Ging Gang Goolie

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"Ging Gang Gooli (-e)" or "Ging Gang Goo" (below “Ging Gang”) is a gibberish scouting song, widely spread around the world. It is popular among Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. The origin of the song is not clear. The song has inspired to several claims/hypotheses and myths and to several recordings. The tradition that Robert Baden-Powell wrote “Ging-Gang” is disproved.


[1] [2]

A Family of Gibberish Songs[edit]

“Ging Gang” belongs to a family of “musical cousins” (lyrics and melody in common) for example: “Kinkan”, ”Hi Politi Politaska”, ”Em Pom Pi”, “Oh Nicodemo” aka ”Qui Qua(-e)”, ”Killiwatch”. These songs are nowadays performed mainly around campfires and children´s playgrounds.

The Earliest Documented “Ging Gang” Occurrences[edit]

  • The earliest occurrence was a “Ging Gang” version performed in a new year´s show in Gothenburg, Sweden , 1905: “Niggers´Morning Song” (both lyrics – see below - and score).
  • The earliest “Ging Gang” version in the scouting world was an entry in a Danish scout song book (lyrics only) in 1919.
  • The earliest occurrence in UK was a “Killi Watch” version in 1926 (lyrics and score, “ump-pah”- sound included).[3] It made the World Jamboree song documentation 1929.[4]
  • The earliest occurrence of the “Ging Gang” version in scout song books in the English language took place in 1952 [5] (lyrics only - see below) and 1957 [6] (both score and lyrics) with the title "Ging Gang Goo". The song was sung in UK at least in the late 1940-ies.[7]

Claims/Hypotheses and Myths[edit]

The claims etc are presented below in the order of alleged time of origin of the song, the oldest origin first. None of the suggested origins is THE proven origin of “Ging Gang”.

Finnish-Sami Song Bear Hunters´ Song from 1500-1800: a Hoax

With Finnish-Sami spelling the lyrics of "Ging Gang" have a real meaning. The claim was documented in 1964 by a Swedish cultural authority. The origin of the song would then date back several hundreds of years. The claim is unproven and presumably a premeditated hoax.

German-Latin Song from before 1900

“Ging Gang” and its cousin, the Latin sounding “Qui Quae” aka “Oh Nicodemo”, share the same melody; further, much lyrics are in common.

Students especially in Northern Germany during the second half of the 19th century created (mock-) Latin rhymes and songs. The “Qui Quae“ lyrics may reflect Latin pronouns (qui, quae, quod); in other words, a mnemonic for students . The “Qui Quae” lyrics may also reflect parts of the Christian “Prayer of the Archangel”: Angelus insistat mihi qua umquam ego vado = The angel pursues me everywhere I go.[8]

Swedish Student Song from Late 19th Century

The “Ging Gang” version "Umpa" was collected for a first edition 1918 of a Swedish student song book (lyrics only). The song book editor commented it was “roared” in the early 1890-ies.

Cabaret Song from before 1905: the Oldest Documented Version

“Niggers´ Morning Song” was performed in a new year´s show in Gothenburg, Sweden, 1905. The show producer admitted he used an existing song. The actual performance on stage showed influences from late 1800 Afro-American show business. The lyrics (Scandinavian spelling, see below) and the score are the same as the much later “English” versions of 1952[5] and 1957.[6]

Baden-Powell and “Ging Gang” and 1920: an Unsupported Myth

The hitherto predominating claim on the internet is the tradition that scout movement founder Robert Baden-Powell wrote the song, based on his African experiences, for the 1st World Scout Jamboree 1920 (>5.000 results on internet search May 2015).

The tradition propagated widely on internet in the 2000-s, based on a h2g2 web article 2006 [9] and earlier versions of this Wikipedia article.

Baden-Powell´s connection with “Ging-Gang” is not supported by any kind of evidence; it is a myth.

  1. The song is not mentioned anywhere in archived documents and correspondence by Baden-Powell nor in the 1st World Scout Jamboree documentation.
  2. The complete song was published in Sweden in 1905 = 15 years before the Jamboree in question.
  3. In the earliest English scout song books with “Ging Gang” (in 1952[5] and 1957[6]) the song is commented “Scout traditional” and “No-one really knows where it started”, respectively.

Other Claims/Hypotheses without Evidence

  • Guyanan native song/dance: in song books in the USA from around 1970 and onwards
  • Red indian tribe, Iroqouis: source internet
  • Mozart theme from the 1st symphony used for the score: source older versions of this article (N.B. other equally or more similar music from before 1900 exists).


“Ging Gang” in various forms (and its close cousins) has been recorded by a number of artists and become hits during nearly a century in various parts of the world, many in UK. Several of the versions are available on the internet. The very first recording was made in New York, USA: “Kinkan” (1926) with two Swedish-American men´s choirs, Lyran and Svenska Gleeklubben. Other examples are “Nick-O-Deemo” in USA (1948) with ex-City Slicker Red Ingle, “Kiliwatch” (1960) with The Cousins from Belgium, “Shin Gan Goo” (1961) with Karl Denver, The Scaffold (1969), a reggae (1969) with The Megatons aka The Rudies, The Tremeloes (1977) and "Dirk and Stig" (1978) (Eric Idle and Rikki Fataar, assuming their identities from The Rutles). Further, a reggae mix (1993) with German Inner Kneipe and “Ding Dong Golly” (around 2006?) with Philippine star actresses Kim Chiu and Sandara Park. The song has also been used in movies and TV shows; for example sung by Eric Rapton & B.O.D.G. in the animated TV series 'Victor & Hugo - Bunglers in Crime' episode 'Scout's Dishonour'(1991), included in the animated movie, 'Asterix Conquers America' (1994) and in the episode 'Ging Gang Goolie' of 'Boardwalk Empire' (2012).


The earliest documented lyrics of “Ging-Gang”, 1905[2] The earliest documented lyrics of an “English” version of "Ging Gang", 1952[5][10]

Hinkan, kolikolikolikolifejsan,
Kinkan koh, kinkan koh
Hinkan kolikolikolikolifejsan,
Kinkan koh, kinkan koh
Ava, illa shava O, illa shava Kolifejs!
Ava, illa shava O, illa shava Kolifejs!
Tjolafalla, tjolafalla!”


Ging gang gooli gooli gooli gooli Watcha
Ging gang goo, ging gang goo,
Ging gang gooli gooli gooli gooli Watcha
Ging gang goo, ging gang goo.
Heyla heyla sheyla heyla sheyla heyla Ho!
Heyla heyla sheyla heyla sheyla heyla Ho!
Shali walli shali walli shali walli shali walli
Oompah, oompah….”

Many variant forms have sprung up over the years depending on local spelling of the gibberish sounds and of changes/additions due to natural evolution. Different arrangements (rounds, alternating song, etc.) and choreographies have evolved.

A "Ging Gang" Tale[edit]

The story "The Great Grey Ghost Elephant" [11] is a dramatization of the song's lyrics.

This particular elephant in Africa roamed the country every year after the rain season. By its path it determined what would be the conditions for the villages. If the elephant walked round a village, the village would have a prosperous year. And if it passed through a village, there would be suffering.

The elephant had passed through the village of Wat-Cha during three consecutive years and the situation there was very bad. So the villagers decided to try to prevent the elephant from entering their village next time. The village leader Ging-ganga and his men would block the way of the elephant and frighten it with their weapons. The medicine man Hay-la-shay and his men would cast magic spells and frighten the elephant with the "shalli walli" sound from shaking their magical tools.

The villagers gathered early and sang the names of their leaders. When the elephant arrived trumpeting "oompah, oompah", they stood in its path, shook their things, sang really loud and created frightening sounds.
They were successful and the elephant went around the village, still trumpeting "oompah, oompah". The villagers celebrated and sang the song "Ging Gang…".


  1. ^ This section "Origin" is mainly based on the article "Hottentotternas morgonbön" in the Noterat, 2012 (paper version in Swedish only). Other sources for this section are referred to explicitly item by item.
  2. ^ a b Ingemar Jönsson; Lars Jönsson; Pehr-Erik Nyman (2012). "Hottentotternas morgonbön". Noterat (in Swedish) (Svenskt visarkiv, the Centre for Swedish Folk Music and Jazz.) 20: 109–117. 
  3. ^ Nicholson, Sydney H (1926). Songs for Scouts Second Series No 2. Commissioner for Music BSA. 
  4. ^ Sixteen Popular Songs. BSA, Great Britain. 1929. p. song No 7. 
  5. ^ a b c d Compiled by P R Greenfield (1952). The Scout Song Book. BSA Great Britain. p. 32. 
  6. ^ a b c John Thurman; Rex Hazlewood (1957). The Gilwell Camp Fire Book: Songs and yells from fifty years of Scouting. BSA Great Britain. p. 37. 
  7. ^ Grenda Walton (2011). The House on the Hill-Lake District Revisited: Liverpool Orphanage 1944-1952. AuthorHouse. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-4634-4028-2. 
  8. ^ Westin Tikkanen, Karin. "Qui Qvam". Historiska ord (in Swedish). Historiska Media. Retrieved 2015-05-18. 
  9. ^ "Ging Gang Goolie - a Scouting Song". h2g2. BBC. 8 September 2006. Retrieved 22 November 2006. 
  10. ^ Quotation as per permission by The Scout Association Heritage Collecton, UK
  11. ^ Dorothy Unterschutz, a Canadian Scout Leader from Edmonton, wrote the story "The Great Grey Ghost Elephant", which was published in Scouts Canada's "The Leader" magazine in 1991 (June–July issue, Page 7)

External links[edit]