Ging Gang Goolie

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Ging Gang Goolie or Ging Gang Gooli is a gibberish scouting song written by Robert Baden-Powell.[1] The song is still popular among the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides.


During the Second Boer War, Baden Powell listened to songs in African languages. The nonsense lyrics of Ging Gang Goolie might have been inspired by these songs.[1] Baden-Powell is said to have written this song during the first World Scout Jamboree in 1920.[2] Some stories place the origin of this song in India, South Africa and other places. It was composed of nonsense words, so that Scouts from different countries could easily learn it without the problem of language barriers.[3]

The Legend of the Great Grey Ghost Elephant

A later story involving an African legend was invented as an explanation for the song.[1] The story "The Great Grey Ghost Elephant" was written by Dorothy Unterschutz, a Canadian Scout Leader from Edmonton. It was published in Scouts Canada's "The Leader" magazine in 1991 (June–July issue, Page 7).[4] The story goes:

In the deepest darkest Africa, every year, after the rains, the "Great Grey Ghost Elephant" arose from the mists and wandered throughout the land. When it came to a village, it would either go around the village or through it. Villagers believed that if it went round the village, the village would have a prosperous year, and if it went through it, there would be drought.

The elephant had gone through the village of "Wat-Cha" three years in a row, and the situation was really bad in the village. A plan to deter the elephant from going through the village was made by Ging-Ganga, the village leader and Ha-la-shay, the medicine man. Ging-Ganga and his warriors were going to frighten the elephant by standing in its path and shaking their shields and spears. Hay-la-shay and his followers were going to cast magic spells, and frighten the elephant by the sound of shaking medicine bags. When the elephant arrived, the villagers gathered at the border of the village and started shouting the name of their leaders, "Ging-Ganga" and "Ha-lay-shay". "Shally wally" was the sound made by shaking medicine bags. The villagers were successful in their plan, and the elephant went around the village, making the "Oompah, oompah" sound. The villagers rejoiced and sang the "Ging Gang…" song.


Due to questions over Robert Baden-Powell's sexual orientation, some people speculated about sexual references in the lyrics. The word "goli" means "ball" in Hindi, which is sometimes used as slang for "testicle". The words "goolie watcha" were therefore interpreted as vulgar by some.[1]


The song has been recorded by a number of artists, including The Tremeloes (1978), the Megatones, Karl Denver, and The Rutles. It was also used in the animated movie Asterix Conquers America sung by Eric Rapton & B.O.D.G..


Ging gang goolie goolie goolie goolie watcha,
Ging gang goo, ging gang goo.
Ging gang goolie goolie goolie goolie watcha,
Ging gang goo, ging gang goo.
Hayla, oh hayla shayla, hayla shayla, shayla, oh-ho,
Hayla, oh hayla shayla, hayla shayla, shayla, oh.
Shally wally, shally wally, shally wally, shally wally,
Oompah, oompah, oompah, oompah.

Many variant forms have sprung up over the years.[5]


External links