Official music page and soapbox of Matt Snell

Tuesday 5 April 2011

5 Songs in Made-up Languages

About three weeks ago I posted "5 Songs You Can't Understand," featuring songs in five different languages, none of which I speak myself. It got me thinking about artists who skip the meaning entirely and go straight for the sound. With that in mind I present to you "5 Songs in Made-up Languages," showcasing invented language, scat, and more...

"Prisencolinensinainciusol," or "What English Sounds Like to Foreigners" by Adriano Celentano

I'm a native English speaker, and I still think Adriano Celentano's spoof is bang-on. The Italian comedian not only nailed the sound of mumbled English, he wrapped a pretty funky song around it, too.

"Kommienezuspadt," by Tom Waits

Tom Waits is an artist near and dear to my heart, and none of his tracks make me want to boogie like "Kommienezuspadt." Although I still haven't quite figured out the steps. Don't be fooled into thinking he's speaking German - that's just Germanic-sounding mumbo jumbo. If you haven't heard this one before and you dig it, check out the 2002 album Alice.

S.K. Thoth

Thoth blows my mind. He combines operatic falsetto, violin, and rhythmic dance to create the most mystical one-man band ever. He sings in a language of his own devising, the Festad, organizing his "prayformances" into an opera set in a fantasy world of the same name. A short film about him won an Oscar in 2002, from which this clip is taken. I loved the film, but never thought I'd get anywhere close to Thoth in my lifetime. Of course, Thoth is a street performer, so all it took was a trip to New York City and we found him prayforming in Central Park. After the show he signed autographs with both hands, starting from the middle working outwards - Thoth explained he was trying to harmonize the lobes of his brain.

"Stout-Hearted Men" by Shooby Taylor

Shooby Taylor is getting more recognition these days for his completely original approach to scatting. His sound can come off as strident, but there is a method to Shooby's madness, and the same syllables tends to resurface throughout his material. I've selected a track with subtitles so you can see his process a little better. Unfortunately, Shooby died in 2003, before the Internet really started showing him some love.

"Je cherche apr├Ęs Titine" by Charlie Chaplin

Everyone's probably seen this one, but it might have been awhile and it makes for a sweet ending. Taken from the finale to Modern Times, Charlie does for Italian what Adriano Celentano would do for English thirty-six years later. In case it's not clear: the Tramp had the lyrics written on his cuffs, but they weren't attached very well.


  1. The Charlie Chaplin song sounds like a mix of French and Italian gobbeldy-gook, not just Italian. For example, the title is French and he uses French pronouns je, notre (possessive), and toi (albeit spelt wrong).

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