Choucoune (song)

Choucoune (song)

"Choucoune" (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."

Choucoune

One of Oswald Durand's most famous works is the 1883 "Choucoune," a lyrical poem praising the beauty of a Haitian woman of that nickname. Michel Mauleart Monton, an American-born pianist with a Haitian father and an American mother, composed music for the poem in 1893 appropriating some French and Caribbean fragments to create his tune. The song became a popular slow méringue (mereng) song in Haiti and is sometimes called "Ti Zwazo" or "Ti Zwezo" (Petits Oiseaux; Little Birds) after a line in the chorus.

Yellow Bird

As calypso music rose in popularity in the United States in the mid-1950s, the melody of the Haitian song "Choucoune" was adapted by Norman Luboff and new English lyrics were written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Although the lyrics of "Yellow Bird" bear no relation to those of the original, the words "ti zwazo" (little birds) are part of the chorus of "Choucoune."

The song first appeared on the Norman Luboff Choir's Calypso Holiday album in 1957 and was subsequently by others and was the title cut on albums by the Mills Brothers, Roger Williams, and Lawrence Welk. Although the song was associated by Americans with the Caribbean, it was also recorded by the Hawaiian exotica Arthur Lyman Group in 1961. This version would be the only to become a Top 40 pop hit (and it was Lyman's only Top 40 appearance as well) peaking at number 4 on Billboard magazine's Hot 100.

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, retain a Hawaiian flavor.

References

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