When Europe open its mouth, it is to yawn !”
Our best child memories may be found in the nursery rhymes we used to listen at school or before going to sleep at night. In Europe, every country has its own rich patrimony regarding nursery rhymes, with sometimes wonderful melodies, but a little is really known outside national frontiers. The following list of European nursery rhymes tries to bridge this gap, delivering the most famous reference for each country and often superb samples such as the one from France, Iceland, Belgium, Bosnia y Herzegovina or Belarus. The following list provides you the link to the YouTube listening and the lyrics, both in the original and English version.
A Portuguese famous “Cantigas de roda” quite funny because of what they do with cats… A Portuguese band even did a rock version on the rhythm of “another brick in the wall”
♪♪♪♪♪ Sigga litla systir mín (My Little Sister Sigga) : Now let me introduce to you a very funny melody about a little sister milking her sheep. Sung by a man and a woman, this nursery rhyme is very entertaining if you don’t speak any Icelandic word
♪♪♪♪ Weile Weile Waile
This nursery rhyme, also known as The River Saile can be considered as a Child ballad. Francis James Child was the first person to catalogue it before his death in 1896. The ballad was popularized by Irish folk band The Dubliners. If the rhythm is really amusing, the topic beside isn’t at all.
This famous nursery rhyme is sung to a variant of the 1761 French melody Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman. The original form of the tune is used for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the Alphabet song. “Baa Baa Black Sheep” was, in 1951, the first song ever to be digitally saved and played on a computer
The Swedish Baa Baa White Lamb has nothing to do with the English Baa Baa Black Sheep even if the topic is quite similar. The lamb in this melody provides everything you need for winter. Quite logical in Sweden.
The slow nursery rhyme about a ladybug flying may sound a bit sad. It is nevertheless very melodic, and the video clip with a little girl singing is quite impressive. I sometimes had the impression of listening to the voice of Björk.
Den Lille Ole med Paraplyen is a really beautiful melody with few sentences. Unfortunately there are no lyrics on the video found on youtube.
This German nursery rhyme repeat many times the same sentence, removing each time a letter of the main word. A German artist, Kim Hoss, made a good typographic project with this song but using a swing melody.
The Italians don’t seem to have their version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, but they have “Stella stellina”, a nursery rhyme with lots of animals and a smooth music.
In Czech Republic, it may be quite common for Grandmother to have four apples and to loose them step-by-step. That is actually the topic of this Czech short song.
This is one of the most popular Polish nursery rhymes. It may date back over a century. ‘A-a-a’ is supposed to denote a lengthy sound that we use to hush the child that is trying to fall asleep.
This Estonian popular nursery rhyme is about an evil hunter in the forest knocking at the door of a rabbit house. There is no need to precise that this nursery rhyme existed before Bugs bunny…
♪♪♪♪♪ Доўгі дзень (A long day)
Let’s have a long and warm day beyond the clouds in Belarus. The nursery rhymes has a very pleasant melody and the excellent videoclip on YouTube seems to be very successful.
Let’s go now onto a Romanian children song about a broken bridge which has to be rebuilt. Please just listen to the music without looking at the YouTube video with awful colors.
This nursery rhyme about crocodile and Nile river may be the best of this European selection. It has already 7 billion viewers on YouTube, but the only shame is that no translation is yet available.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
♪♪♪♪♪ Hajde Kato (Come, Kato)
The Bosnian nursery rhyme is one of the most beautiful, for the melody and the lyrics, between humor and love. Kato is the name of a Bosnian girl, and would be Kate in English.
“My two hands, here are they, Serving me in every way. One is washing the other, Then the two will wash the face.” So begins the Bulgarian children song which is quite simple but popular.
This traditional children song, called in Greece a “taxtarismata” is sung when babies are restless. It involves a game with the baby, clapping in his hands so has to make him stop crying.