Bele Mama – A Song Sung in the Torres Strait Islands – It’s originally from Cameroon

UPDATE: Bele Mama is originally from Cameroon. Nyango wrote, “Bele Mama does mean ‘call Mother’ in my Oroko language and some other languages from the Kumba area in the Southwest region of Cameroon. The rhythm too is definitely from this region. Sounds like songs I sang as a kid.”

Bele Mama is a song we received from the Torres Strait Islands. The islands are north of Australia and south of Papua New Guinea. It seems to have traveled there from Cameroon.

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The lyrics to Bele Mama are very simple:

Bele Mama

Bele mama
Bele mama eh
Bele mama
Bele mama eh
Bele mama
Bele mama
Bele mama
Bele mama
Bele mama
Bele mama eh

Midi Tune of Bele Mama

Here’s the score:

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You can hear the song sung here…

Many thanks to Mary-Anne for sending us the sheet music to Bele Mama and to Monique Palomares for the midi tune.  Monique works with me on the French and Spanish versions of Mama Lisa’s World.

Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Thursday, June 30th, 2011 at 11:13 am and is filed under Australia, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Questions, Torres Strait Islands, YouTube. 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 “Bele Mama – A Song Sung in the Torres Strait Islands – It’s originally from Cameroon”

  1. Pete Says:

    Search for Bele (sic) Mama and you will pull up results indicating an African origin. You can find it on Amazon and Spotify. It means ‘call mama’.

  2. Jess Says:

    Bella mamma is Italian for beautiful mother

  3. Lotte Reimer Says:

    Call Mama – from West Africa
    or
    in Swahili: Mbele Mama – long time ago, mama

  4. Sebastian Says:

    @ the language – searching in the web makes the african origin more probable, many groups sing “mbele mama”. The score doesn’t represent the song in your youtube sample, where the even 2/2 measure is used. I didn’t find any sample for this song in the 3/4 time, so maybe it should be replaced.

  5. tina filippino Says:

    The song seems to be sourced from both the Torres Straight and places in Africa. Some speculate that the song was brought by missionairies or traders and spread that way, as the words do not match the language in any of the locations.
    I will send you a link to a recording in Africa in the next email.

  6. Lisa Says:

    Thank you Tina!

  7. tina filippino Says:

    Here is the link to the Belle Mama track.

  8. Ana Maria Says:

    I’m going to record a CD with this song, is it free of copyright?

  9. Lisa G Littlebird Says:

    Hello Lisa, to Lisa! Thank you for sharing your site and songs… You asked for proper attribution and this page from my friend Mila explains the whole origin story and mix-up with New Guinea attribution. It’s actually from Cameroon and means “Call Mother” – a song for calling your mother out to party with you! https://singforjoy.ca/origins-song-oral-tradition/ You may want to update the attribution on your site when you can to prevent more confusion…

  10. Nyango Melissa Nambangi Says:

    The snippet on the above website was too short for me to listen to the full song. But it most definitely is Cameroonian. Bele Mama does mean “call Mother” in my Oroko language and some other languages from the Kumba area in the Southwest region of Cameroon. The rhythm too is definitely from this region. Sounds like songs I sang as a kid.

  11. Lisa Says:

    Thanks everyone for your help! We added Bele Mama to our Cameroonian Songs. We included more commentary about the song from Nyango and Mila.

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