Teaching songs can take a lot of time—and if you have a very multicultural group, chances are low that the group all knows the same songs. One alternative comes from the sub-Saharan African community, which uses “call and response” songs as an expression of democratic participation.

Specifically in leader/chorus responses, the leader sings a line and the group sings it back. This way, the group doesn’t have to have memorized the song or lyrics. For example, has used And when I rise:

And when I rise (And when I rise)
Let me rise up (Let me rise up)
Like a bird… (Like a bird…)
Powerfully (Powerfully)

And when I fall (And when I fall)
Let me fall down (Let me fall down)
Like a leaf… (Like a leaf…)
Gracefully (Gracefully)



Our friends at Play for Peace ( sing together an old Scottish song: “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” On conference calls they sing together, although with an important twist—whenever you say a word with a “B” you stand up. If you’re already standing and say a word with a “B,” then you sit back down. With this song, that involves a lot of standing up and down—and hopefully laughter! (See Games/Energizers/Dynamicas for more ideas.)

Of course, adapt this to any song that people might know! For example in Polish you might sing the childhood song “Myj zęby” (and alternative with words with the letter “O”) or Spanish you might sing “Rana Cucú” (everything you sing “Cucú”) or you could used the Tagalog song “Magkaisa tayo” (roughly translating at “let us unite / how beautiful to see / when we all live together in harmony.”)


The lyrics of My Bonnie:

My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
my Bonnie lies over the sea,
My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
O bring back my Bonnie to me.


Bring back, bring back, O bring back my Bonnie to me, to me:
Bring back, bring back, O bring back my Bonnie to me


Lyrics of Rana Cucú

Cucú, cucú cantaba la rana
Cucú, cucú debajo del agua,
Cucú, cucú pasó un caballero
Cucú, cucú con capa y sombrero
Cucú, cucú pasó una señora
Cucú, cucú con traje de cola,
Cucú, cucú pasó un marinero
Cucú, cucú vendiendo romero,
Cucú, cucú le pidió un ramito
Cucú, cucú no le quiso dar,
Cucú, cucú y se echó a llorar


Lyrics of Myj Zęby

Szczotka pasta, kubek, ciepła woda, tak się zaczyna wielka przygoda,
myje zęby, bo wiem dobrze o tym, kto ich nie myje ten ma kłopoty.
Żeby zdrowe zęby mieć, trzeba tylko chcieć.
Szczotko, Szczotko, hej szczoteczko! O! O! O!
Zatańcz ze mną, tańcz w kółeczko. O! O! O!
W prawo, w lewo, w lewo,w prawo. O! O! O!
Po jedzeniu kręć się żwawo. O! O! O!
W prawo, w lewo, w lewo, w prawo. O! O! O!
Po jedzeniu kręć się żwawo. O! O! O!
Bo to bardzo ważna rzecz żeby zdrowe zęby mieć!


Lyrics of Magkaisa Tayo

Mag-ka-isa ta-yo, mag-ka-isa (Let us unite!)
Na-na-na Na-na-na-na-na Na
Na-pa-ka-gan-dang Pag-mas-dan (How beautiful to see?)
Kung Ta-yo y Mag-ka-i-sa (If we all unite!)