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Kumala Vista & Tongo Tongo September 23, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Music & Dance.

Wikipedia ~ Djembe (in Public Domain)

Forty years ago, I learned three “African” songs from Billy Gibson, and his brothers, Keith and Kevin.

The words and the beat stayed with me, even though I have no idea what the lyrics mean (if they mean anything at all).

I hope I’m not cursing at the world  when I sing them.

Today, at lunch, we watched Samantha Brown on a beach in the Honduras  enjoying some African songs.  These two songs came to mind.  Enjoy!

Kumala Kumala Kumala Vista
Kumala Kumala Kumala Vista
Oh no no no no Ka-Vista
Oh no no no no Ka-Vista
Eenie meanie jak-o-lini
Oo wah-la wah-la meanie
Eenie meanie sol-a-meanie
Oo wah-la wah
Beat to the O Ko Ko Ko Ka-Vista
Bah Bah Shhh . . . Bah Bah Shhh . . .

I found this version on line (with a little help from Cindy & Linda).  It’s not exactly the way I learned it, but it’s close:

Here’s the second, which might (or might not) refer to Tongo, Ghana:

Tongo, Tongo Chim-i-nee Bah Bah-yo Chim-i-nee Bah Bah-yo
Ooh, Ah Lay Ooh, Ah Lay
Molee-kal-o-way Molee-kal-o-way

If any of my friends from Africa (or elsewhere) know what I’m singing about, feel free to translate.


Yes, my spell checker did go crazy with this post.  Thanks for asking.



1. theonlycin - September 23, 2010

I know the first song well, but always thought it was ‘vista’ instead of ‘veesa’. Will ask my local buddies to try and help you.

nrhatch - September 23, 2010

Oh, I did this phonetically and AFTER the passage of 40 years. I’ve never seen it in print.

So, it may well be Vista.

I’d love to have the real lyrics (and a translation). Thanks.

2. Paula - September 23, 2010

WOW! Does that ever put me in a time warp! But I never knew, nor do I think now, that it is African, but perhaps it started there.

I learned it as a chant, with no true melody. Each line was said, then repeated by the group.

Like Cin, I remember “veesa” as “vee-stay.” Although I have forgotten the first part of it, I do remember the last:

“Eenie-meenie, dis-aleenie, ooh-ah-ooh-ah maneenie, eenie-meenie, dis-aleenie, ooh-ah-ooh-ah.

Ish-biddledy-oaten-boaten, voh-boh-ba-deeten-doaten, why not? and shhh!”

Anybody ready for a rousing chorus of “It’s a Small World After All?”

nrhatch - September 23, 2010

I hope Cindy’s local buddies can give me the actual lyrics and translation.

I would love to solve this Cold Case. 😉

3. nrhatch - September 24, 2010

Found a PDF file for Tongo which says its Traditional Polynesian music:

Click to access Tongo.pdf

4. Mason - July 22, 2011

My sister sang a song similair to the one I saw here. It was close to 50 years ago when I lived in a small town in Idaho. This is how I remember it: (For some wierd reason, I never forgot it. I asked my sister where she got it; and she replied she had learned it in the Brownies…go figure….)

Fee Fi
Fee Fi Foe
Coomala Vista
Enee Meene, Decimeene oohn Walla Walla Meene
Enee Menee, Decimenee oohn Waten Chow
Skeet Belly oten Goat..Bo Bo Ba Deten Dottin

nrhatch - July 22, 2011

Same here. The song won’t go away.

Isn’t it amazing the font of information we squirrel away in our brains for decades? 😀

5. carlaat - August 27, 2011

Just saw your post about this popular entry on Jeanne’s blog. Brought me right back to camp! My versions are slightly different too, but the tune is right there! Thanks for spurring a fun memory that I didn’t know was still lodged up in my brain somewhere! 🙂

nrhatch - August 27, 2011

Isn’t it fun finding little tidbits in the recesses of our memories?

Thanks for stopping by, Carla. 🙂

6. shaniqua - February 7, 2012

my mom taught me this song as a little girl but of course the words are slightly different. Vista vista, coom ala coom ala coom ala vista coom ala coom ala coom ala vista, oh no no no no the vista oh no no no no the vista, eenie meenie sala meenie oo ah coo walla meenie eenie meenie sala meenie oh ah coo walla meenie, eek billie okie dokie bo bo ba dikie dokie

nrhatch - February 7, 2012

I wonder if it’s a bit like playing telephone . . . where the words morph as the message is relayed from one listener to the next?

7. Nancy Curteman - July 4, 2013

When I was at the University of Grenoble. There was a group of African students who played mellow drums every night outside my dorm window. I got so I couldn’t go to sleep right away if they were not there.

nrhatch - July 5, 2013

I expect that the primal sound of rhythmic drums, like a drum circle at sunset, connects us to our core.

8. Nancy Curteman - November 18, 2013

Very interesting post. I particularly enjoyed it because my novel is set in Africa.

9. Tiny - May 5, 2019

I know many African songs from my time there, hubby and I used to play in local bands 🙂

nrhatch - May 5, 2019

Cool! One of our favorite things at Animal Kingdom was the street performers in Africa . . . and the Lion King!

10. Carlos E. Arias V. - July 3, 2021

What about this. “El Cumbanchero” from Desi Arnaz (1946), has cuban origins, with spanish lyrics, presents a similar melodic phrase. In 1964 Chubby Checker presents (Cum-ba-la-be-stay), then in 1973 Marsha Hunt (Oh, no! Not the beast day!) (¡Oh no!, ¡No el día de la bestia!), all three of them sharing afro – caribbean roots. What if they present a transliteration from Spanish lyrics: “Ama la macumba, la macumba, la viste. ¡Oh, no, no, no!; ¡No debiste¡” (Thou! Love the Macumba! The macumba, you saw it!, oh no! no, no, no you shouldn’t). Macumba, from Bantú languaje, is associated with rhythm, instruments and rituals. As, “Macumba” from “La Sonora Dinamita” o “Kumbala” from “La Maldita Vecindad y los Hijos del 5to. Patio”, (with transposition of Kumba-La ma Kumba-la). Then Hunt makes the rendition of tongue twisters, or jazz scat singing as vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, or praying in tongues as a charismatic chant… or a magic enchantment that probably goes: (2:18) “Be the biddy, cause a lady, uh! ah! ah! the lady ama la macumba, la macumba… Ash! Why you?”(bis). (Sé la viejita, porque la dama, Uh! Ah! Ah!, loves the macumba, the macumba! ¡Ay! ¿Por qué tú?”) Just an idea. Flea Fly Flow (Mosquito) comes later, as “Samasta savesta” in finnish swedish means “of the same clay”.

nrhatch - July 4, 2021

You might be on to something, Carlos. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

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