19th Century Haitian song “YELLOW BIRD”. . . . Chord Melody arrangement included in the CHORD/MELODY eBOOK TWO from Ukulele Mike Lynch . . . . now reduced to just $20.00
Performance of YELLOW BIRD on YouTube
From WIKIPEDIA we find: Choucoune (Haitian Creole: Choukoun) is a 19th-century Haitian song composed by Michel Mauleart Monton with lyrics from a poem by Oswald Durand. It was rewritten with English lyrics in the 20th century as Yellow Bird. One of Oswald Durand’s most famous works, the 1883 Choucoune is a lyrical poem that praises the beauty of a Haitian woman of that nickname. Michel Mauleart Monton, an American-born pianist with a Haitian father and American mother composed music for the poem in 1893, appropriating some French and Caribbean fragments to create his tune. The song Choucoune was first performed in Port-au-Prince on 14 May 14, 1893. It became a popular slow méringue (mereng) in Haiti, and was played prominently during the bicentennial celebrations in Port-au-Prince in 1949. Chououne was first recorded in Haiti by Emy de Pradines for her “Voodoo – Authentic Music of Haiti” album (Remington R-199-151) released in the USA in 1953.
The song also appeared in the 1957 Calypso-exploitation film Calypso Heat Wave, performed by The Tarriers, sung by the group’s lead singer, Alan Arkin.
The English rendering of Choucoune: Yellow Bird, first appeared on the album Calypso Holiday, a 1957 release by the Norman Luboff Choir, Norman Luboff having arranged the song in the calypso style that become popular in the English-speaking world in the mid-1950s. The lyrics for Yellow Bird, by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, have no connection with the narrative of the Durand poem—other than the poem features the words “ti zwazo” (little birds) in its refrain, and so the original Haitian song is sometimes called Ti Zwazo or Ti Zwezo. The song became a minor hit at #70 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the Mills Brothers in 1959. Its most successful incarnation came in the summer of 1961 when the Arthur Lyman Group reached #4 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the newly formed Easy Listening chart with their Hawaiian flavored instrumental version, which bested a rival instrumental single release by Lawrence Welk (#61).
Several versions of Yellow Bird were recorded and released in Jamaica around the late 1950s/1960s. Jamaican mento/calypso singers renditions include Lord Jellicoe (Hilary ILP-1040), Keith Stewart (WIRL 1031), Count Frank (WIRL 1058), Roy Fuller (Tiger 002/Dynamic 3312), Archie Lewis (Federal 213) and The Joy Makers (Somb, 1976).
Yellow Bird has also been recorded by Keely Smith, Roger Whitaker, Davy Graham, Roger Williams, Johnny Tillotson, The Brothers Four, Gary Crosby, and Paul Clayton. The song continues to be popularly associated with calypso and the Caribbean, and is often performed by steelpan bands—but some versions, such as Chris Isaak’s from Baja Sessions, show a Hawaiian flavor.
I chose to do this current arrangement in a chord melody style. It’s become increasingly clear to me that solo ukulele performance is most easily achieved through this format. There is absolutely no fingerpicking involved. No decision as to which finger plays which string etc. . . Merely stroke the strings with the thumb to get both the chord and melody combined. Note that although many times the melody is on the first string, other times it is found on the second or third string, so in those cases avoid playing the higher strings. You will notice this in the short
excerpt shown below.
YELLOW BIRD is contained in the CHORD/MELODY eBook TWO now reduced to just $20.00
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