Name that (Danish) tune!
February 6, 2009 3:20 PM   Subscribe

[Name-that-tune-Filter] Looking for the name and/or general translation of a Danish song my mother learned from friends as a child.

So, I've posted the twenty-seconds-of-the-song that she remembers up on Vimeo as a video file.

The song was taught to her by her friends Donna and Karla when they were all about 8 years old (back around 1940), so it's possible that it's a nursery rhyme (?). Donna and Karla's parents (who also knew the song) had come over from Denmark, hence the assumption it's a Danish song.

Any ideas?
posted by blueberry to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total)
I'm Norwegian. I don't have a specific answer for you, but I can say that I am not able to recognize any Danish words in the song. It sounds like nonsense words (or Dutch, which to me is all the same). However,if it's gibberish that's actually not that odd. Some Danish and Norwegian folk songs (the kinds that have no clear author and have existed for hundreds of years) use gibberish playful words. Especially that "sim-salabim" part is typical. It's a phrase used in magic (like abra cadabra), but here it's likely just meant to sound fun and weird and lyrical. The phrase is mentioned in this Danish paper.
posted by edlundart at 4:08 PM on February 6, 2009

Best answer: According to this page here, it's called "Højt på en gren en krage" (High on a branch a crow), written by Johan Ludvig Heiberg and based on an old German folk melody.

Højt på en gren en krage (high on a branch a crow),
- simsaladim bamba saladu saladim -
højt på en gren en krage sad (high on a branch a crow sat).

Så kom en hæslig jæger (then came a horrible hunter),
- simsaladim bamba saladu saladim -
så kom en hæslig jæger hen (then came a horrible hunter walking).

Han skød den stakkels krage (he shot the poor crow),
- simsaladim bamba saladu saladim -
han skød den stakkels krage ned (he shot the poor crow down).

Nu er den stakkels krage (now the poor crow),
- simsaladim bamba saladu saladim -
nu er den stakkels krage død (now the poor crow is dead).

Rough translation in parenthesis. Done by a Swede, though, so there may be other more appropriate English words in some places, but that gives you the gist. In Sweden at least, simsalabim** is sort of a nonsense word along the lines of abracadabra. It's used to indicate something that happened as through magic. Sort of like "The poor kid was crying. But then I sang her a song, and simsalabim! she was laughing instead". I'm unsure of what the rest of the words mean, though.

I found it by trying a few combinations of what I thought the first few words might be, if I was an American trying to pronounce Danish.

**Note the "b" instead of the "d" used in the transcription, but that might be wrong in the page I used as source for the text too.
posted by gemmy at 4:17 PM on February 6, 2009

Best answer: Looks like there may be another verse. According to some other places, the last verse goes:

Men solen var knapt gået ned (but the sun had barely set)
- simsaladim bamba saladu saladim -
Så sad igen en krage der (so sat again a crow there)

posted by gemmy at 4:27 PM on February 6, 2009

Wow, good find! That's clearly the right song. Now that I read the lyrics, I can tell that the words match up, even if the pronunciation is way off. Amazing how someone can remember a song like this in a language not their own, for that long, well enough for it to be recognized like this decades later.
posted by edlundart at 5:22 PM on February 6, 2009

Response by poster: Great, thanks guys!
posted by blueberry at 1:35 AM on February 7, 2009

« Older My car's headlights have a problem!   |   Please find my email! It's hiding. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.