Can Anyone Help with a Kids Song from Sicily?

Gerard Ramos wrote asking for help with an Italian kids song from Sicily.  Here’s his email:

Hi Lisa,

I stumbled across your site searching for Italian children’s songs trying to find a song my great grandmother passed down through our family.  She was born in Sicily and moved to New Orleans when she was young. 

No one in my family knows what the song means and everyone seems to sing it a little differently.  Guess that’s what happens over generations. 

I have a baby on the way and would love to figure out the origin and translation. 

Here’s an audio file of me singing it

Let me know if any of it makes any sense or if it’s just noise! 

If anyone can help Gerard with his song, please let us know in the comments below.


Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Monday, December 2nd, 2013 at 7:09 pm and is filed under Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Italian, Italian American, Italian Children's Songs, Italian Dialects, Italian Nursery Rhymes, Italy, Languages, Nursery Rhymes, Readers Questions, Sicilian, Sicilian Rhymes, Sicily, USA. 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.

11 Responses to “Can Anyone Help with a Kids Song from Sicily?”

  1. Barb Says:

    I can’t help Gerard but I have a similar question, except my grandparents came from just north of Rome. Our family rhyme was accompanied by my grandparent or parent holding my hands and stroking their cheeks with my palms as it was recited. The tempo increased with the progression of the rhyme and ended with my grandparent patting my hands against her mouth.

    It went like this (phonetically)

    Moosh majale
    Pan cajale (bread and butter)
    Pan ricotta (bread and cheese)
    Pan ricotta (faster)
    Boobala boobala bat! (against mouth)

    No one in my family still living knows any more than this. I don’t know if it is related to the cat rhyme or not. Can anyone help me with this?

  2. Hannah Says:

    My father-in-law’s parents were from Sicily and Calabria. He played this rhyme game with all of his grandchildren (sorry for the phonetic attempt…) Anyone know this, or have any clue what it might mean? I’m trying again as this didn’t seem to ring a bell a year or so ago. Thank you!

    Licia -li (“Me something” — hold child’s hands, stroke own cheeks)
    Licia -ti (“You something” with child’s hands, stoke its cheeks)
    Licia -legazza (own cheeks again)
    Tia Maria! (“Aunt Maria or exclamation?” light smack on child’s cheeks)

  3. Lisa Says:

    Monique wrote, “Must be something like ‘lisciati, lisciami’.”

  4. Hannah Says:

    I’ll see if I can use that to track something down — thank you!

  5. Hannah Says:

    So could it be…

    Lisciami (stroke me)
    Lisciati (stroke you)
    Liscia la gazza (stroke the magpie — as in, pet the bird, so another soft stroke)
    Tia Maria! (light smack)

    If anyone finds anything different for the third line, let me know, but this is a huge leap forward for us — thank you!

  6. Monique Says:

    About “-gazza”: cheek is “guancia” in standard Italian, “mascidda” in Sicilian and “ganga” in Calabrian; this “-gazza” could also come from “ragazza” but “ragazza” is standard Italian. No Southern Italian around?

  7. Hannah Says:

    My father-in-law’s got late stage Alzheimers, and I don’t think his parents taught him much of the language. (His brother passed away years ago.) He used to call the mid-day meal for the grandkids “lunchini.” :) But we did want to try to get this down. I like cheek or ragazza or (just looked it up) ragazzo better than magpie, for certain. Thank you again!

  8. Deanna Says:

    In reading Barb’s comment, I too am looking for the words to a rhyme that my Nonno would recite to us kids. It has similar words: moosh majale, pane cajale (more to it) but it had to do with a cat and mouse and as he recited the rhyme, he would fashion a ‘mouse’ out of his handkerchief and then ‘pet’ it in the crook of his arm. The rhyme ended with something like ‘scappa, scappa’ (run away!) and he would shoot the mouse across the room to the excitement of us kids! I’m not sure if my cousins even remember at all, but my mom and I talk about it and we would love to be able to revive the story.
    Thanx for any input :)

  9. Lisa Says:

    I think the rhyme you’re looking for is Micio Miagolio. Check it out at the link.

  10. Susan Says:

    I remember this:

    Licia mia “My Dear”
    (my Dad would hold my hands and stroke his face)
    Licia tia “You Dear”
    (then he would use my hands to stroke my face)
    Rosso la cuolo
    (not sure if spelled right, sounded like “kooloo” and refers to your backside) – Dad uses my hands and strokes his face)
    A Zia Maria (to Aunt Marie)
    stroke my face
    A Zia Maria (to Aunt Marie)
    stroke dad’s face
    Felicita No! (Not very happily)
    then lots of slapping on my face

    Hope this helps and hope I remembered it right!! I used to love Licia Mia!

  11. Lisa Says:

    Jack wrote:

    “My Aunt would say this to my children when they were babies (!)

    In Italian, perhaps Sicilian…

    Birds at a fountain
    Hunter comes
    Bang, bang bang (?)
    Cooks them
    Eats them

    This may be a bit mixed up or too many lines as each statement was for one finger – on one hand (obviously 5! )

    Any help would be appreciated.”

    If anyone can help with this rhyme please comment below. Thanks!

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