The Streets of Cairo, or the Poor Little Country Maid
"The Streets of Cairo, or the Poor Little Country Maid", also known as "the snake charmer song", is a well-known melody in the United States. Alternate titles for children's songs using this melody include "The Girls in France" and "The Southern Part of France".
Purportedly the original version of the song was written by Sol Bloom, a showman (and later a U.S. Congressman) who was the entertainment director of the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. It included an attraction called "A Street in Cairo" produced by Gaston Akoun, which featured snake charmers, camel rides, and a scandalous dancer known as Little Egypt. Songwriter James Thornton penned the words and music to his own version of this melody, "Streets Of Cairo or The Poor Little Country Maid". Copyrighted in 1895, it was made popular by his wife Lizzie Cox, who used the stage name Bonnie Thornton. The oldest known recording of the song is from 1895, performed by Dan Quinn (Berliner Discs 171-Z).
The first five notes of the song are similar to the beginning of a French song named "Colin Prend Sa Hotte" (1719), which in turn resembles note for note an Algerian or Arabic song titled "Kradoutja". The song appears frequently in cartoons when something that is connected with deserts, Arabia, Egypt, belly dancing, or snake charming is being displayed.
The song was also recorded as "They Don't Wear Pants in the Southern Part of France" by John Bartles, the version sometimes played by radio host Dr. Demento.
The song was also used by Bose for their in store music demonstration of the SoundDock Digital Music Systems in 2010.
Travadja La Moukère
In France there is a popular song that immigrants from Algeria brought back in the 1960s called "Travadja La Moukère", which uses the same exact Hoochy Coochy tune. Its original tune, said to have been based on an original Arab song, was created around 1850 and subsequently adopted by the Foreign Legion.
Partial lyrics :
- Travadja La Moukère
- Travadja Bono
- Trempe ton cul dans la soupière
- Si c'est chaud c'est que ça brûle
- Si ça brûle c'est que c'est chaud !
- Travaja La Moukère
- Bono Travaja
- Dip your ass in the tureen
- If it is hot it burns
- If it burns it's that it's hot!
In Israel, a popular song for the festival of Purim is "Shir Hasrisim" ("Song of the Ignorants"), written by Natan Alterman. The song pokes fun at the story of Esther, by using silly, almost childlike descriptions of the villains of the Purim story (Ahasuerus is a Baby, Haman is a drunkard). The tune used is most likely a folk tune among the local Arab population.
The use of melody in popular music
Since the piece is not copyrighted, it has been used as a basis for several songs, especially in the early 20th century:
- "Hoolah! Hoolah!"
- "Dance of the Midway"
- "Coochi-Coochi Polka"
- "Danse Du Ventre"
- "Kutchy Kutchy"
Later popular songs that include all or part of the melody include:
- "Lækker pt. 2 feat. L.O.C." Nik & Jay
- "Speak Chinese" by Jin
- The "Little Egypt" segment of the World's Columbian Exposition scene in Show Boat
- "Over There" by Jonathan Coulton
- "Twilight in Turkey by the Raymond Scott Quintette
- "Playboy" by Red Wanting Blue
- "Revolution 9" by The Beatles
- "The Sheik of Araby" performed by The Beatles during their 1962 Decca audition, with George Harrison as the lead singer and Pete Best on the drums. (This track can be found on Anthology 1.)
- "Hoolah Hoolah" by Can
- "Naggin" by Ying Yang Twins
- "You Scared the Lovin' Outta Me" by Funkadelic.
- "Rip Rock" by Canibus
- "Killer” (杀手) by Lin Junjie
- "Funky Mule" by Ike and Tina Turner
- "Istanbul not Constantinople" by Four Lads and They Might be Giants
- "King Tut" by Steve Martin
- "Lies," by Thompson Twins, immediately after the line, "Cleopatra died for Egypt. What a waste of time!"
- "Cleopatra's Cat" by the Spin Doctors.
- "Viva la Gloria (Little Girl)" by Green Day
- "Toc Toc Toc" by Lee Hyori (이효리)
- "Starchild" by Teena Marie
- "Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si" from the motion picture Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958)
- "Hokus Pokus" by the Insane Clown Posse
- "Entertainment" by Rise Against
- "Open Sesame" by Kool & The Gang
- "Place in France" by L.A.P.D. (an early band for 3 of the original members of Korn)
- "Skatanic" by Reel Big Fish
- "Menergy" by Patrick Cowley
- "Who's That? Broooown!" by Das Racist
- "White Cigarettes" by P-Model
- "Take It Off" by Ke$ha
- Texas fiddle tune "Bonaparte's Retreat"
- "Criminal" by by Fiona Apple
- "Grunt Tube" by Blue Water White Death
- "Ular" by Anita Sarawak
Appearances in cartoons
- Circus Capers (1930)
- Goofy Goat Antics (1933)
- Goofy and Wilbur (1939)
- Aladdin's Lamp (1947)
- Ali Baba Bound
- Mickey Mouse: The Karnival Kid (1929)
- Mickey Mouse: The Chain Gang (1930)
- Mickey Mouse: Clock Cleaners (1937)
- Goofy Groceries (1938)
- Woody Woodpecker: Witch Crafty (1955)
- Vincent (1982)
- The Simpsons episode "Homer's Night Out"
- The Simpsons episode "Milhouse Doesn't Live Here Anymore"
Appearances in computer games
From cartoons the song has been adapted to video games. It appears on following computer and videogames:
- Lady Tut (1983)
- Bombo (1986)
- Jill of the Jungle (1992)
- Lemmings 2 (1993, Egyptian tribe)
- The Lost Vikings (1992, Level 3 – Egypt)
- Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 (1991, desert level)
- Oh Mummy (1984)
- Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire (1990, Katta's Tail Inn)
- Rampage Through Time (2000, Egyptian timezone)
- Rick Dangerous (1989, Level 2 – Egypt)
- Zool 2 (1994, Tooting common level 3)
- Mevo and the Grooveriders (2009)
Appearances on television
- Andy Bernard sings a variation of the song with a sitar in the 10th episode of the 5th season of The Office, "Moroccan Christmas".
Appearances in films
- In Charles Lamont's 1932 short film War Babies, it was the first film in the Baby Burlesks series. The song is briefly used while Shirley Temple's character Charmaine is dancing around in Buttermilk Pete's Cafe.
- Farida Mazar Spyropoulos and Ashea Wabe (on the origins of "Hootchy Kootchy")
- Oriental riff (a similar stereotyped musical motif, popularly associated with China)
- ^ a b c Elliot, Julie Anne (2000-02-19). "There's a Place in France: That "Snake Charmer" Song". All About Middle Eastern Dance. http://www.shira.net/streets-of-cairo.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-17.
- ^ Settlemier, Tyrone (2009-07-07). "Berliner Discs: Numerical Listing Discography". Online 78rpm Discographical Project. http://www.78discography.com/Berliner.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-17.
- ^ Adams, Cecil (2007-02-23). "What is the origin of the song "There's a place in France/Where the naked ladies dance?" Are bay leaves poisonous?". The Straight Dope. Creative Loafing Media, Inc. http://www.straightdope.com/columns/070223.html. Retrieved 2009-09-17.
- ^ "Shir Hasrisim"
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