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Origins: Tina Singu

13 Jun 13 - 02:10 AM (#3525883)
Subject: Origins: Tina (sung by Weavers)
From: Joe Offer

I've always liked the Weavers recording of this song. It's on their Classics CD, and on the Vanguard Wasn't That a Time collection. They sing over and over again:
    Tina singu lelobotayo
    Watcha Watcha Watcha
...or at least that's what I hear.

I looked in my two Weavers songbooks and my two Pete Seeger songbooks, and didn't find it.
Here's another post on the song:
    Thread #24594   Message #282858
    Posted By: rabbitrunning
    22-Aug-00 - 08:31 PM
    Thread Name: Girl Scout songs - from the fading ditto sheets...
    Subject: LYR ADD: TINA

    Tina singu eleiu taia
    Watcheou watcheou watchou
    Watcheou watcheou watcheou
    la la la la la la la la la la la …

    (I remember the tune for the first part (and that we usually grunted "tina" after a line of "watcheous") but I don't remember the la la part… Ah well. Colorado, Girl Scouts, 1977)

    (That year a girl scout was killed near one of the camps, not in Colorado, so one unit sang this as:

    We're from Ranger and we know karate
    Watchout watchout watchout…)


But does anybody know the true lyrics and background information for this song? attributes the song to Marion Roberts, and says it's on the Vanguard Weavers at Home album. describes "Tina" as a "Wimoweh"-like song sung in the Xhosa language.
YouTube Video (click)

I've found recordings by The Folksmiths (Joe Hickerson), the Chad Mitchell Trio, and of course by the Weavers. Pete Seeger recorded it as "Tina Singu." There's an inspired recording of this song under the title "Watsha" by the Guelph Youth Singers. I think the Kingston Trio may also have recorded the song, but I couldn't find that recording.

13 Jun 13 - 03:00 AM (#3525889)
Subject: ADD: Tina
From: Joe Offer

Here are the notes and lyrics from the booklet for the Joe Hickerson/Folksmiths album titled We've Got Some Singing to Do.

TINA comes from the tiny country of Basutoland in Southern Africa. It appears in the Cooperative Recreation Service pocket songbook, CHANSONS DE NOTRE CHALET. There are two editions of this book, the second of which gives the literal translation as, "We are the burning fire; we burn; we burn." TINA, KUM BA YAH, and DEEP BLUE SEA, became the favorite songs at most of the camps which the Folksmiths visited.

TINA, singu, leluvutaeo,)
Watcha, watcha, watcha.) (2)

A. Watcha, watcha, watcha, watcha, watcha. (2)
B. La, la la la la la la, etc.

14 Jun 13 - 05:11 AM (#3526267)
Subject: RE: Origins: Tina Singu
From: Joe Offer

refresh. Surely, there's more to say about this song.

14 Jun 13 - 06:01 AM (#3526278)
Subject: RE: Origins: Tina Singu
From: Dave Hanson

It was recorded in the 60s by The Tokens, it was the flip side of their hit version of ' The Lion Sleeps Tonight ' I liked it a lot.

Dave H

14 Jun 13 - 09:18 AM (#3526327)
Subject: RE: Origins: Tina Singu
From: Dave Hanson

Just had a look Joe, it's on youtube by The Tokens, from 1961.

Dave H

14 Jun 13 - 07:10 PM (#3526549)
Subject: RE: Origins: Tina Singu
From: Joe Offer

That's a great find, Dave. I blickified your post to make it easier for people to find that recording.

Anybody know of a Kingston Trio recording? What did they call the song?

Looking through my collection of pocket songbooks from the Cooperative Recreation Service, I find that "Tina Singu" appears in several of their songbooks, most notably Chansons de Notre Chalet, which has become a Girl Scout standard songbook.


26 Dec 17 - 03:01 AM (#3895844)
Subject: RE: Origins: Tina Singu
From: GUEST,email to Joe from Donna Halper

A long long time ago, back in 2013, your site had a thread about the
song "Tina." Nobody seemed to have accurate lyrics for it. I always
liked it when I first heard it as the B side to "The Lion Sleeps
Tonight," but I too couldn't figure out what they were saying. So,
imagine my surprise to find the lyrics in the November 1960 edition of
Song Hits magazine (p. 17) under the title "Watcha." The magazine
attributes the lyrics to Bob Hider, Norrie O'Neil, and Bev Galloway, but
I wonder if they just adapted it into English. Anyway, the lyrics are
listed with a 1960 Northern Music Corp. copyright:

Tina singuo leluo votaio,

Watcha, Watcha, Watcha.

Tina singuo leluo votaio,

Watcha, watcha, watcha ... etc (I can print it all out, but you get the

Anyway, thought you'd want another piece to be added to the mystery
surrounding this song, which certainly does sound like something from
Africa (one of the folks in the 2013 thread said Basutoland in South
Africa)-- I noticed on the Hal Leonard music publishing site, they say
it's a folk song from the Sotho (actually it's Sesotho, I believe)
language, but they credit it to several other songwriters. Go figure.

Anyway, thought somebody might still be interested!

Donna L. Halper, PhD
Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies
Lesley University, Cambridge MA
media historian, former broadcaster

26 Dec 17 - 02:01 PM (#3895904)
Subject: RE: Origins: Tina Singu
From: keberoxu

Yes, the Vanguard label LP of the Weavers at my parents' home
had them singing "Tina"
and I recall the "you'll burn, you'll burn" translation summary.

A little faster than "Grazing in the Grass,"
although that trumpet obbligato
calls to mind
Hugh Masekela.

28 Dec 17 - 11:38 AM (#3896135)
Subject: RE: Origins: Tina Singu
From: leeneia

It's good music, Joe. Thanks for posting.

28 Dec 17 - 01:08 PM (#3896151)
Subject: RE: Origins: Tina Singu
From: Susan of DT

I think there was another thread on this a few years ago. It is hard to search when the spelling is iffy. I knew the song from Girl Scouts, so I had noticed the previous thread. It was longer and I think identified its African or Polynesian origins.

05 Jun 19 - 02:35 AM (#3995284)
Subject: RE: Origins: Tina Singu
From: GUEST,Stephanie Kennedy

Tina Singu is a traditional folk song from the Countries of South Africa and Lesotho Africa

05 Jun 19 - 05:26 AM (#3995298)
Subject: RE: Origins: Tina Singu
From: Nigel Paterson

I think I can remember Roy Guest singing this at a concert in Chelmsford, Essex, UK in the 60s. My very unreliable memory also informs me that Roy invited the audience to sing the song as a round, culminating in a huge, rallentando ending on "Watcha, watcha, watcha", liberally sprinkled with as much spontaneous harmonising as possible, directed by the inimitable Roy Guest.