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Songs | Fall 2016

Ali Baba

Louise Pascale writes: “My introduction to Afghan traditional children’s music began while I was in the Peace Corps in Afghanistan from 1966 to 1968.  Having just graduated with a degree in music and education, I was interested in teaching music in the schools in Kabul. I was fortunate to be introduced to an Afghan poet and musician, and together we put together a compilation of sixteen songs. Having no recording device, I wrote them down by ear and the poet helped write down the lyrics. I then headed off to local schools with my harmonium in hand, eager to share the songs with the children.

“Almost all children in Afghanistan were at that time taught simply by rote, and my arrival to sing with them was met with great delight. The favorite song, above all else, was ‘Ali Baba,’ a song much like our ‘Old MacDonald,’ but the Afghan version has Ali Baba in his garden surrounded by many animals, all of which also make funny sounds. The twist in ‘Ali Baba’ is in the last verse when a rabbit appears and the rabbit has no voice at all! This is the punch line. The children love making rabbit ears and singing, ‘Mm, mm, mm, says the rabbit /  Because he has no voice.’”

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