entry of men into the circle but not just any man. Men who sometimes got into the circle to dance, were musicians.

In the early years dancers were selected from the two areas that existed in Bluefields, which were: Cotton Tree and Old Bank. Not only the adults participating in the celebration, but also children and youth. Children danced as interpreted different games around the tree. Your participation time was during the day in the afternoon. Adults danced at night...

Eventually part of the Maypole for children or adolescents was also changing and became a game in May preparing children in puberty and adolescence, where they planted a tree well decorated and full of varied fruits, sang and danced in the end, instead of dancing the "Lulu Tulu" bouncing the tree for everyone tried to grab the fruit as is done in the piñatas.

Sometimes after tree felling and consumption of sweets, children and young people continued to play other songs including always included "London Bridge is falling down" (London Bridge is Falling Down) Dance and Play [whose] Dance and Play were similar to Lulu Tulu"...
That passage ends with what seems to me to be a description of a tug of war contest.

These examples are presented in chronological order based on their posting date on YouTube, with the oldest examples given first.

Example #1: Tulululu 2012

Neyda Dixon, Published on Jun 21, 2012


efranz55, Published on Aug 10, 2012
Here's a comment from that example, from flor cardenas, 2013
"este es el palo d mayo original"
I think that a correct American English translation for that comment is "This is a traditional (Nicaraguan) May Pole song. I wonder if that comment means that this contemporary recording of "Tututulu Pasa" has the same words or basically the same words as the song is remembered being sung a long time ago, and also that song is sung in the same style that it was sung a long time ago.
Here's my incomplete transcription of that Dimension Costena recoding of "Tutululu Pasa":

tulululu pasa [repeat after every line]
that gal and boy they pasa
all of them they pasa
gal and boy they pasa
they hold the gal they pasa
that gal and boy they pasa
pass pass passa
gal and boy they pasa
all of we, we pasa
gal and boy they pasa...
Here's a comment that the publisher of another sound file of Dimension Costena recoding of "Tutululu Pasa" wrote in response to a question about the music's genre:
Rafael Guevara, 2014
"Es un ritmo caribeño de Nicaragua... pero no es ni soca, ni punta."
English translation: It’s the Caribbean rhythm of Nicaragua. But it’s not soca or punta.

"Soca" is a genre of music that originated in Trinidad/Tobago. "Punta" is a genre of music that originated among the Afro-Caribbean Garifuna people of Nicaragua, Central America.
Example #3: Mayo Ya 2014 - Caribbean Taste - Tulululu

Curt Myers, Published on May 31, 2014
MAYO YA 2014
Caribbean Taste - Tulululu
Ft. Miss May 2014 Finalist
Video: || » CMC « ||™ Solutions.
Wednesday, May 28th, 2014.

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Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. That partners form arches that they pass under strongly suggest to me that this Bluefield, Nicaraguan dance or at least this portion of the dance -but not the rhythm, lyrics, and tune, came from English longways set dance traditions.

    Note that going under the arches movement at 1:12 of the Virginia Reel video that I included in this pancocojams post on the "Roots Of The Soul Train Line Formation" html"

    Also, notice the going under the arch movement in videos of the Liberia dance which is called "The Grand March". That Liberian dance is performed at weddings and other celebratory formal events and is [also] patterned after certain formal British dances. An example of the portion of that dance when people go under an arch formed by other dancers is found starting at 1:10 of Example #2 on

  2. The 'pass anda" is basically instructions to the dance. I means pass under. The dance itself is British in origin.

    1. Thanks for that explanation, anonymous!

    2. This is correct. I didn't see a mention in the article (admittedly, I only skimmed, since I'm in a rush) about the Nicaraguan East Coast and the use of Pidgin (a derivative language with English or French roots) spoken by Costeños. So yeah, the phrase isn't "pass anda" (pass go) but rather "pass unda'" (pass under). A lot of the other words you've phonetically spelled are English words spoken with the Pidgin accent.

    3. Thanks for that confirmation, Anonymous!

  3. The standard English translation of the Tulululu song is : Tulululu, pass under. Girls and boys, they pass under. Everybody, pass under. Girls and Boys, They pass under.
    This is done wile walking between two rows of people who are facing each other with their hands joined above their heads.
    Does anyonn know if the word Tulululu means anything in one of the many African languages? I can't find the origin of the word.
    As for the different songs that are performed during Tulululu, most are from local or Caribbean artists.

    1. Thanks, The Wiz for sharing information about the standard lyrics to Tululu.

      I'm not sure if there is a word "tululu" in any traditional African language or if any word or words for any traditional African language that sounds like "tululu" was used for this song.

      My guess is that "tululu" is an approximation of musical notes like "la la la".