Masguda I. Shamsutdinova's site


Seattle Sings World Lullabies

When the Child is created in a Woman, everything sings in her, everything sings for her. And the Universe’s love penetrates her with the rhythm of a Lullaby. The Lullaby’s magic is in the mother’s sound. It is in her voice, and in the calm that is first created in her own body. In singing her Lullaby, a mother creates a rhythm of love and calm in herself first, and then gives that to her child. In the Lullaby, mother and child pass through all of evolution together. They experience different emotional states of humanity as she lulls – fear, sorrow, affection, … and love. The Lullaby shows baby that mother will protect her or him. It is trust.

Why did I start to collect Lullabies? In my former country as an ethnomusicologist I recorded traditional healing sounds of Russian minorities, as well as Northern Sufi music. I came to the United States with two words Hi and Bye. Desperately wanting to learn the English language, and a vocabulary of Beauty I applied to my English Second Language Teacher.
“Can you teach me them?”
He said, “You do not need a vocabulary of beauty, being the first generation in this country you will be washing dishes all your life. Study the kitchen vocabulary.”
I said, “But this country’s slogan is, “Dreams come true.”
He said, “Not for you.”
I thought as he is an American, he must be right. And thus I started to wash dishes at Harborview Hospital. Once when I was serving suffering patients I met a crying woman.
“Why do you cry?”
She said that for years she cannot sleep.
“What do you do to get a sleep?”
“ I’ve been eating tons of pills, and every night I count white sheep to1000. Nothing helps.”
“ Why do you count white sheep?”
“ Everybody does who has a sleep disorder.”
I said, “Count gray donkeys.”
Next morning she said to me, “Thanks.” She said that she slept as a baby.
This woman was sent to me by God to remind me that I am still a composer, who writes symphonies and ballets, an ethnomusicologist, and Ph.D., who dreams to learn the English vocabulary of Beauty. Thinking about suffering people who need to recover a memory of love I started this Lullaby project.
I have been collecting lullabies that might be lost if I don’t do this. More than 300 Americans have sung their lullabies to me as if I were their child. The love they have breathed on me helps me to collect and protect lullabies as a memory of the great American mosaic heritage.
Now I am going to sing to you a Tatar Lullaby. It was sung for centuries to put to sleep Tatar babies. My grandmother sang it to my mom; I sang it to my sons. And I will be singing this Lullaby to my grand children.
With so much tenderness a mother sings in this lullaby to Tatar Baby: “my breast is a bed, my arms are pillows, my hair is a blanket for you.”

1.Tatar Lullaby by Masguda:
Duration: 2:46

Lullaby is a type of song sung by mothers and nurses the world over to lull a child to sleep. Also it can be used to sooth an upset, or sick child. The Lullaby is sung solo and displays musical characteristics that are often archaic. The simplest form is merely a repetition of monotonous and hypnotizing sounds, descending melodic line, stylized representations of sighing accompanied by a gentle rocking of the child in the arms, or in its bed, or cradle. The sound effects of the lullaby sometimes take precedence over meaning, with words being deliberately altered to produce assonant, comforting sounds. As we see, mothers of the world over use in lullabies the same methodology that is used in hypnosis.
Aside from humming, the common hypnotizing sounds of Lullabies are for Arabs “L”, with the sound “L” Arabs sing – delelloi, dellelloi; Ukrainians – leli, leli: Basques – lolo, lolo; Bretons – lala, lala, Polish – lulu, Byelorussians – lyuli, lyuli.
Sound “B” is used in Russian Lullabies – bayushki, bai; in Ghana – mbaa, Quechua Indians – bbbubbuibbbua; in Uganda – baa; Cape Province in Africa – abiyoyo, abiyoyo.
American mothers being as a microcosm of mothers of our planet incorporate the sounds of many ethnic groups when singing to their babies.

We will listen to the Russian Lullaby with the calming sound “B” by Svetlana Svetlichnaya .You will hear “Bayushki, bye.”

2.Russian Lullaby by Svetlana Svetlichnaya:

The Sound “R” is very common over the planet. In Armenian Lullabies in the East we find – oror, in Central America Mexicans sing – rorro, Honduras people – arrurru; Ethiopians in Africa hypnotize their babies with the – ushurururu.
Listen to the Ethiopian Lullaby with the sound “R” sung by Felek Alemayehu and Liyu Bekele

3.Ethiopian Lullaby by Felek Alemayehu and Liyi Bekele :

The sound “N” we can find in Japanese, Turkish, Tunisian, Bulgarin, Georgian, Rumanian and other cultures. The lullabies use the calming syllables as nenne, ninnininni, nani, nani, nano, nano, nananana. For Georgians Nana is a Great Mother, Mother of the Sun. Thus in the Lullabies we can find traces of ancient mythology.
Now you will listen to the Japanese Lullaby performed by Yuri Nishiyama.

4.Japanese Lullaby by Yuri Nishiyama:

As defined by Theresa Brakeley, “Sleep itself may be personified as the Sandman, La Dormeette, Willie Winkie, and called upon to take the child to dreamland.”
“The slumber comes softly, the slumber comes gently, and the slumber comes sweetly. The mother shakes the branches small lovely dreams in showers fall. Here comes a drowsy grandmother. She pushes a sleigh carriage full of dreams. What price, grandmother? Four golden coins for all dreams. Baby’s mother the dreams did buy, and now asleep in the sleigh carriage is her baby, like a little lamb. Let Sleep come, slumber come from the forest grove, take my baby by his small hand, lead him with you to the grove, cradle him in the soft grasses, cover him with warmest fern leaves.”

  1. Irish Lullaby by Cait Callen”:

That was an Irish Lullaby sung by Cait Callen.

Many lullabies concentrate on maternal admiration of the child, enumerating his or her personal beauties and charms. In the world lullabies the child is described as a marigold, a little baby with eyes like diamonds, a twinkle-like starlight that flowers the heavens. My precious soul, my little morning star, my sunshine, my little dove, little bit of my heart, angel of my love, my love and heart’s desire, little rose, little lamb, a little moon in the cradle.
Lullabies are sung softly, with little expression, and repeated over and over until, as sleep claims the baby, the voice trails off to a whisper. Some are constructed so that stanzas can be added almost endlessly. Here is an example by Nicole Lewis.

6.Nicole’s Lullaby
Duration: 3:00

“Your good angel will gather for you at the young elm beautiful dreams and quiet rest.”
As a guarantee of safety during the night, the words of Lullabies often invoke saints, angels, to watch over the cradle. Mothers apply to heavens, saints, angels, and gods as protectors of maternity. “Who sends all little ones to sleep, please bolt and lock our gates and doors, and lull to sleep my little baby. Let him sleep and then wake again, and then get up, and start to walk, and then to take his pen and paper, and go to a good teacher soon to learn his A,B,Cs, and to grow wise and diligent.
These are the words from Cyprus.

Moroccans sing:
“O Allah, who puts children to sleep, put my little one to sleep on the high bed. I beg you to guide him, and lead him and protect him, and keep Satan away from my baby.”

Sung by Sara Elefson you will listen to the Ecuadorian Lullaby.

Lady Saint Ana, why the baby cries?
Because he has lost an apple.
Sir Saint Joseph, master carpenter,
Make one crib for the little bright star.
Go to sleep, my baby, go to sleep, my love.
Go to sleep a piece of my heart. Sleep, my baby,
I have many things to do.

7.Ecuadorian Lullaby by Sara Elefson:
Duration: 1:56

Other reassuring words in the World Lullabies are devoted to how peaceful the surroundings are: “The sun glimmers gold, it fades away; birds sing no more their sweet music. They are asleep. No more fragrance, sweet petals of flowers in to buds have folded. They are asleep. The silver moon in all its colors, sleep little baby, mother’s own child. Your cradle is made of gold decorated with pearls. The shadows are coming; the rays of moonlight are fine threads of silver will shine on my baby asleep in his cradle. Rain is gently falling, night for rest is calling. The crickets sing you lullaby beside the dying fire. The sheep is in the golden sky, the moon and her flock, which she guides way up high.”

8.Lucinde’s Lullaby
Duration: 3:17

You’ve listened to a Scottish Lullaby sung by Lucinde Metcalfe

As defined by Theresa Brakeley, “Promises and bribes for good behavior provide a common theme. The offers may range from the simplest of comforts to the height of riches and power, according to the environment and the imagination of the singer. Baby Bunting, in the English Lullaby, is promised a rabbit-skin to wrap the Baby-Bunting in.”
A Mexican lullaby tells: “Beautiful little sparrow, beak of coral, I’ll bring you a cage made of pure crystal; beautiful little sparrow, beak of coral, I’ll bring you a cage of gold for you.” Corsican lullaby promises: “When you are a big girl, I’ll dress you fine; then in town you’ll show yourself well groomed, with round curls, in rich stuffs made in Corte, lavishly trimmed. And you will have a husband rich in land and herds, a handsome shepherd boy, who one day will be a mayor of all the mountain people and all the shepherds.” One of the Greek cradlesongs refrain promises the city of Alexandria in sugar, Cairo in rice, and Constantinople to rule. Armenians promise to fetch the Moon and Stars for their Baby. For Ashkenazim’s babies rewards may be raisins and almonds. Latvians sing: “Snow –white lambs for baby, all kinds for you own, curly, bobtailed, long tailed. When a man you are grown god grants six fine horses you may drive one day. Berbers sing: “I will mix you food and grind some flies into it and give it to you, so that you’ll be satisfied.” Tsimshian Indians say: When you grow you will catch the large spring salmon, you will gather the fish spines for Thunder Woman.

Performed by Rosy Betz-Zall you’ll hear a famous African-American Lullaby “All the Pretty Little Horses.” Whoever created this song could not take care of her own baby, because she was too busy taking care of her master’s child.

“Way down yonder in the meadow
Poor little baby cries, mama,
Birds and butterflies flutter ‘round his eyes,
Poor little baby cries, mama.”

9.American Lullaby “All the Pretty Little horses” by Rosy Betz:
Duration: 1:21

Another traditional American Lullaby promising rewards to the good child is made regional through the introduction of the southern mocking bird, known and admired for its own tuneful singing, its unusual repertoire of songs. Jean Murphy from Oregon wrote to me:
I hope listeners will realize it’s a parody of the traditional “Mama’s gonna buy a mocking bird. I’d sung the old version many many times and got bored with it, so started making up my own rhymes, improvising them as I went. So each time it was a bit different, although I believe I stuck with “buffalo turd” because I thought it was so funny.
Now I remember something else: yes, I sang that song to my own and my grandsons But more than that. When my daughter Sara was a baby, I worked at an infant daycare center. I used to sit in the nap room, on the floor, surrounded by cribs full of babies, and sing for half an hour at a time, “Rock a bye baby,” “Hush a bye,” and “Down in the valley,” and of course “Mama’s gonna buy you a mocking bird.” And that is when I began making up my own verses.
Now you will be listening to Jean Murphy’s version of promises to American babies:

10.“Mocking bird” by Jean Murphy

The words of the lullaby can instill incorporate the fears of the parent. Imagery involving the beasts suggests the need to cope with life’s harsh realities. There may be violence and dominance. As defined by Theresa Brakeley “Threat from the playful to the hair-raising enter into a lullaby text. These make use of the bogeymen of all nations to persuade wakeful babies to go to sleep.”
White Evil is pictured in Cuban lullabies as one who eats crying babies, ‘El Coco’ among Spanish –speaking peoples is pictured as a black man, who steals babies. Indonesians scare babies singing words as: “The moon is rising, like a giant’s head so dreadful, looking for crying child.” Honduras moms sing: “If you do not sleep the coyote will eat you.” Maracas people from South America say that the big cat will come and eat a crying baby. German mothers sing: “Do not bleat like a sheep for the shepherd’s dog will come, and bite my naughty little one.” Chilian mothers say: “A cow will bite your dirty butt,” Russians say that wolf will bite baby’s side if he does not sleep. Norwegians say: “If the child will not be quite, take a table leg, pound it on the wall, then child will be quite.”
When I was a child my oldest sister was scared with the Tickle Man, who will tickle me if I do not sleep. I still hate to be tickled.
During the recording of the Lullabies I always ask the question, why are some of the lullabies so scary. I have many stunning responds at this question. Therese Donohue, who is from Portland, gave me her opinion about it:
“Masguda, I like your idea of disconnecting neurons of wakefulness through the scary lullabies.\ Are you familiar with the term “Hostile Lullaby”?

This is the day we give babies away
With a half a pound of tea.
If you know any ladies who want any babies
Just send them around me.

I love this idea!!!” Theresa continues, “It is so great for a tired mama to make this joke while her baby won’t go to sleep and the baby appreciates the song as well, even if (of course) he does not understand words! I think the hostile lullabies acknowledge the dark side of human nature – allow the mothers to express their destructive energy in a loving, humorous way. The lullabies are sung sweetly so I do not think the children are actually frightened – they hear the tone, feel the closeness of the breathing, warm mother and the mother herself is actually soothed, made more relaxed physically, by singing those destructive words. These aren’t everyday lullabies – they are the occasional lullabies of a tired, frustrated and desperate woman. And they take the pressure off like the valve on a pressure cooker – so that aggressive energy can be realized safely. It’s really quite wonderful and it must have been wise, wise woman (may be a grandmother) who came up with the idea originally. Perhaps it was a gift of grandmothers to their daughters. My daughters certainly know this song and will always remember it. I really do hope they remember it when mothering gets rough, as of course it will. In our culture we don’t want to look at the hard part of mothering, the dark mother, but we ignore her at our peril! If we try to proceed as if all were good and light, that darkness will certainly emerge in a destructive and inappropriate ways. You would do a great service to spread the hostile lullabies around! I teach this one to women whenever I can.
Listen, when I am taking care of other women’s babies in my home and we have a rough day, my own children and I joke about putting “Free” signs on them and putting them out on the parking strip of grass in front of our house so that passerby might know the babies are available at no charge. Because of the lullaby we even imagine putting a tea bag into each of the babies’ hands! Of course we would never do this! The babies don’t understand and it puts us in a much better mood so that we can continue our day. It just allows us to acknowledge out loud that we’re having a hard time and that is enough to change energy. Thank goodness! Without humor all would be lost!!!”

Dear listeners, now Martine Pierre-Louis from Haiti will give you an example of how they threaten Haitian unsleeping babies. She sings in her lullaby “that lobster will eat you, my baby, if you do not sleep. But if a baby sleeps, they will eat a lobster tomorrow themselves.”

11.Haitian Lullaby by Martine Pierre-Louis:
Duration: 1:00

A famous American Lullaby “Rock a-bye baby on the tree top,” seems to me as the
scariest lullaby of the world.

“When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks
The cradle will fall
And down will come
Baby, cradle and all.”

Practically any kind of song can and does serve a lullaby.

Listen to the famous ballad “The Golden Vanity” sung by Beth Amsbary which was sung to her as a lullaby by her mom, sisters and brothers..

12.”Golden Vanity” by Beth Amsbary:
Duration: 2:56

Mothers all over the world, from different ethnicities, from different countries, from different continents, of different races not knowing each other created lullabies that communicate the crystal condition of love to the baby. These love songs have passed from generations to generations, from grandmothers to daughters and granddaughters.
Lullabies are the most likely to survive of any type of folk song, for as long as babies cry and the voice of the mother will quiet them, such tunes and words continue to be handed down, and continue to come into being.

  1. Irish Lullaby “Baloo”by Dejah Leger
    Duration: 0:35

Total duration is 50:00

By Masguda Shamsutdinova Ph.D.