Lullabies & Children's Songs

Lullabies and Children's Songs: It is remarkable how much similarity there is between European children's games and the games that these children play, almost as though there were a sympathetic tie between children the world over. Texts for children songs and lullabies are generally short and repetitive. They stress subjects that may be taken from everyday life and may simply be an expression of happiness or an imitation of adult activity in play. The texts of game songs and lullabies give opportunity for childish play or the soothing of a baby.

Lullabies: The Anuak have songs that are used to soothe the crying baby. The lullaby need not be a specific lullaby to be used as one. A love song or a dancing song will serve this purpose as well. The words need not be appropriate for a lullaby; they need not tell a story. The lullaby may include nonsense word or simply name the baby over and over. The singer may identify the parents and the grandparents of the child in the song, effectively identifying the lineage of the child as well as indicating it by name, and in so doing praise the child and his parents.

Children's Songs: The children, particularly the young girls, will play games with songs to accompany the play. Children's songs and the play associated with them may be simply a play activity, or they my be an imitation of adult activities that the child will be involved with in later life. The young boy is involved in age-set relations from about ages eight, nine or ten and learns much about his later life from his peers or from his father. What singing he would do would be within this group of his friends. it is likely that he would sing to accompany hoeing and rowing. The Anuak will take any song and adapt the song to the rhythm of the activity with which he is involved. There are no work songs as such but adaptations of other songs for work purposes. Therefore, music can provide a vehicle or an accompaniment for the imitating of adult activity in the play of either the boy or the girl.


ANUAK Project: Joan Yilek Interview – Pokwo

July 1, 1972

Retyped: August 13, 2019


At Pokwo since 1949 as a culturist anthropologist.

BA Shea College, Kansas.

Home life of the Anuak. No status till bringing a child to maturity. Will do anything to keep the child alive. Witch doctor have a great influence over the developing child. The mother is the teacher and the only teacher. When maturity is reached, the grandmother will have influence. Girls stay at home and don’t form groups. Called age sets. Learn by imitation. There is real lack of freedom.

Tonal Language: Music. All through Anuak life. Lullaby’s. Words highly important. Courtship, derisive songs to the chief. Supplication and story songs. Rhythmic work songs.

Folk tales: Stories. Many stories. Deal with creation. Passed on child to child. Strict incest taboo. Girls sex education from older girls. Older children to younger.

Acculturation: effect of Amhara and American culture and music.