Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dancehall, Nordic Kids Songs, The Golden Age Of Magic, Other Things


I'm traveling this week, and I don't have time to write a proper post, but let me share with you this little story.

It all starts with this song "Too Original,' by Major Lazer, featuring Elliphant and Jovi Rockwell. As regular readers know, I usually get exposed to new music during my Les Mills exercise classes. "Too Original" was Track 5 for release 92 of BodyAttack, and I fell in love with it right away.

If you know the song or you've watched this video, maybe you had the same experience that I had, namely: WTF is this song about? In fact, most things about this song were obscure to me. So I started looking things up.

First I learned that "Too Original" is a song in the tradition of Jamaican dancehall. Like other people, I inferred from this that the lead singer was Jamaican. But then I learned that Elliphant is "a Swedish singer, songwriter and rapper." (Also, "Elliphant,"as Wikipedia warns, is "not to be confused with elephant.").

Elliphant in the other video for "Too Original."
Over at genius.com, I learned that in the chorus Elliphant is saying "Too original fi dem pawdie," and from the internet I learned that "pawdie" is Jamaican patois for friend and that "fi dem" means "for them." I learned from the comments of Diplo, the actual producer, that when it comes to the meaning of lyrics like "Drop baba juice, make it goddamn strong," don't bother trying to figure it out, because, as he says, "Elliphant makes up her own language. That’s why we love her."

Then I got to the middle of the lyrics, where Elliphant says "Simsalabim naah, I'm a norden gyal, Bim bim sala, kicking dreadlock style." With respect to "Simsalabim," some random commenter wrote: "'Simsalabim' is a word for 'abracadabra' used almost everywhere in Europe. Her trick consists in being a northern Swedish girl with a Jamaican music style."

And I was like, "wait, what?" I'd never heard "simsalabim." It's used "almost everywhere in Europe?" I looked it up. Turns out "Sim Sala Bim" is the famous because of a guy named "Dante the Magician," who was born in 1883 and worked in "vaudeville, burlesque, legitimate theatre, films, and in later years, television."

Dante, who was born Harry August Jansen in Copenhagen, took "Sim Sala Bim" from a Danish children's song. Wikipedia notes that Dante the Magician "can be seen using these words in the Swedish 1931 feature Dantes mysterier and in the 1942 Laurel and Hardy comedy "A-Haunting We Will Go," and also that "with Dante's death, what historically has been known as the 'Golden Age of Magic' came to an end."

I don't know if Elliphant knows "Sim Sala Bim," because she's Swedish and it comes from a Danish children's song, or whether some causal chain links Dante the musician to dancehall, or whether random commenter has the right story about "Europe," or what. But I was very happy to learn all these things. For a brief shining moment, it all felt like one peaceful and interconnected world.

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