Nonsensical gibberish songs that mimic foreign languages
July 3, 2017 1:14 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for songs with nonsensical gibberish lyrics meant to mimic how a foreign language might sound to someone who doesn't know it. I know and love "Prisencolinensinainciusol," the song by Italian singer Adriano Celentano that's meant to sound like English sung with an American accent, and when I moved to the Philippines, I discovered Yoyoy Villame's "Butsekik," which poorly mimics Chinese. I'd like to create a playlist of these oddities, if there are enough out there!
posted by ferdinandcc to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

Not a song but this otherwise fits the criteria!
posted by (F)utility at 2:50 AM on July 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Pretty sure Sun City Girls did some of this, and Damo-era Can...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:01 AM on July 3, 2017

How about Foux De Fa Fa by Flight of the Conchords?
posted by Rock Steady at 3:11 AM on July 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

Would the Swedish Chef Theme Song count?
posted by daybeforetheday at 3:34 AM on July 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Slim Gaillard Yip Roc Heresy
posted by shibori at 3:38 AM on July 3, 2017

John Prine, "Lets Talk Dirty in Hawaiian."

Pop music, especially country, has a long history of made up Native American (or in this case Hawaiian Native) language lyrics (Cajun French and Spanish, and even Chinese and Japanese, to a lesser extent). Alas most examples are fairly straight up racist in intent. Fair warning, people don't like their language mocked. I know Hawaiians who find the Prine song offensive.
posted by spitbull at 3:55 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

There is a traditional of nonsense lyric songs which goes back to West African roots. For example, Marsha Hunt's "Not the Beast Day" - which, to me has a lot of the same feel as "Prisencolinensinainciusol".
posted by rongorongo at 4:04 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

It might be a bit too much like real German, but Tom Waits, Kommeniezuspaedt?
posted by altolinguistic at 4:22 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Ça plane pour moi" is mostly nonsense French (despite having lyrics written by a French speaking Belgian, Yvan Lacomblez)

De La Soul's "Transmitting Live from Mars" also channels that "half remembered French lesson" vibe that Flight of The Conchords were touching on.
posted by rongorongo at 4:26 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Lady Gaga's "Scheiße" has a lot of faux German, although there is some English in the song, too.
posted by darksong at 4:49 AM on July 3, 2017

Saturday in the Park by Chicago. Faux Italian follows the line about "a man selling ice cream, singing Italian songs".
posted by she's not there at 5:19 AM on July 3, 2017

Anything sung by the Minions. (The only reason to see Despicable Me 3 is their performance of "I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General.")
posted by elphaba at 5:58 AM on July 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure if this fits your purposes since it's not imitating any specific language, but songs have been recorded in Simlish (the nonsense language that people in The Sims speak).
posted by Gordafarin at 6:00 AM on July 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Not the whole song , but the gibberish "Icelandic-esque" spoken by Lani Weymouth in the extended version of the Tom Tom Club's Genius of Love. (Sorry can't find the extended version on my phone.)

Subject of one of the great AskMes of all time, IMO.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:03 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, I have nothing to add. Just wanted to say that "Prisencolinensinainciusol" was a huge favorite in my crowd and seeing it here just made my day! There used to be several versions of it on YouTube, but most of them have been removed. The original was a dance routine on an Italian b/w TV show (late 60's) that was mind blowing. Celentano danced with a very famous dancer/singer, but I can't remember her name. If anyone knows where I can find a copy, please let me know.
Edit:found it. Her name is Raffaella Carrà linK: <a href=""
posted by james33 at 6:15 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Un petit d'un petit
S'étonne aux Halles
Un petit d'un petit
Ah! degrés te fallent
Indolent qui ne sort cesse
Indolent qui ne se mène
Qu'importe un petit
Tout gai de Reguennes.
- It is not strictly speaking all about songs - but Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames may not actually be the archaic French text that you have claimed it to be. (Of course - don't tell the poor Francophone you have asked to read it aloud).
posted by rongorongo at 6:29 AM on July 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Chacarron Macarron
posted by gnutron at 6:57 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not songs but you might enjoy several Sid Caesar skits on Youtube. For example, . Sorry, haven't learned to use html yet.
posted by LtSchmulker at 6:58 AM on July 3, 2017

Masoko Tanga by The Police.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:59 AM on July 3, 2017

Karl Jenkins' Adiemus albums have faux-Latin lyrics. The lead track of the first album achieved fame for its inclusion in an airline commercial.

Similarly, Vangelis' Conquest of Paradise uses faux Latin.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 7:23 AM on July 3, 2017

I always assumed the Goons' Ying Tong Song was a Chinese parody, but there's no mention of that on the Wikipedia entry.
posted by snarfois at 7:41 AM on July 3, 2017

This made me think of the Witch Doctor song from the Chipmunks.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 7:54 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Slightly different but not entirely unrelated are the Adiemus albums, by Karl Jenkins; I have only heard a version done by the Stanford a capella group Talisman, which I can't find online right now. But the basic idea is nonsense syllables meant for their musicality more than anything else. On late preview, already mentioned above, but definitely worth checking out!

There is also the phenomenon of nonsense syllables in several musical traditions, some of which may mimic sounds common to the area but the sounds aren't words in any particular language (sometimes to avoid favoring any one language over another); wikipedia page on this and other non-lexical vocables here.
posted by nat at 8:00 AM on July 3, 2017

Sing - never mind the words! Charlie Chaplin sings "Je cherche après titine" from Modern Times.
posted by rongorongo at 8:00 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't speak French so I'm not sure if it's gibberish, but it at least sounds like word salad to me... Dada Je Suis by Mark Isham and Charlélie Couture, from the soundtrack to Alan Rudolph's The Moderns.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:26 AM on July 3, 2017

"Sun King" by the Beatles has some lyrics in a made-up Romance language.
posted by Seeking Direction at 9:13 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Elton John's "Solar Prestige a Gammon" (off Caribou) is gibberish that's, alternately, Italian- or French-sounding.

It's reportedly the only song EJ wishes he hadn't written, if that's additional incentive to check it out.
posted by the sobsister at 10:27 AM on July 3, 2017

Also, The Five Keys' "Ling Ting Tong" features what sounds like Chinese gibberish, in keeping with the "Oriental" flourishes throughout the song.
posted by the sobsister at 10:31 AM on July 3, 2017

Finally, the nonsense lyrics to Talking Heads' "I Zimbra" (here live on Letterman, with Bonus David Byrne Eccentric Dancing) are based on Hugo Ball's Dada poem "Gadji beri bimba."
posted by the sobsister at 10:39 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

They're not really in any language at all, but K.K. Slider's songs from Animal Crossing might be of interest.
posted by bink at 10:51 AM on July 3, 2017

"Solar Prestige a Gammon," by Elton John. English, but nonsense English.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 11:20 AM on July 3, 2017

You could take your pick with just about anything from the Cocteau Twins, though my personal favorites are Lorelei and Frou-Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires. I imagine this is how they'd speak English in the parallel dimension where fairies live.

Belgian composer Wim Mertens also sings (in a hauntingly beautiful tenor voice and/or with backup) in a made-up language. See also: Naviamente, Maximizing the Audience, and Casting No Shadow.
posted by otenba at 12:32 PM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Cirque du Soleil's lyrics and dialogue are in Grammelot.
posted by tel3path at 1:52 PM on July 3, 2017

Lapti Nek and the Ewok song (Yub Nub) from Return of the Jedi are longtime favorites; I used to be able to sing along with both. (They do not mimic foreign languages; Lapti Nek is in Huttese and the Ewok song is in Ewokese. Not sure if conlangs count here.) I have a playlist called "incomprehensible" that includes those and In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, among others.

Some searching around turns up Macarron Chacarron, which is nonsense mumbled Spanish.

... Are you including scat in "sounds like a language but isn't?" Here's Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Torme (which is likely unavailable for playlists; sorry).
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:47 PM on July 3, 2017

I wonder if Hatten är din! might qualify.

Also, if Sigur Ros and Hopelandic count, then you should also look at Magma (and the other Zeuhl bands) and their use of Kobaïan.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 3:34 PM on July 3, 2017

My Loony Bun is Fine Benny Lava.
posted by bendy at 9:03 PM on July 3, 2017

The musical "Miss Saigon" features a song called Dju Vui Vai which has sections in not-actual Vietnamese. Apparently this eventually offended enough people that the current Broadway revival has replaced the lyrics with actual Vietnamese words.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:14 PM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

In the Bollywood film Mr. India, this song, Hawa Hawaii features some of what you're looking for but be aware that it does feature blackface. The context of the scene is that the investigative journalist, played by the indefatigable Sridevi, is attempting to infiltrate a ring of weapons smugglers / food adulterators by posing as a "foreign" singer who doesn't speak much Hindi so she initially begins her song in a collection of gibberish which approximates what a "foreign" language might sound like.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:44 AM on July 4, 2017

Juana Molina sings in Spanish but a lot of her songs are her looped voice that simulate language without saying anything. The singer for the Cocteau Twins is also known for singing meaningless sounds.
posted by Leontine at 5:09 PM on July 4, 2017

Came back in here to add that starting with Saltimbanco, Cirque du Soleil has used a made-up nonlanguage for its lyrics. I've always loved this one, which sounds like Italian but isn't.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:20 PM on July 4, 2017

Esperanza Spalding has some of these, including "I Adore You" — which I adore! It's entirely gibberish; the title isn't in the lyrics. I don't know if she was trying to mimic a specific language, but she's an American who sings in Spanish and Portuguese in other songs on the same album (in addition to English), so it could be one of those. You could ask her.

posted by John Cohen at 9:38 PM on July 4, 2017

There's a French parody act Les Bidochons who cover English songs singing French words that sound like the original English lyrics, regardless of meaning. For example their version of The Beatles' Twist and Shout is called Triste Chat (sad cat).
posted by w0mbat at 1:54 AM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

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