“Going to Timbuktu”… Where is Timbuktu Anyway?

Nurcan wrote in looking for a song about going to Timbuktu. Here’s what Nurcan wrote…

Hi,

I found your website and it’s very interesting, learning a lot I didn’t know, in terms of where certain songs come from. However can you assist me? I am trying to work out a song about Timbuktu. It’s not the American version either. I believe it’s possibly old English or Australian. From memory it’s about a voyage and they’re going to Timbuktu, but it never really says where Timbuktu is, as they are always looking for it. I am Australian, heard this song in around grade 1, am 28 now but can’t remember and it’s driving me batty, lol.

Hope you can help. Thank you.

Cheers, Nurcan

This sounds very familiar to me, yet I can’t find it anywhere.

I do know that To go to Timbuktu, means to travel to the ends of the earth, or the most distant place you can imagine.

Timbuktu is a town in Mali in west Africa, on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. It was the one meeting place of the people of north Africa and the south.

It was established around 1100 AD by the Tuareg, a nomadic people of the Sahara. The name Timbuktu comes from the dialect they spoke, also called Timbuktu. It’s a dialect of a Berber language called Tamasheq.

Timbuktu was a major trading center for gold, salt and slaves, from the year 1200 AD, until at least the second half of the 16th century.

If anyone is familiar with the song Nurcan is looking for, please comment below.

Thanks!

Lisa

UPDATE: Nurcan wrote me again and posted the song in the comments below. It’s the Australian version of “The Sailor Went to Sea”.

This article was posted on Saturday, July 22nd, 2006 at 4:27 pm and is filed under Australian Kids Songs, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Going to Timbuktu, Languages, Mali, Questions, Tamasheq, The Sailor Went to Sea, Timbuktu, Timbuktu, Tuareg, Words & Phrases. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

11 Responses to ““Going to Timbuktu”… Where is Timbuktu Anyway?”

  1. Nurcan Says:

    Hi thankyou for trying to help me, I stumbled across the song by mistake whilst singing another song lol, the song I was after was “sailor went to see see” where I got mixed up is as the lyrics go (this is just one verse happy to post full song if anyone wants it)

    The sailor went to Timbuktu,
    To see what he could Timbuktu
    But all that he could Timbuktu
    Was the bottom of the deep blue Timbuktu

    The sailor went to sea, chop, knee, toe, Timbuktu
    To see what he could sea, chop, knee, toe, Timbuktu
    That all that he could sea, chop, knee, toe, Timbuktu
    Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, chop, knee, toe, Timbuktu

    Cheers Nurcan

  2. Lisa Says:

    That’d be great if you could post the full lyrics! Thanks in advance. -Lisa

  3. Nurcan Says:

    Hi Lisa,
    Your welcome and thankyou for your help here, hope it is ok to post this the site that explains how this song is used (and i believe it to be correct as this is how i was taught the song) is
    http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Music/musicalshairs.html

    The full song lyrics are as follows:

    The Sailor Went to Sea

    The sailor went to sea, sea, sea
    To see what he could see, see, see
    But all that he could see, see, see
    Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea

    The sailor went to chop, chop, chop
    To see what he could chop, chop, chop
    But all that he could chop, chop, chop
    Was the bottom of the deep blue chop, chop, chop

    The sailor went to knee, knee, knee
    To see what he could knee, knee, knee
    But all that he could knee, knee, knee
    Was the bottom of the deep blue knee, knee, knee

    The sailor went to toe, toe, toe
    To see what he could toe, toe, toe
    But all that he could toe, toe, toe
    Was the bottom of the deep blue toe, toe, toe

    The sailor went to Timbuktu,
    To see what he could Timbuktu
    But all that he could Timbuktu
    Was the bottom of the deep blue Timbuktu

    The sailor went to sea, chop, knee, toe, Timbuktu
    To see what he could sea, chop, knee, toe, Timbuktu
    That all that he could sea, chop, knee, toe, Timbuktu
    Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, chop, knee, toe, Timbuktu

  4. Lisa Says:

    Thanks Nurcan! That link is fine. At that link you can find directions about how to play a children’s game while singing “The Sailor Went to Sea”.

  5. fr0d0 Says:

    Just updating you on the origins of the name… apparently in their language Tim means well (or place) and Buktu is a womans name… the name literally means Buktu’s well (or place). Here’s an extract from an historical education site I found.

    ‘Timbuktu was established by the nomadic Tuareg perhaps as early as the 10th century. Its name is made up of: tin which means « place » and buktu, the name of an old Malian woman known for her honesty and who once upon a time lived in the region. Tuareg and other travellers would entrust this woman with any belongings for which they had no use on their return trip to the north. Thus, when a Tuareg, upon returning to his home, was asked where he had left his belongings, he would answer: «I left them at Tin Buktu », meaning the place where dame Buktu lived. The two terms ended up fusing into one word, thus giving the city the name of Tinbuktu which later became Timbuktu…….

    ………..The place name is said to come from a Tuareg woman named Buktu who dug a well in the area where the city stands today; hence “Timbuktu”, which means “Buktu’s well”.’

    Apparently the language being known as Timbuktu is only a recent and western thing… the actual language is Koyra Chiini, a variety of Songhay. But given that it’s only spoken by 200 000 people, it’s often called Timbuktu by outsiders. However that is NOT where the name of the place comes from.

    Just thought I’d help point out an error! :)

    God bless!

    fr0d0.

  6. mabellyn Says:

    Hi I’m finally teaching and for years i have been trying to get the title of the song ‘a salior went to see see see”!! thank googness for the internet and lovely ppl willing to share!!!

  7. mabellyn Says:

    btw would anybody know where i can get this song???!??

  8. Murvet Says:

    this is our concert song for the end of the yr… but i cant seem to find the actual song… any ideas???

  9. Ed Gawlinski Says:

    “Going to Timbuktu” is a metaphor for going to a place far away and difficult to get to. If you grew up in New York City (more specifically, Brooklyn) you would use the phrase “all the way out to Carnarsie” for the same metaphor. Carnasie is a section of Brooklyn that is on Jamaica Bay. If you have ever attempted to go to Carnasie via Subway from anywhere else in Brooklyn you would understand the metaphor. The section is named for the Carnasie Indians who lived there before the area was settled by Europeans.

  10. Ed Gawlinski Says:

    “Going to Timbuktu” is a metaphor for going to a place far away and difficult to get to. If you grew up in New York City (more specifically, Brooklyn) you would use the phrase “all the way out to Carnarsie” for the same metaphor. Carnasie is a section of Brooklyn that is on Jamaica Bay. If you have ever attempted to go to Carnasie via Subway from anywhere else in Brooklyn you would understand the metaphor. The section is named for the Carnasie Indians who lived there before the area was settled by Europeans.

  11. Gloria Says:

    Hi! I have also been searching for the title, lyrics & even the music–hopefully–about Timbuktu. I thought the song was in a Bing Crosby, Bob Hope & Dorothy Lamar “Road to” movie from the 40’s or 50’s. But I just checked the web and there wasn’t a “Road to Timbuktu”; the closet was “Road to Morocco.”
    As best I recall, some of the melody went something like, “Timbuktu, da da the da da; Timbuktu, da da the da da.” Does that ring a bell with anyone–any help? Thanks!

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