french songs

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.

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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