Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Let Us Sing a Story of Abiyoyo

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Once upon a time....How often have we heard these words, how often have we uttered them too. We grew up listening to stories. And when it was our turn to become narrators, these were the words with which we began our tales. Stories have been with us since the time we were born. Stories are fluid definitions of our consciousness. There is a story behind every single thing, living as well as non-living, real as well as imaginary. Stories have been part of different cultures around the world for ages. Be it the oral tradition in the form of folklore or the written word, these yarns have helped shape our minds. Our imagination has been fueled. Our worlds have been transformed. And we have traveled through time and space through the power of these narratives.

To tell a story to a child is perhaps the most fulfilling experience one can have. The wonder in a child's eye, the peaked up curiosity, the million questions that they ask, the titillating display of their giggles - all this adds to the delight of story-telling. Stories are also a medium to generate in the young minds a sense of inquiry. Understanding what constitutes good conduct is something that easily navigates to the child's mind with the help of a simple story. What is the best way out of a seemingly unconquerable hurdle is another thing that they learn through stories.

Stories fall in many genres. Folk-tales is one such genre. Specific to cultures, folk-tales have a characteristic way of putting on a performance of characters, real as well as make-believe. One would often notice a child asking, "Did giants really exist in the olden days, Mom?" Animals, monsters, giants, fairies, inanimate objects - they all have a fair share of role to play in folktales. These tales have no author. They have seeped down from one generation to another, by word of mouth. Often accompanied by peppy music instruments, like the banjo, folk tales have managed to entertain kids and adults alike. They always have a message to give.

The other day, my son told me an interesting tale he heard in his music class. It is the story of Abiyoyo, a South African folktale. After hearing the story from my son, I googled and found out the story. As  I read it myself, I was amazed as I realized that my son had managed to tell me each and every detail of the story. He had not missed anything. Was it just the plot that was catchy? No. It was the magic of music that they had played alongside the story. It was the rain-sticks that they had used to bring in some peppiness to the plot as they imagined the heavy footsteps of the approaching Abiyoyo. I could well imagine a whole bunch of lively kids feeding their imagination as they sang the story and played the musical instruments their teacher had provided them. Let me tell you in brief the story of Abiyoyo.

Once upon a time, there lived a man who used to practice magic tricks on everyone. He had a son who liked to play ukulele. The people in the town did not like the sound of the music instrument he played. They also did not like the little fun the father had at the expense of everyone. His simple magic tricks tricked everyone and one day, they all said that they had had enough of the tomfoolery. So, together, they drove the two out of town. The father and the son lived at the periphery, ostracized, and unloved. One day, there was a loud shaking of the ground. People screamed that Abiyoyo had come. The father told his son that if the monster would lie down on the ground, he would be able to make him disappear. The son asked his father to come along. They headed toward the monster while the people looked in shock at what the pair was up to. The boy started playing his ukulele. He sang: 

♪.... Abiyoyo ♪ Abiyoyo....



The monster having never heard his name like that started dancing. The beat catch up and Abiyoyo tried to match the tempo of the music. In the haste, he fell down. As he stumbled, the father wasted no time to ''''zooop''''... perform his disappearing act. Abiyoyo was gone. And so was gone the indifference of the people around him. 

The story can be read in a variety of ways. It can be read as a celebration of the uniqueness of the father and the son, even though they are not loved and respected by the people at first. It can also be read as a triumph of one's belief in one's talent. It can be read as a tale of facing the fear in order to vanquish it. That is the beauty of a folk-tale. The giant may not exist as a physical being out there waiting to quash us. It is present in the many obstacles the society throws in front of us. It can also be our self-created notions of failure and lack of confidence. Abiyoyo helps us tell that it can all be done away with, only if we try. 

The fact that the story is accompanied with music adds to the over-all effect it has on the listeners. It makes room for engagement and participation. When the listener starts to participate in the process of story-telling, s/he is already living that story. And the way the story ends is bound to leave an indelible imprint on the mind. For a child, whose mind is like a blank slate, these imprints are crucial in that they will have long-lasting impact on his power of critical thinking. They will help him figure out things in his own life for a long time too.

Our bodies are made to react. Our minds are attuned to respond. We are responsive-reactive beings. Things and people around influence us. The way the influence works on us impacts our very being. The way we think, the way we feel, the way we act. This is all the more effective when it comes to young minds. So let us start the music. Let us sing a story today. Let us tell them of times gone by, and of times to come. Let us sing them songs of valor and victory, defeat and resilience, obstacles and persistence, fairies and demons, reality and imagination. Let them dance and sway. Let them enjoy as they learn to live well and live wisely.

I recently also read these folktales to my son. Do check these out. I am sure your kids and the child inside you, are all going to find amusement and delight in these narrative folk gems.

Mabela the Clever

Zomo the Rabbit

Tunjur, Tunjur, Tunjur

Indian Tales - A Barefoot Collection

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. oh yes you spun a good story and once upon a time indeed :) some of the books mentioned I have not even heard about .. But when I was a child I think we had other things to do .. :)


  3. It's interesting that a music teacher narrated this story. Good teacher, I should say.

  4. It sure an interesting tale..

  5. wow that'a lovely tale Sunaina... thank you for the narration :-)

    Cheers, Archana -

  6. I'm a great fan of your story-telling skills Sunaina. This one is quite an interesting tale. I have never heard of such stories before. Thanks to your son, because of whom we have got to know such beautiful tales narrated by his litterateur mom.

  7. Your kid is the real inspiration for this post, I must say... :-) Thanks to him, that we come to know of such a nice story. Music definitely has a great effect on us, in many ways...

  8. Very interesting:) Your style of telling is even more interesting, Sunaina!

  9. Story when told with peppy music invariably increases the impact. Abiyoyo reminds me of such plays based on stories of Rabindranath Tagore. I agree with you Sunaina that such cultural influences leave a long lasting effect on the overall personality.