Harry Belafonte

I haven’t posted in awhile, but have had all kinds of thoughts brewing in my head…looking back at my last post, Mishpacha & Me, I am thinking more and more of the connections that I have to Harry Belafonte, a wonderful singer, whose music was a soundtrack to a lot of my happiest childhood moments.

And those moments are intricately entwined with the immigrant experience.

It was my father who loved to put on our Belafonte at Carnegie Hall album, and get us all dancing around the living room.  Belafonte has that lovely “Island” accent, which wasn’t so dissimilar to my own father’s “island” (Sri Lanka) accent.  And, whenever I hear the song “Mama Looka Boo Boo Day”, I always hear my father singing along with it.  He used to pull funny faces, and, although he was a very handsome man, he could make you imagine that he was an ugly man, especially with the way that he, like Belafonte, played with the syllables of the word “ugly”, and all those great consonants in “Boo Boo Day” (which always came out closer to “boo boo deh”).

And the boys have both fallen for the fun of this song.  They ask for it all the time, in the car, in the house – they particularly love the phrase “deir moda tell dem ‘Shut up yor mout’ (my rough transliteration of how Belafonte pronounces “their mother tell them ‘Shut up your mouth!'”  And, of course, that was my and my sister’s favorite phrase, also.  The joy of being able to say those forbidden words “Shut up” because they’re in a song!!

So I have my dark-skinned foreign-born sons, singing along to another dark-skinned immigrant, the words that I shared so often with my own dark-skinned foreign-born father.

I like the symmetry.

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