Dodo Titit – Sleep Little One: Haitian Lullaby

haiti

Introduction

“Dodo titit” is Haiti’s classical lullaby. Verses are improvised to report the different chores of mommy and daddy and are sung softly, almost as if being hummed, until the darling little one sleeps. The song may start as a hum or fade as one. After baby is fast asleep, one ends the song with a quietly victorious “Sleep, little one, crab’s in the gumbo.” In other words: “fooled youuuuu!”

In Créole, the prefix “ti” can mean little or can be an endearment like the Spanish suffixes “ito” or “ita.” Here “ti titit” is a superlative version of the “ti” endearment that would be more appropriately translated as “darling little one,” though I translate it here to “little one” to keep the song’s meter.

Kalalou too has two meanings: “okra” and also the sauce “gumbo,” which is prepared with okra, djondjon mushrooms, spices, plus whatever seafood is in season, for traditional comsumption with breadfruit in a Haitian dish called “Kalalou gombo.”

Dady Chery, Editor
Haiti Chery

Dodo titit

Dodo, ti titit manman l
Dodo, ti titit papa l
Si li pa dodo, krab la va manje l
Si li pa dodo, krab la va manje l

Papa ou pa la, l ale la rivyè,
Manman ou pa la, l ale chache bwa
Si ou pa dodo, krab la va manje w
Si ou pa dodo, krab la va manje w

Dodo, ti titit manman l
Dodo, ti titit papa l
Si li pa dodo, krab la va manje l
Si li pa dodo, krab la va manje l

Manman ou pa la, l ale la rivyè
Papa ou pa la, l ale peche krab
Si ou pa dodo, krab la va manje w
Si ou pa dodo, krab la va manje w

Dodo titit,
Krab nan kalalou.

Dodo titit!
Krab nan kalalou!

Sleep, little one

(Translated from the Kreyol by Dady Chery for Haiti Chery)

Sweet sleep, mommy’s little one
Sweet sleep, daddy’s little one
If you do not sleep, the crab will eat you
If you do not sleep, the crab will eat you

Your daddy’s away, he’s at the river
Your mommy’s away, getting fire wood
If you do not sleep, the crab will eat you
If you do not sleep, the crab will eat you

Sweet sleep, mommy’s little one
Sweet sleep, daddy’s little one
If you do not sleep, the crab will eat you
If you do not sleep, the crab will eat you

Your mommy’s away, she’s at the river
Your daddy’s away, he’s trapping some crabs
If you do not sleep, the crab will eat you
If you do not sleep, the crab will eat you

Sleep, little one,
Crab’s in the gumbo.

Sleep, little one!
Crab’s in the gumbo!

VIDEO: “Dodo Titit” by vocalist with guitar accompaniment (1 1/2 min).

VIDEO: “Dodo Titit” sung a capella by Martine Pierre-Louis ( 1 min).

VIDEO: “Dodo Titit” guitar variations by Frantz Casseus (3 1/2 min).

Download musical score for “Dodo Titit.”

Sources: Haiti Chery (introduction, English translation) | Lullabologist (sheet music, photo) | You Tube (performance, courtesy of Miremonde)

Dady Chery

About Dady Chery

Dr. Dady Chery is a Haitian-born journalist, playwright, essayist, and poet. She is the author of "We Have Dared to Be Free: Haiti's Struggle Against Occupation." Her broad interests encompass science, culture, and human rights. She writes extensively about Haiti and world issues such as climate change and social justice. Her many contributions to Haitian news include the first proposal that Haiti’s cholera had been imported by the UN, and the first story describing Haiti’s mineral wealth.

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