On my way to work, I happened to listen to the popular Boney M song, “Brown Girl in the Ring” and wondered, where did that song come from. So here goes. The song is based on a rhyme is thought to have originated in Jamaica and is sung as part of a popular “ring game.”
Ring games are played in many parts of the world by boys and girls, especially in their preteen years. In Alan Lomax, J.D. Elder and Bess Lomax Hawe’s There’s a Brown Girl in the Ring, an anthology of Eastern Caribbean song games, it is suggested that ring games are a precursor for children to adult courtship.
The players form a ring by holding hands, then one girl goes into the middle of the ring and starts skipping around to the song. The girl is then asked “show me your motion”, at which point she does her favourite dance. When she is asked “show me your partner”, she picks a friend to join her in the circle.
The “brown” girl (or boy) in the ring traditionally refers to children’s skin tone prevalent in the Caribbean and it is thought to enhance their self esteem.
Remember most of the time no offense is involved until someone feels offended. The Wiggles have modified it a bit and wear brown tees when they sing the song, so they refer to the brown (t-shirt) girl.
And yea, a lot of old nursery rhymes were written before the politically correct era. And the by the way, that song hit number one.
Anyway, attaching the original rhyme and the wonderful song. Enjoy!
Check out my related post: How did music become free?