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A lullaby is a soothing song, usually sung to children before they go to sleep, with the intention of speeding that process. As a result they are often simple and repetitive. Lullabies can be found in every human culture and seem to have been used at least from the ancient period.
Origins of the term
The English term lullaby is thought to come from 'lu lu' or 'la la' sound made by mothers or nurses to calm children, and 'by' or 'bye bye', either another lulling sound, or a term for good night. Until the modern era lullabies were usually only recorded incidentally in written sources. The Roman nurses' lullaby 'Lalla, Lalla, Lalla, aut dormi, aut lacte' is recorded in a scholium on Persius and may be the oldest to survive. In 1072, Turkish writer Mahmud al-Kashgari mention about old Turkish lullabies as 'balubalu' in his book 'Dīwānu l-Luġat al-Turk'. It is also speculated that the term may come from "Lilith-bye" or "Lilith-Abi" (Hebrew for "Lilith, begone"). In the Jewish tradition, Lilith was believed to steal children in the night and was the demon responsible for the death of babies. To guard against Lilith, Jewish people would hang four amulets on nursery walls with the inscription "Lilith - abi!" ["Lilith - begone!"] which is a possible origin of the English word "lullaby." 
Classical and contemporary Western composers' influence
Lullabies written by established classical composers are often given the form-name berceuse, which is French for lullaby, or cradle song. The most famous berceuse of all is Johannes Brahms' lied Wiegenlied (cradle song), called Brahms' Lullaby in English. Brahms wrote his "Wiegenlied" for a Bertha Faber, on the occasion of the birth of his second son. The English lyrics are similar to the original German.
Typically a berceuse is in triple metre, or in a compound metre such as 6/8. Tonally most berceuses are simple, often merely alternating tonic and dominant harmonies: since the intended effect is to put someone to sleep, wild chromaticism would be somewhat out of character. Another characteristic of the berceuse—for no reason other than convention--is a tendency to stay on the "flat side" --for example the berceuses by Chopin, Liszt and Balakirev are all in D♭.
Frédéric Chopin's Opus 57 is a berceuse for solo piano. Other famous examples of the genre include Maurice Ravel's Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Fauré for violin and piano; the Berceuse élégiaque by Ferruccio Busoni; the Berceuse from the opera Jocelyn by Benjamin Godard; the Berceuse by Igor Stravinsky which is featured in the Firebird ballet, and Lullaby for String Quartet by George Gershwin. The English composer Nicholas Maw's orchestral nocturne The World in the Evening is subtitled 'lullaby for large orchestra'. American composer Michael Glenn Williams Berceuse for solo piano (recorded by pianist Roberto Prosseda) uses an ostinato similar to Chopin's but in a 21st century harmonic context. Lullabies are common all around the world.
Many Christmas carols are designed as lullabies for the infant Jesus, the most famous of them being Silent Night. Other famous Christmas lullabies include Away in a Manger and Infant holy, infant lowly.
Contemporary American composer Todd Goodman's Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Orchestra includes a "Berceuse" as the second movement. In terms of pop music, famous lullabies include "Good Night" by The Beatles and "Lullaby (Good Night My Angel)" by Billy Joel.
Asia has its own versions of the lullaby as well. In Tamil (a language of southern India and northern Sri Lanka), a lullaby is called a thaalattu (thal means "tongue"). A melodious sound is created by frequent movement of the tongue at the beginning of the song, hence the name. But most notably is the use of the oyayi in the Philippines, also called huluna in Batangas. In fact, the use of a song in putting a baby to sleep is so popular that almost every mother in the province is said to have composed at least one lullaby for her child. There are also the "Northeastern Cradle Song" etc. in China and the "Itsuki Lullaby" etc. in Japan.....
Hine E Hine - A Maori Slumber Song by Princess Te Rangi Pai Hine E Hine
In Amhairic:"Eshiruru Esururu , babyee Eshiruru, Eshiruru Esururu" , this phrase will be sung over and over again.
نام يا حبيبى نام / وادبحلك جوز حمام
Sleep my lovely baby .. sleep / I'll cook you two Pigeons
Is a charming collection of children's music warmed by Africa's rich musical heritage. The folklore and family life in regions like the Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, and South Africa are reflected in the lullabies' lyrics, as traditional instruments such as the kora, mbira, balaphone, dundun, bamboo flute, talking drum, and guitar heighten the album's authenticity. Stars of the African music scene like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Ayub Ogada and Stella Chiweshe are just a few of the performers contributing to African Lullaby, a distinctive and worthwhile collection for world music fans and children alike. ~ Heather Phares, All Music Guid
The European Union government funded project, Lullabies of Europe, which has collected lullabies in European and Turkish languages. A listing of collected lullabies with translations in 7 languages (English, Czech, Danish, Italian, Romanian, Greek, Turkish) are listed on the project website *Lullabies of Europe
Many medieval English verses associated with the birth of Jesus take the form of a lullaby, including 'Lullay, my liking, my dere son, my sweting' and may be versions of contemporary lullabies. However, most of those used today date from the seventeenth century onwards. Probably the most famous 'Rock-a-bye, baby on a tree top' is thought to have been created by an English immigrant to the 13 colonies to record the native American habit of hanging birch bark cradles from the branches of trees, but is not recorded until the late eighteenth century.
Czech lullabies (Ukolébavky)
Spi, Janíčku, spi (Sleep, Johny, sleep) This playful lullaby was collected in Moravia by František Sušil (1804-1868), a priest and an activist of Czech national revival. He collected songs in Moravia and Silesia as well as in Slavic villages in Austria. This lullaby uses a specific name of the child, Janíček, a familiar form of the very common male name Jan. Nonsense is employed here, as the boy is promised not only a green and a red apple but also a blue one if he falls asleep.
Ukolébavka (Lullaby) This lullaby was published in 1633 in The Informatorium of the School of Infancy by Johann Amos Comenius (1592-1670). The book is likely to be the first treatise on the development and educating infants and children up to six in the family. Comenius stressed among other things the necessity of sensory and emotional stimuli at an early age. Thus, he included for mothers and nurses the Czech text and the score of the originally German lullaby by 16th century preacher Mathesius.
Hajej, můj andílku (Sleep, My Little Angel) This is one of the most melodious Czech lullabies, first collected by Karel Jaromír Erben (1811-1870), Czech romantic writer, poet and collector of Czech folk songs and fairy tales. The text refers specifically to the mother rocking her baby.
Halí, dítě (Hullee, baby) This lullaby was collected by František Bartoš (1837-1906), pedagogue and ethnographer who collected Moravian songs. The second line says the carer will leave after the child falls asleep, but in the third line we learn that only to the garden in the valley to pick raspberries.
Halaj, belaj, malučký (Sleep, Sleep, Little One) This lullaby is from the east of Moravia, where the dialect is influenced by the Slovak language, and also folk songs are similar to the Slovak ones from across the border. A boy is promised the essential food for infants, kašička, a smooth mixture made of milk and flour.
Danish lullabies (vuggeviser)
Solen er så rød, mor (The Sun is so Red, Mother) This is a classic Danish lullabies, written in 1920 by the Danish novelist, playwright and poet, Harald Bergstedt (1877-1965), with music composed by classical composer, Carl Nielsen (1865-1931).
Elefantens vuggevise (The Elephant’s Lullaby) This lullaby is considered the most popular lullabies in Denmark. Using exotic animals as theme, the content and the text are simple and easily understood by a child. This was made politically correct in the 1990s: The word, negerdukkedreng (negro boy doll) was changed to kokosnød (coconut). The song was written in 1948 by the Danish writer and poet, Harald H. Lund, with music composed by writer-musician, Mogens Jermiin Nissen (1906-72).
Godnatsang (Goodnight Song) This is popular lullaby, and was composed (lyrics and music) by Sigurd Barrett (1967 - ), pianist, composer and host of a Children’s TV programme in Denmark, and by fellow musician Steen Nikolaj Hansen . Sigurd usually sings this song at the end of his children’s show. This lullaby has sleeping time as theme: The day is over and we must sleep and rest so we will be fresh again in the morning.
Mues sang få Hansemand (Mother’s Song to Little Hans) This lullaby originated from south Jutland, and is very old (year of composition, unknown), it is not well-known in Denmark. This may, in part, be due to the fact that it was written in Jutlandic dialect. The song’s text was written by Marie Thulesen (1878-1924) with music by the Danish musician, Oluf Ring (1884-1946).
Jeg vil tælle stjernerne (I will Count the Stars) This lullaby was written in 1951 by the Danish poet and writer, Halfdan Rasmussen (1915-2002). Rasmussen had written numerous rhymes and jingles, some of which are still being used in Danish beginner classes in public schools (e.g. Halfdans ABC). This lullaby’s music was composed by Hans Dalgaard (1919-81). The song is a simple story of a child who tries to count the stars with his/her fingers and toes.
Dutch Lullaby Slaap kindje Slaap.
The traditional French lullabies are listed here.
Abend wird es wieder
Greek lullabies (Νανουρίσματα)
Νάνι μού το νάνι νάνι (Nani Mine, Nani Nani) This lullaby originates from the Island of Kalymnos, one of the Dodecanese Islands situated in the south-eastern Aegean Sea. This island combines the beauty of the mountains, the scents of oregano and thyme together with crystal waters. In this particular lullaby, the lyrics are influenced by the beauty of nature. Kalymnos is also famous for sponge fishing and the production of olive oil. This explains the references to olive trees and the sun, which is essential to islanders. Apart from the words nani-nani, we also have the sound e e e in this lullaby, a very common and popular motive of Greek lullabies. As in all traditional Greek lullabies its year of origin is unknown as well as the composer and the lullaby’s lyricist.
Νάνι νάνι το παιδί μου (Nani nani my child) This lullaby originates from mountainous Kastoria, a Greek city situated in Western Macedonia. Many crops are cultivated in the region which is especially famous for its vineyards, as mentioned in the lullaby. Livestock breeding is also very common there, which explains references to the lamb, goat and sheepcote. Another interesting element here is the use of diminutives, e.g. little sheep, little goat, etc. Diminutives are used in the Greek language to indicate not only smallness but also deep affection. As in all traditional Greek lullabies its year of origin is unknown as well as the composer and the lullaby’s lyricist.
Ύπνε, που παίρνεις τα μικρά (Sleep, who takes little ones) This lullaby, originally created on the Island of Thassos (northern Aegean Sea) is heard all over Greece with numerous variations. The element of Sleep (Ύπνος) is central. In many Greek lullabies they address Sleep, who is kindly asked to take the baby in his arms and help it go to sleep. According to Greek mythology Ύπνος was the God of sleep. His mother was the Night and his sons were the Dreams. As in all traditional Greek lullabies its year of origin is unknown as well as the composer and the lullaby’s lyricist.
Ύπνε μου, επάρε μού το (My Sleep, take it from me) This lullaby originates from Southern Italy. Greek-speaking populations have lived in that part of Italy since the 8th century B.C., when the first Greek colonies were established in the regions of Salento, Calabria, Taras and Metapontio. These areas have a large production of roses, which somehow explains the references to roses and their assortments in the lullaby. The word santoulos is of Italian origin and means godfather.
Κοιμάται ο ήλιος στα βουνά (The sun sleeps on the mountains) This lullaby is of Greek origin. Its place of origin is the island of Aegina situated near the city of Athens. Passed on to the island of Cyprus it was converted to the Cypriot dialect and also some lyrics were added. The original Greek lullaby had only the first paragraph. There is no information of its year of origin as well as of the composer and the lullaby’s lyricist. We also do not know how it was introduced and changed in Cyprus.
Italian lullabies (Ninnananne)
Nana Bobo (Nana Bobò) This is a beautiful and very ancient lullaby of the Veneto lagoon. Balkan and Byzantine influences are evident in the structure of the song. The lullaby singer is wishing health and wealth to a beloved child who doesn’t want to sleep. The mother is not present. This lullaby has several more lines but they contain words in many dialects. Nana is a word meaning ‘sleep’. Bobò is a term of endearment, with no specific meaning.
Fai la Nanna, Mio Simone (Go to sleep, my Simone) Go to sleep, my Simone is an example of the Italian old folk lullabies which depicts a feeling of the simple way of living in the old days. This is a lullaby from Tuscany and shows an initial exuberant tone followed by the sweeter pace of the cradle song. The mother is with her baby boy and she envisions his future following the father’s pattern in life and work. Other women are in the square talking and walking pleasantly, but she is at home cooking the focaccia bread and looking after her baby. The lullaby’s opening is exuberant and loud and the text is apparently very remote from what is usually a subject for a baby going to sleep. Then it takes a more calm and deep tone.
Stella Stellina (Star, Little Star) There is no indication on when and where this lullaby was created. It shows standard Italian and is one of the most popular cradle songs, used all over Italy. When Italians aged seventy and over have been asked if they have heard this song in their infancy, their response has been positive. So, we believe that Stella Stellina can be considered to be quite an old lullaby.
Le Nininône Cuant ch'in cîl a ven le gnot e chi sês aí bessôi... When the sky is getting dark and you are there alone is the lullaby which describes the grand mother who goes to give the last kiss to child since he close his eyes, then slowly she swich off the light. This very sweet song is one part of the very rich folk songs of the friulians and the lyrics are in friulian, an old roman language from the region of Udine. To learn the lyrics and knowing the melody go here
Fate la nanna, coscine di pollo (Go to bed-byes, little chicken legs) Italian mothers know this lullaby, which is used regularly with no text variations. The little chicken legs can easily be those of little babies and the skirt refers to the time when many mothers could dedicate their attention to activities such as producing pieces of crochet for their babies.
This is a lullaby from Tuscany and naming a baby “little chicken legs” is an example of the great sense of humour of people from this region. Go to bed-byes, little chicken legs is very popular all over Italy.
Ninnananna dei suoni e dei colori (Lullaby of sounds and colours) This is a contemporary lullaby, just composed for the European Union Lingua project “Languages from the Cradle”. It is in a standard Italian and is dedicated to a baby boy and a baby girl who, while sleeping, or half-sleeping with his/her parents, explore a dream world made of beautiful colours and sounds.
Romanian lullabies (Cântece de leagăn)
Culcă-te, puiuţ micuţ (Go to asleep my tiny baby) This is an old lullaby from Western and Central România (Cluj, Bihor, Năsăud ) still sung by mothers living in the countryside. It can be heard in different versions. It is also mentioned in the school textbooks as sung by a great Romanian folk singer, Maria Tănase who lived between 1913-1963 and made a great contribution to the acknowledgement of the Romanian folklore abroad.
Nani, nani, puişor (Nani, Nani My Sweet Little Baby!) This anonymous lullaby is also very old and sung in all the regions of Romania.
It begins with the typical words for suggesting ‘sleep’ to the baby: nani, nani, and with the diminutive words for ‘midday’: prânz, prânzişor.
Culcă-mi-te mititel (Go to sleep my little one) This is also an old, archaic cradle song from Muntenia region (Southern Romania). The mother wishes her baby to grow and be able to take care of the sheep and lambs and ducklings in the fields. Little children in the countryside always play in the fields among little animals and flowers. They also take care of these animals when they grow up. Mititel, măricel, bobocei, ghiocei, mieluşei, brebenei are one-word diminutives in Romanian in order to compare the baby’s tiny environment with the natural elements which are also tiny and cute.
Nani, nani, puiu’ mamii (Nani, Nani, Your Mother’s Baby) This is another very old cradle song which has its origin in one of the south regions of Romania, Oltenia. It is short and only repeats specific words for inducing peace and sleep to the baby: nani is a typical mimetic word very often used in a lullaby; maica means my mum. In Romanian, it is common to address a baby by the words my mum to show affection.
Haia, haia, mică baia (Haia, Haia, Tiny is the Bath) This is an old song from Banat region (Western part of Romania), using the numbers, which is not common in lullabies. In this lullaby, cuculică is a diminutive, mimetic word meaning a kind of tiny birdie/cuckoo; and lululică is another diminutive expressing the rocking of the baby.
Spanish lullabies: the Andalusian nana
Lullabies in Andalusia (nanas in Spanish) are closely related to a tradition of Castilian origin with ancient musical and textual components, and are sometimes regarded as a major cultural symbol. The Andalusian nana has specific musicologic and linguistic characteristics, as follows: 
Polish lullabies (kołysanki)
Cântic di sârmâniţâ (interpreted by Nicu Alifantis)
Portugal (Canção de Embalar)
Arabs have many lullabies and they vary across the Arab countries. Some include
nini ya moumou tay tib 3 chana ila matab 3shana itib 3cha jirana ------ in morroco
Well-known Armenian lullabies are Nana, Loorik, Roorik, Ayer, Heyroor and others. The main theme of a lullaby is the love for the child. Various subjects and feelings are expressed in Armenian lullabies, when the mother is rocking the cradle and singing, forgetting her daily burden, remembering past loves, embracing touching memories. Doing so, she is also passing past lamentations to the next generation, thus creating a bridge between generations, as well as instilling a love for the homeland.
An Armenian lullaby (YouTube).
Turkish lullabies (Ninniler)
Uyusun da büyüsün (As She Sleeps Let My Baby Grow) This lullaby falls into the largest category of Turkish lullabies, those expressing wishes and desires. Such lullabies mostly articulate the desire for the baby to go to sleep. They generally express the mother’s desire for various things for her child, including material benefits such as toys, clothing, food and drink, as well as long life, good deeds and a good career when she grows up. In the first stanza of this particular lullaby, the mother wishes a healthy upbringing for her baby, using the onomatopoeic expression tıpısh tıpısh to convey the sound of a baby’s walk. In the second stanza, the mother describes the baby with her hands and arms decorated with henna. In the old days, it was very common for Turkish people to apply henna on the hands of a baby as a way of blessing the child. In the last stanza, the mother expresses her wishes and expectations from a relative. She asks for clothing from an aunt.
Babanın Ninnisi (Daddy’s Lullaby) This is a modern lullaby composed by Özge İLAYDA. Although modern, it still has the characteristic traditional lullaby phrases such as hu hu and e-e-e.
Dandini Dandini Dastana (Dandini Dandini Dastana) The first stanza of this lullaby is very well known by almost everyone in Turkey. It may be sung with changes in the first or the following lines. At first glance, the first stanza may seem strange, as its meaning is quite irrelevant to a baby or a lullaby concept. However, according to some sources (Karabaş, 1999:62), it is metaphorical: dana “calf” stands for the son, bostan “vegetable garden” stands for life, bostancı “gardener” stands for the father, and lahana “cabbage” stands for a girl not approved by the boy’s mother. In this stanza the mother is asking the father (her husband) to keep that girl away.
In the second stanza, the mother praises and adores her baby, likening him to the moon. She invokes God’s name and wants Him to keep the baby away from the Evil Eye. In Turkish lullabies praising the beauty of the baby is a very common subject. The mother uses similes comparing her baby’s lips with cherries, and his/her eyebrows with the crescent moon or a pen. For the mother, the baby is more beautiful than anything, even more beautiful than angels. This concept is well reflected in one famous Turkish saying: “Even a porcupine calls her offspring my silk-feathered baby”.
In the last two stanzas, the mother expresses her wishes for her child’s future, in relation to marriage and career. This is another common subject in Turkish lullabies.
Sen bir güzel meleksin (You are a Beautiful Angel) This lullaby is more urban than rural in style. Apart from praising, this lullaby is a good example of a mother’s kind-heartedness. In the first stanza, the mother likens her baby to an angel, a flower, the apple of her eye, and in the next stanza, she talks about her home as full of love and affection. She tries to comfort the baby.
Adalardan çıktım yola (I Left the Islands on Foot) Also known as Bebeğin beşiği çamdan (the baby’s cradle is of pine), this is a common lullaby throughout Turkey, but particularly in the eastern provinces. It originated in the nomadic life, which was a common life-style in Anatolia in the past. The lullaby is based on a sad story.
In time, many versions of the lullaby developed. The islands referred to in this version of the lullaby, were actually Elmalı in its original form, which is a town near Antalya, the Mediterranean region of Turkey.
A Song by Avraham Shlonsky
נומה, נומה, בן יקיר לי, סהר ממרום על עריסתך משגיח ורוקם חלום.
נומה, נומה, בן יקיר לי, עד יאיר היום. ומתכלת השמיים אור יביא הלום.
כל האילנות ידומו, חלומות זהב ירקומו. נומה ילד, נום, עד יאיר היום.
אור של בוקר, אור של חסד, שמש וקרניו, והגמדים ירדו בו כבסולם זהב.
הסולם רגליו בארץ, וראשו ברום. נומה, נומה, בן יקיר לי, עד יאיר היום...
נומי נומי ילדתי נומי נומי נים
נומי נומי חמדתי נומי נומי נים
אבא הלך הלך לעבודה הלך הלך אבא
ישוב ישוב עם צאת הלבנה
יביא לך מתנה
נומי נומי ילדתי נומי נומי נים
נומי נומי חמדתי נומי נומי נים
A famous lullaby is "Summertime" from the Porgy and Bess musical of 1935. Sometimes it is also referred to as the Gershwin Lullaby. Although many of the jazz improvizations of this song have "wild chromaticism", the original is quite soothing, and somewhat slow and melancholy, in natural minor. Gershwin was actually inspired to write the song after hearing a Ukrainian lullaby, Oi Khodyt Son Kolo Vikon (A Dream Passes by the Window) in 1926. The recurring gentle rocking back and forth between A-minor 6th and E-seventh, in the orchestral strings version, is simultaneously sad and comforting.
All the Pretty Little Horses
Another famous lullaby is "All the Pretty Little Horses" which many children simply know by the first three words of the lyrics: "Hush a bye". It was originally sung by an African American slave who could not take care of her baby because she was too busy taking care of her master's child. She would therefore sing this song to her master's child (Lacy 1986, p. 76). Originally, the lyrics were "birds and butterflies, peck at his eyes" but were changed to "birds and butterflies, flutter 'round his eyes" to make the lullaby less violent for younger children. Like "Summertime" this song is also played in natural minor.
South and Central America
slightly variations of this song occur in all latin-america and Spain.
Arrorró mi nena/a, arrorró mi sol, Arrorró pedazo de mi corazón Este/a nene/a lindo/a se quiere dormir. Y el pícaro sueño no quiere venir...
There are two main lullaby songs in Brazil, with minor modifications according to the region of the country where it is sung: Boi da Cara Preta (Black Faced Ox) and Nana Neném (Sleep, Dear Baby). Both are strongly influenced by the Portuguese past of Brazil.
Boi da Cara Preta Boi, boi, boi, Boi da cara preta, Pega essa menina que tem medo de careta!
Boi, boi, boi, Boi da cara preta, Pega esse menino que tem medo de careta
Black Faced Ox (literal English translation) Black, black, black Black Faced Ox Take this girl who has a fear of scary face
Black, black, black Black Faced Ox Take this boy who has a fear of scary face
Nana, Neném Nana, Neném Que a cuca vem pegar, Papai foi na roça, Mamãe foi passear.
Bicho Papão, Sai de cima do telhado, Deixa o meu neném Dormir sossegado.
Sleep, Baby Sleep, Dear Baby, Because the Cuca is going to catch you, Daddy went to the farm, Mom went out for a walk.
Bicho Papão, Get away from the roof, Let my dear baby Sleep in peace.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Berceuse". Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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