This song that charmed my heart
March 17, 2011 9:43 AM   Subscribe

[SongFilter] I want everything to do with this gorgeous, orphaned song. Unfortunately it's in French.

Le Bambocheur, by Anna and Kate McGarrigle, on their album La Vache Qui Pleure (it's on Spotify).

It's not every day that I hear a song I really, really like, and even rarer does it render my google-fu a worthless pile of poo. There are a few good (and bad) reviews out there, but little else. Am I doing it wrong? Mefites, please help answer these pressing questions (in approximate order of importance):
  1. What do the lyrics mean? i.e. Did Google Translate get it right?
  2. Are there any idiomatic sayings/cultural references hidden in plain sight?
  3. It's a very simple, folksy tune - could it be a cover version of some better known song?
  4. Are there any grammatical/spelling errors in the lyrics? The fourth line sounds like 'charmer mon coeur' to my untrained ears...
  5. How is Canadian French different to French French? Is it just the accent?
But seriously...any speculations are welcome. Bonus points if you can find:
  • Piano sheet music
  • Anna and/or Kate's account of how it was written, or what inspired it
  • The type of fiddle (if it's not a bog-standard one) used
  • Spoken clips of the lyrics, so I can learn the pronunciation properly
  • Any similar-sounding songs
You have my eternal gratitude...
posted by fix to Media & Arts (8 answers total)
Best answer: The google translate is pretty good, but not totally.

First verse is pretty much right-on, it's a teenager asking her mother if her mother knows the boy she loves.

Second verse should go like this, and is the mother's reply

Go away, little brunette,
You won't have (get) the one that you love
I am going to marry you off tomorrow
To a rich young man

Last verse is the daughter's lament:
I walk along the (sea)shore
And cry about my loves and my enslavement
And for forever, we will find, in my heart
Tenderness for my reveler (or, rake)
posted by benign at 9:58 AM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: How is Canadian French different to French French?

It's like English English vs American English. Different accent, idioms, slang, swear words.
posted by desjardins at 10:00 AM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: Err, sorry, that last comment (by benign) was me, accidentally signed into my boyfriend's account.

Yes, the lyrics have a typo -- the transcriber accidentally put "my" instead of "mon" (my being the english word for mon). I can't listen to the song itself right now, so I hesitate to say more.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 10:01 AM on March 17, 2011

Current research suggests it to be a traditional song, but I could be wrong. It is included in this collection of traditionals--but with no clues as to whether they are going off of the McGarrigle version. Eveline "Beline" Girardon sings a version, and she too specializes in traditionals--although her focuses is French-from-France traditionals.

My gut instinct is that if it is a traditional, it is of Acadian origin. Acadians are non-Quebecois Canadian (and New Englander) francophones, based mainly out of the maritimes, although there is an acadian diaspora.

I have no evidence of that, yet.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 10:09 AM on March 17, 2011

Ah! The Cadet Rouselle CD is on an acadian music website, with the Bambocheur track on it.

This website has a VASTLY different version of the song (crtl+f bambo), where the dialogue is not between mother and daughter, but between wife and her cheating husband as she finally finds him in a hotel after searching for him. That version of the song seems to come from a traditional called "La femme du roulier" (The merchant's wife), which the website claims is of Canadian origin.

Some of the versions on that website--while none featuring a mother/daughter dialogue, all a scorned wife and her husband with a brief appearance by the lady running the "hotel"--are VERY Canadian in their dialect, but the McGarrigle song is quite dialectically neutral, lyrics-wise.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 10:18 AM on March 17, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far!

The one on the Cadet Rouselle CD sounds like a speeded up version - very interesting. He seems to indicate that it's an old fiddle tune, which certainly fits.

The one by Evelyne Girardon is an entirely different song: the melody, rhythm etc bear no resemblance to the original.

I played all the samples on the 'bawdy' page and none of them sound even close to the McGarrigle song...

BTW I love your username, flibbertigibbet!
posted by fix at 12:40 PM on March 17, 2011

This could just be the way French people define "bambocheur," but I've only heard of it as a sort of colloquial way to refer to someone who is a party animal. Since the line uses the word "tendresse," which is usually translated as "affection" in English, I'm guessing the girl is using the word to describe a free-spirit. So I would translate the last line as, "You will always find in my heart the affection for my free-spirit."
It's awkward in English, but it sounds much better in French!
posted by msk1985 at 8:34 PM on March 17, 2011

I don't have the CD, but the liner notes might have info for whether the song is traditional/public domain. The official site's song lyrics page linked in your question lists K. McGarrigle, as well as the publishing company (Les éditions Macbec) and the performing rights organization (SOCAN), which all make up a pretty complete songwriting credit. I would guess (hope) that if the song is traditional then that would have been mentioned in there. So I wouldn't be surprised if the song is an original by Kate McGarrigle and just happens to share a title with some other tunes. Perhaps she based it loosely on something traditional.

Speaking of the official site, it looks like Anna McGarrigle still writes posts for it (the most recent first-person entry was just last week), which is pretty cool. And there's an email address for "Contact Us" (in the right sidebar, at the bottom). I'm not sure if someone else monitors the address, but you could send your nice compliments that way -- you could tell Anna that you like their work and you think the song is gorgeous, and that you're curious about its roots and the fiddle on the recording.

All Music has a number of results for "bambocheur" (some with different spellings). Some of the albums in the results have already been mentioned in this thread, but there's another CD with a song titled "Le bambocheur" -- it's called France: Songs of Lower Brittany and is of "Breton songs, mostly a capella, from the Vannes and Bigouden areas" (as described on a page about the CD from Radio France). There's a clip of what appears to be the same song at, in a collection called Chansons Traditionnelles Du Peuple Breton (disc 3, track 1). FWIW, my knowledge of French is very limited, but the music doesn't sound like the McGarrigles' version.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 1:10 AM on March 18, 2011

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