One song I have mentioned many times in my Timor blog posts is Mobakomeenofway. Some weeks ago a reader asked me for the words to this song, and I have added them in a reply to her comment; however, the words on their own have limited use if you don’t know the melody. I’ve been mulling over ways to share the melody with you too.

I learned this song years ago, when I was a student in London at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. I think Sean Gregory taught it to our group, and there was a little dance step that went with it. I have kept the dance step the same over all these years – I love it! It is easy to demonstrate and teach, and throws a few coordination challenges out there for the students, and it is kooky enough that no-one looks better than anyone else when they are doing it. A great leveller, in all sorts of ways.

I think Sean said it was Ghanaian. But I could be wrong. I recall that the words mean something like:

Leader: Will you come out and play? (O wene maka lay, mobako meenofway?)

Everyone: Yeah, yeah, we’ll come out and play (Yeah, yeah, mobako meenofway!)

You repeat these lines again (bars 2-9 in the score below), then everyone sings the chorus while doing the dance. The chorus is repeated twice.

Everyone: Mobako meeno fway, Mobako meeno fway,

Mobako meeno fway, Mobako meeno fway,

Aim for a nice swoop downwards on the slur in bars 12 and 16, it gives it a full-throated appeal. The dance requires you to stand side on, so that one foot is pointing toward the centre of the circle (I forgot to say that this is a song that works well in a circle, and that is how I always teach it) and the other foot on the outside of the circle. Your stance is only about hip width – or a little wider – apart, though. No gargantuan side-splits required. Stamp the inside foot, and clap your hands in that direction at the same time, on the word Mobako. Stamp the outside foot, and clap your hands in that direction at the same time (twisting at the waist), on the word meeno, then stamp/clap with the inside foot again on the word fway. You see? Not so hard, but takes a bit of a try-out for the first go.

Try the words out with the Noteflight score I’ve made, here. I’m supposed to be able to embed the score into this blog post but it’s not working so well. Here is a link to the score – let me know if it doesn’t work. I’ve just discovered Noteflight, late on this Sunday night. I think I need a bit more time with it to get properly acquainted.



6 comments so far

  1. Libby Corson on

    Gillian I have just read your Timor blog from start to finish. It’s an inspiration. When I visit Los Palos later this year I’ll be listening out for the Fatalucu version of “Forever Young”.

    Did you know the Tour de Timor finishes in Los Palos Sept this year? (Sept) Toka Boot opportunity?

    • musicwork on

      From start to finish??! There are thousands of words there. You are a dedicated woman. But I’m happy too, that you enjoyed what you read and found it inspiring. I’ve been back in Melbourne 12 days and am still trying to sort through the many threads that make up the stories of my time in Timor Leste. A Toka Boot in September? You know, that sounds like an excellent idea? I’ll work on it!

  2. Timothy Jones on

    I have been thinking more about your posts, and one of the most interesting points you raise is about composition and authorship. At one moment you mention that you asked for input from a group of women and they contributed their phrases towards a composition, then, some time later when you worked on this with another group they picked it up so quickly you had the impression they already knew it. I think this is really interesting: in the West we are obsessed with authorship, ownership and rights, and we have lost the fun of picking music out of the air, out of our memory and of simply enjoying sharing music. I didn’t mention that in my review, but I just remembered it. Thanks, Timothy

    • musicwork on

      Hi Timothy, yes that was one of the most interesting things for me.

      I think in the end that they did write the song, but it was just incredibly catchy, and other people ‘caught it’ quickly. On my last day in Timor I was doing some recording work at a multimedia studio where there were lots of English-speaking Timorese staff. The Baucau Women’s Song was playing in the room. Someone started singing along with it. I asked her, “Do you know this song? How do you know it?” She was quite taken aback by my question (I suspect I did the verbal equivalent of pouncing on her) and said, “No, I don’t know it, I’ve never heard it before! I just like this music.”

      So maybe that is all that was going on the previous time as well, when Tony thought the kids were singing along with it as if they knew it.

      It’s one of the things we’ll never know, and for me, as for you, it highlights too the way that a concept like authorship plays out very differently in different cultures. You’re right, there is so much value for students if we free them to just be musical and have musical responses in any way they want.

      The only real caveat I’d add for myself is to continue to be wary of young people who ONLY want to work with material they already know, as if that, and only that, is REAL music, and that anything created by the group is automatically of lesser value. You know those students and young musicians? They are very resistant to engaging with their own ideas, perhaps because they are perfectionists (or pride themselves on their excellent command of musical accuracy) and feel uncomfortable in an open, iterative process.

  3. sally bartholomew on

    Hi Gillian
    I don’t think I ever thanked you for sending me the words and music for Mobaccameenofway. Thank you we really enjoyed singing it. One of my violinists was really pleased to hear the translation of the words, so thank you for that to.
    I love the idea of writing a song from scratch with a group but I have never done any thing like that before and wondered if you had any tips for me. I help in a church youth group, children aged between 7 and 11 and we do a little bit of singing. I know one of the boys is a good kit player and I am a freelance bassoonist(probably not the most usual starting point for making music!)
    If you have any ideas and any time to share them with me I would be greatful
    Best wishes

  4. […] started with a group song – Mobakomeenofway, because I knew lots of them would know it. After the first sing-through, I taught […]

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