Bella Ciao – my next song project

Did you know that I am working on a Mohegan language revitalization project for my people? No? Yes. I am. I didn’t plan on doing it, but circumstances landed it in my lap. I spent a lot of my time trying to think of things for it and ways to get my people to participate.

For a starter language project I took the old song Bella Ciao up. I realized, hey… this could work. I’ve been wanting to do a new song, and… I’ve always wanted to incorporate my people’s language. It’s perfect. I changed the lyrics and then translated the Bella Ciao part, the chorus, into Mohegan. I’ve been waiting to hear from the project’s language helper if I got it right and… I didn’t. But by luck I managed to do a translation that still worked. I wanted it to say Farewell my love (lover), but instead it’s Farewell love.

So instead of the chorus saying Bella ciao, Bella ciao, Bella ciao ciao ciao
It now says nahunshásh, nahunshásh wômôyutuwôk

Don’t panic if you can’t pronounce it. That’s what me recording the song is for.

I chose this song as an adaptation for us because it’s an old tune that a lot of people know. Also, the sentiment is a fighter leaving his lover to go fight for freedom. So many strong Native American warriors have done that and sometimes they still do when they serve in the armed forces. So it’s still in context.

Most of it is still in English, but I realized it was best to keep that way. I also may still tweak the lyrics as I work on things here and there because, well, that’s the folk music process. I will be recording it eventually – being as that’s one of my few hobbies. But am sharing the new lyrics here so others can play with it.

Please don’t b*** at me that I didn’t write a powwow drum song. Our people have been adapting in songs like this from the very beginning. It’s not against the old way.

The sun was rising
When I woke up
nahunshásh, nahunshásh wômôyutuwôk
the sun was rising
When I woke up
And my freedoms were no more

I felt my duty
Stir up inside me
nahunshásh, nahunshásh wômôyutuwôk
My duty called me
To walk in ardor
I heard my patriotic call

And if I die here
As a partisan
nahunshásh, nahunshásh wômôyutuwôk
If I die here
Defending freedom
Then you must carry my heart home.

Bury me safely up in the mountain
nahunshásh, nahunshásh wômôyutuwôk
Bury my body up in the mountain
Where the flowers of freedom grow

And all who pass by
Up on the mountain
nahunshásh, nahunshásh wômôyutuwôk
All who pass me
Climbing the mountain
Will ask what pretty flowers are those

This is the meadow
of the warrior
nahunshásh, nahunshásh wômôyutuwôk
These are the flowers
Of the fighter
Who gave their life for liberty