arr. Paul Jennings
This great old nonsense song has been attributed to many places, but of late, the most common placement has called this a French folk song, or perhaps a Portuguese one. That said, we find that the most natural settings of the work are those of African or South American origin.
At its simplest, this song is based around the three-syllable word "chumbara" and/or any word or phrase of a similar size, as long as they are nonsensical, which is to say that they have no real meaning that we know of. (For all we know, there are herds of purple cows and many recipes for pickle soup, but we aren't aware of them.)
K. I. S. S. - Yes, our first admonition is "keep it simple, singer." Much fun can be had with just a few percussion instruments and either ukuleles, guitars, or autoharp. Make it an exercise in creativity, both in what they play and what they sing. Let your players come up with an ostinato, and your singers come up with the words and how they are used within a verse. Give them the examples we use here and maybe a couple of other examples, such as "Gertrude Glump," "rhubarb tea," "plastic socks," or "dancing bats." Perform it this way, and you can use any tempo and as many verses as you like.
Use our tracks - While our tracks provide one option for performing this tune, it can be performed many different ways. If you use our recording, you will hear a full orchestra, with strings, trumpets, horns, trombones, and saxes, making it sound like a jazz band within the orchestra. The arrangement starts with two verses, each performed twice – first in unison, then in 2-part. Then there is a verse just done in solfege and in 2-part. The form continues with a similar performance of two verses, each twice, as they were earlier. It ends with a big ending, ideal for public performance.
Note that this gives you a total of nine verses, so if you want to use your own verses, you have tracks that will accommodate them.
You will also note that our score gives you options for instrumental parts to use with your players, including parts for ukulele, guitar, or autoharp as well as Boomwhackers®, tambourine, cowbell, shaker, and triangle. We also give you the option of doubling the part 2 vocal part on bass xylophone. But that's just the beginning of our thoughts on adaptation.
Adapt, adapt, adapt - The whole idea of this tune is to promote creativity. And thus, we say, "Anything goes." Here are a few suggestions, though we are sure that you and your students will think of more:
- Turn your lyric creation process into a variation on the Mad Libs™ game. Ask your students to dream up lists. (It might be more fun if you do this activity with no explanation and before you sing the song.)
Start by getting some two-syllable first names, colors, actions, and descriptive words. You can make other categories to help them along if you like. Then make similar lists of one-syllable words – made-up last names, animals, foods, clothing, or interesting nouns. Now, when it is time to learn the song, start by learning the basic song, then pull out your list that you made and build some nonsense words and phrases from it. If you have lots of cool words, perform the song several times to let you use all of your ideas.
- Solfege is fun and educational. While we give you solfege versions of the tune and part 2, there are other ways to add it to your lesson on "Chumbara." You could, for instance, let a select group of singers, or an alternative second group perform the solfege section. They would be singing solfege syllables to the Boomwhackers® part. For clusters and chords, they would play them divisi, or simplified if you like.
- The only limit to the number and variety of instruments you can use for the tune is taste. You may own every percussion instrument known to man, but if you play them all at once there will be no center of attention. The key to effective percussion use is to change the texture and volume every so often. Perhaps build up the percussion used, adding a new instrument every eight bars, then subtracting them in the opposite order. Or have everyone play a pattern solidly until the beginning of a new section that is just shaker, or agogo bells.
Be creative; think about textures and contrasts.
Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.