Mangwani Mpulele

When my mother was young, she grew up in a home where only French was spoken. As she got older, and learned English, and they moved to English speaking communities, she slowly stopped speaking French all together. These days she can understand it, if spoken to, but chooses not to speak it as it takes her too long to formulate the sentences (and she finds her English accent, when she speaks French, embarrassing).

Despite her being anglified, my childhood was filled with French songs, as those are the ones she recalled from her youth. I grew up singing Frère Jacques, Alouette, and Au clair de la lune. Although I really had no idea what I was saying, or singing, they were still my favorite songs.

And now that I have a daughter, I sing the same French songs to her. Partly because they’re the songs I was taught as a child, but also because Vista has a very peculiar trait.

She is very particular about ownership. Everything must have an owner. My house, your car, her bike… and that applies to songs.

I was no longer allowed to sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ after she heard the Wiggles sing it. “No mama, that’s the Wiggles song,” whenever I tried to sing it to her. The same thing happened when she heard Barney sing “Mr. Sun”. It became Barney’s song, and I was no longer allowed to sing it in her hearing.

And so my challenge has been to find songs she likes, and will tolerate me to sing, that have no ‘owners’.

I’ve been forced to reach back to my days around Girl Guide campfires, and pluck the obscures songs that she’ll never hear on the radio or TV.  (Lucky for her, I have the strange talent of being able to remember almost every song I was taught to sing as a kid.)

Her current favorite is an African song called “Mangwani Mpulele”.

Here’s a really bad audio clip of me singing it.
Warning:  I’m not a singer.  I’ve never claimed to be.  I don’t even sing Karaoke.  Listen at your own risk.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

It’s what I sing to her most nights when she wants a song to fall asleep to.  (Yeah, a white redneck girl singing and African tribal song.  Weird, n’est pas?)

It does make me wonder, though, what sorts of songs she’ll sing to her children when she’s older.

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20 Responses to Mangwani Mpulele

  • Vixen says:

    Lucky you have those un-owned songs to fall back on! I could never remember any of my childhood songs when my kids were little. Except for one bit of You Are My Sunshine. So I was very limited. Just as well, since I sing horribly.

    Butterball, aka The Diva, is big in to ownership also. She and Ladybug are always having an argument over the state their Great Grandma lives in…Ladybug: I want to go visit the snow in Utah. The Diva: NOOOO, it’s not Utah, it’s MYTAH!!!

    Jenn Reply:


    *falls over laughing* MYTAH! BWAHAHAHAHA… OMG, that is the most awesome thing I’ve ever heard. Your grandbabies are obviously geniuses.

  • Monique says:

    My eldest son had a problem with me singing songs that “belonged” to other people too, I learned how to sing them in Spanish, and even though the tunes are the same, he’s happy with the Spanish. I don’t know how well I’d be able to sing in African, but I’d certainly try for my little ones. :)

    Jenn Reply:


    Oh, now there’s a good idea. V’s all over Dora, so she’d probably get a kick of hearing songs in Spanish. Although, she’d probably be too busy correcting my pronunciation to listen to the songs.

  • I like that as many times as you and I have “talked”, I’ve never heard your voice, and that the first time I do hear it, you are sinigng your daughter a lullaby while she is tucked safe in bed, surrounded by her mama’s love. I’d say that is rather fitting, eh?

    She might really like the cd “Beautiful Creatures” and the last track on it, “Close Your Little Eyes”. All really cute kids stuff, and I don’t do kids stuff. My kids listen to and love Mumford & Sons, Train, and Eddie Vedder. Anyway,

    Jenn Reply:

    @Melissa Wardy,

    Cool! I’ve never heard of that CD. Definitely going to check it out.

    We’ve tried to turn V onto ‘real’ music, but so far, no go. She insists on the kids stuff that make my ears bleed.

  • Andy says:

    That sounds like our house too! I grew up in an English speaking household, but I went to French school. So all the songs that I remember from my childhood are French. The songs that I sing to Liam are all French. It’s great to hear him “sing” along with me, having no idea what he’s saying!

  • Kellee says:

    I just adore the sense of continuity of you singing songs from your childhood to her, just as your mother did. Love that! :)

    (BTW, you sound lovely!)

    Jenn Reply:


    Awwww…you’re so sweet. Thank you. I never really considered the continuity of it, but you’re right. There is something comforting in that thought.

  • PsychMamma says:

    I love it! And your voice is absolutely lovely! I almost fell asleep listening, you were so soothing.

    Cracks me up that V doesn’t want you to sing anything that “belongs” to anyone else! J just always wants us to think of a new song that she’s never heard. Gets a little challenging. We get bonus points if we can somehow personalize it with her name, the cat’s name, or stuff about us.

    This is the stuff memories are made of.


    Jenn Reply:


    Ha! When we try to personalize songs for V, it makes her mad. “That’s not how it goes! You’re not singing it right!”. She’s so particular.

    We still have to get her and J together for a playdate one day. That would be such a riot.

  • honestly, you never ever cease to amaze me.

    Jenn Reply:

    @nic @mybottlesup,

    Amaze you with my lack of vocal talent? LOL
    I promise I’ll never try to sing you to sleep.

  • Heather says:

    V is so smart and so funny and so amazing….she’ll write her own songs to sing to her kids!

    you’re a great momma.

    My husband feels the same way regarding his Spanish as your mom does her French–only he still speaks it regularly (well, begrudgingly…)

    Jenn Reply:


    Good point. She already likes to make up her own songs. And honestly, they’re more interesting than the songs we sing to her.

  • Michelle says:

    I’ve several cd’s of french songs kicking around here somewhere, if you’re looking for inspiration. Although, Malcolm’s favorite CD was one that his aunt sent him. It’s a personalized CD with each song on it incorporating his name into it several times. V may enjoy something like that. It got played and played and played on our trip to the coast 2 years ago, and they still sing songs from it and haven’t gotten bored yet.

    Jenn Reply:


    Are those the ‘Name Your Tune’ CD’s? V has that one and just got the new one for Xmas. It’s her favorite CD and the ONLY one she listens to in the car. I may have to get the name of those French CD’s from you, though, just for a bit of variety.

    Michelle Reply:

    @Jenn, Yes, that’s the one. I swear we’ve almost worn them out.

    You can just borrow the French CDs from me (opps, now I have to find them) We’ve got the ones we listen to on our iPod, so they’re just back-ups. Somewhere I even have some French books with other songs. We got a lot when Malcolm was born from Dave’s folks. I had such high hopes of getting my kids to learn some French before school.

    I’m good for coffee this afternoon or Wes afternoon. Picking up CDs is a good excuse!

    Michelle Reply:

    @Jenn, Oh just remembered. The other CD that doesn’t make my ears bleed is the Barenaked Ladies Snackland. I actually love some of those songs and have been known to sing them in the car, by myself. My favorites are 789 and Crazy ABCs.

    (and with both I actually had to listen to the songs when I found the links. They make me smile).

  • Kate says:

    My mom used to sing “you are my sunshine”… awww.

    I think you have a lovely voice, btw :)

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