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Choukoun (also called Choucoune)

Complete instructions, chords, complete lyrics, pronouncing guide & translation, plus poetic analysis by me are included with the tab. There's also instructions on how to do the Calypso strum, and a discussion of the political and literary significance of this masterpiece, little known outside of Haiti.

The lyrics alone are nearly impossible to find on the Internet, let alone a reasonable tab.  I'm hoping to soon put up a video; until then, this will have to do.  It's one of my two or three favorite songs.  But it's so well-known in Haiti that no one performs it in it's "pure" version any more.  All that can be found on the Internet are "jazzed-up" versions that don't show what the original song was like.

The closest to the original version I have found was performed by Nancy Ames in the 1960s, and released on her album This Is the Girl That Is, under the title "Choucoune".  Musically, it's perfect, and her kreyòl isn't bad, but the lyrics aren't right-- she leaves out some of the verses, as do all modern Haitian recordings.  That's not surprising.  How often do you  hear all the verses of The Star-Spangled Banner?   Out of respect for a work of true genius, I have included ALL the words.

The lyrics were originally written as a poem by Haitian poet Durand Oswald* in 1883, inspired by actual events in his life.  "Choukoun" was a real woman, though we do not know her true name.  The word, "choukoun" means "like a cukoo," a bird which lays its eggs in the nests of other bird species, and therefore symbolizes both infidelity and interracial sex.  Ten years later, in 1893, the poem was set to music by Haitian pianist/composer Mauleart Monton Michel*, and became an instant hit.  In the 1930s, with the popularity of folk music in the United States, it became the basis for several popular tunes, including "Yellow Bird" and "Don't Ever Love Me." 

linguistic notes:

1.  NAMES:  Traditionally, Haitians give their family name first, and given name last.  Thus, the poet would be called Oswald Duran in most Western cultures, and the composer, Michel Mauleart-Monton.  Knowing this, educated Haitians habitually give their given name first when speaking to foreigners.  Unfortunately, many Haitian family names sound like given names to English-speakers, and vice-versa.  If the foreigners are sophisticated and know about Haitian name order, this can cause even more confusion.  To avoid such confusion, I give Haitian names in Haitian order, and add an asterix (*) after the name to show it is family-name-first.

2.  CAPITALIZATION:  You will notice that I fail to capitalize many words in kreyòl, such as the names of countries, languages, etc.  These are not errors.  In kreyòl, only the names of people are capitalized, and sometimes, the first word of a sentence.  Many kreyòl-speakers, even highly educated ones who speak, read, and write English, French, and Spanish, never capitalize anything in kreyòl.  To make life easier for the majority of my readers, I have capitalized the beginning of sentences and the first word in each line of the lyrics, as well as the kreyòl word for French--  "Franse"-- even though they would not normally be capitalized in kreyòl.  For my kreyòl-speaking friends, I beg your forgiveness.  My purpose is not to teach the language, which I am not qualified to do, but just to give my English-speaking readers a "taste" of the masterpiece that this song is.

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