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William Whelan wrote to me looking for help with a Haitian song. The song is called “Angelique O” and seems to have been written during the US occupation of Haiti (1915 – 1934). Here you’ll find the original Haitian lyrics with an English translation.

First I’ll start with William’s email:

My father taught me a song he picked up in Haiti back in the 1920s. It tells of a mother’s advice to her daughter. He started it off with the word “Jellico,” but I understand it should have been “Angelique.” Phonetically, its major words are “Jellico, alli kai mama. Tifi paconi lavi passi.” Are you familiar with it?

Below are lyrics I found of two similar versions of “O Angelique”. They have different spellings (Haitian Creole spelling isn’t always standardized), and the 2nd version is longer…

Version 1

Angelique O

Angelique, oh!
Angelique, oh!
Allé caille manman ou

Ti fi pas qui conne lave pas
Allé caille manman ou!

In English:

Angelique, oh!
Angelique, oh!
Go back to your mother!

A girl who doesn’t know how to wash or iron
Go back to your mother!

Version 2

Anjelik o!

Anjelik o!
Anjelik o!
aie kay manman ou!

Ti fi ki pa konn
lave, pase
aie kay manman ou!

Ti fi ki pa konn
dezabiye noun sou
aie kay manman ou!

Aie kay manman ou, chè ! (bis)
aie kay manman ou, ma chè
pou ou pa ban mwen dezagreman.

Angelique, oh!
Angelique, oh!
Go back to your mother!

A girl who doesn’t know
How to wash or iron!
Go back to your mother!

A girl who can’t put
A drunk husband to bed!
Go back to your mother!

Go back to your mother, dear!
Go back to your mother, my dear,
I can’t burden myself with you.

I’ve also seen this song called Anjelin O.

There’s a recording at Smithsonian Folkways where you can hear part of the song or pay to download the full song.

Here’s what the article Carnival in Haiti said about this song:

During the first U.S. occupation of Haiti [1915 - 1934], for example, after the U.S. commander sent his wife, Angelica, back to the U.S. because of marital problems, a song was born which is still heard today: “Anjeliko, Anjeliko, ale kay manman ou…” (”Angelica, Angelica, go on back to your mother’s house…”) While its words concern a wife who does not know how to wash and iron and is sent back home, its true meaning was clear to all. Jean Fouchard, author of Meringues et Danses d’Haiti, calls it the first cry of “Yankee go home!” It was repeatedly played by popular and bourgeois bands to express the population’s desire to have their country un-occupied.

Harry Belefonte sang an English version of Angelique-O in the 1950’s. The Brothers Four also sang it.

Feel free to tell us anything you know about this song in the comments below. We would also welcome a recording, especially in Haitian Creole.

Mama Lisa

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This artilce was posted on Thursday, September 30th, 2010 at 1:04 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Folk Songs, Haiti, Haitian Creole, Haitian Folk Songs, Languages, Mama Lisa, Questions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

5 Responses to “Angelique O – An Anti-colonial Song from Haiti”

  1. Marjorie Cobb Says:

    My parents had this song and several other Haitian folk songs on a record by an exiled artist/singer named Martha Jean-Claude. The record was made in the late ’60’s or early ’70’s I have heard the line, ‘Allé caille manman ou’ also sang as, “Chita caye manman ou’ or ‘Rete caye manmanou’ . Instead of saying go back to you’re mother’s, this says to ’sit’ and/or stay at your mothers.

  2. Diane Parnell Says:

    A song came into my head yesterday from my childhood (I am 53) and I decided to Google it to see what its’ origin was. I grew up in Upstate/Western New York, in the Buffalo area. Even as I child, I found the words offensive and degrading to women. Until today, I had no idea that it was actually an anti-colonial song form Haiti.

    Here are the lyrics that we were taught:

    Angelique-O, Angelique-O
    Go home to your mama,
    Angelique-O, Angelique-O
    Go home to your papa.

    Angelique-O, Angelique-O
    Tell your mama I said,
    Angelique-O, Angelique-O
    You’re still too young to wed.

    Little girls should know how to cook and sew
    Go home to your mama,
    Little girls should know how to iron clothes
    Go home to your papa.

  3. Jeremy Johnson Says:

    I learned this sing in the 5th grade at Columbia Elementary School in Cleveland Ohio in the early 1970s. The song was in a school songbook of children’s music,whichI have never been able to locate. The lyrics were identical to those quoted by Diane Parnell in an earlier post. It was a catchy tune, but the words were oh so non-PC.

  4. Luis Hernandez Says:

    I learned that song in elemetary school in Miami, Florida the early sixties with the same words as Diane Parnell. Only I thought the words were “buy new clothes” instead of ironing them which explained my mother’s affinity for shopping.

    I was remembering the song this morning for some reason and searched on line and found this posting.

  5. Lisa Says:

    Thanks for sharing! Would any of you like to sing this song for us? :) Mama Lisa

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