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Why do you sing 'Kye Kye Kule'?

Updated: Jun 13, 2020

This is a song that many, if not all of you know or have taught – I've taught it too! Recently though, I had to stop and think about this song. I did some research about it, and surprisingly (or unsurprisingly), the details are quite foggy. But perhaps this in itself might reveal something to us all about why we teach certain songs.

Kye Kye Kule (there are many different spellings/versions) is a song often taught in primary schools. I've seen/heard it sung in assemblies and warmups at the start of music lessons. The words often go like this:

Leader:        Kye Kye Kule  (chay chay koo-lay)  Chorus:         Kye Kye Kule  Leader:        Kye Kye Kofinsa (chay chay koh-feen sah) Chorus:         Kye Kye Kofisa  Leader:        Kofisa Langa   (Koh-fee sah lahn-gah)   Chorus:         Kofisa Langa  Leader:        Kaka Shilanga   (Kah-kah shee lahn-gah)  Chrous:         Kaka Shilanga Leader:        Kum Aden Nde  (koom ah-dehn day)  Chorus:         Kum Aden Nde

Leader:        Kum Aden Nde  (koom ah-dehn day)  Chorus:         Kum Aden Nde, HEY! 

Q: Where does this song come from?

I've seen some websites and textbooks refer to it simply as, an 'African' folk song. Some suggest that it's a traditional West African song and some that it comes from the country of Ghana.

Q: What does it mean?

There doesn't seem to be consensus on this. There are translations which seem to be a direct reference to 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes', while others say that the words mean nothing, apart from the word Kofi, which is the name given to boys who are born on a Friday.

Ask yourself – Why do I teach this?

Think about a song in another language – Frère Jacques for example. Would you still teach it if you weren't sure if it was in Flemish, French, Spanish or Gaelic? What about if you didn't know exactly what it meant, would you still teach it then?

Do you teach 'Kye Kye Kule' out of habit? Is it out of a need to teach an 'ethnic' song? Is it because you believe the song has intrinsic value outside of being 'African'? It is because it's 'cool'?

Ok, Nate, thank you for ruining this song for me. What can I do now?

Have a listen to 'Me Ti' M'Abati'. It's in Twi, which is a dialect of the Akan language, most commonly spoken in Ghana.

This is in Yoruba, which is a language and a group of people originating from the regions now known as Nigeria and Benin in West Africa. Some famous people with Yoruba heritage include YouTuber KSI, actor John Boyega and writer Tomi Adeyemi.

And did you notice something else in these videos? Not a mud hut or wild animal in sight.

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