Sometimes songs I haven’t heard in practically decades get stuck in my head, and I end up digging them up on YouTube for a merry trip down Nostalgia Lane. Yesterday was one such occasion.
First, some back story:
When I was really young, we had this tape featuring an Egyptian lady named Maha Abu Ouf. It was aimed at little kids, and it basically consisted of her reading the viewers a story (often a classic Arabic fable), followed by a song. The songs were about a myriad of topics: going to a party, learning to count to 10, an ode to a clown given to hyperbolic stories, and even pantomime. (Can’t say she didn’t cover quite a bit of ground). Some of the songs were set to familiar rhythms, like “This Old Man” and “Witch Doctor”.
Maha often dressed as a clown named Boo-Boo in the music videos, who was sometimes a character in her songs. What’s funny is that when I dug the songs up, I realized that her Boo-Boo persona is probably the only ‘traditional’ clown I ever took any liking to, and still do. (I’ve liked the Joker for years, but he doesn’t count).
The thing about digging up relics from your past, though, is that you can’t avoid seeing things a little…differently. Like noticing the ridiculously cheesy effects and transitions, or the embarrassing children’s fashion of the decade.
Or the blatant copyright infringement.
Seriously. Her videos are full of clips of popular cartoons as well as a liberal dose of Sesame Street Muppet knock-offs. (It would have made a lot of people very sue-happy if it were anywhere where copyright laws matter). But as a kid, it was perfectly normal to see all these familiar characters bouncing around to these catchy songs. It didn’t even matter that Big Bird’s eye was flipped around pretty creepily and Oscar the Grouch was uncharacteristically enthusiastic.
In spite of it all, guys, it’s so genuine and sweet. Like even now, Maha’s demeanor and interactions with the camera and the kids is so natural and loving, unlike some artists who act like they can relate to kids. I’m glad that wasn’t ruined for me.
So this is kind of a long-winded lead-in to say that I learned the chorus to “Witch Doctor” very differently than a lot of people reading this. In case you grew up having missed out on Witch Doctor’s super-important message of babbling nonsense at the object of your unrequited love, here is a referesher.
And here is Maha’s version, adapted to be a song about going to the circus and seeing a magician (very creatively) named Leelo the Magician (Al-Saher Leelo). The song’s in Arabic, but the chorus is still nonsense. (Big Bird’s lopsided eyeball makes a grand appearance).
Needless to say, having grown up on this version, hearing the original sounded so bloody weird and wrong.