Sunday, November 9, 2014

"Soul Sister Number 9" In Children's Playground Rhymes

Edited by Azizi Powell

Revised -October 26, 2018

This cocojams2 post examines the meaning of "soul Sister number 9" and showcases text examples and videos of examples of children's playground rhymes that include that referent. The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, and recreational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of the videos that are featured in this post.

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Comments for those blogs can be sent to my email address azizip17 dot com at yahoo dot com for possible inclusion in a specific post on those blogs.

"Soul sister" means "a Black female" (and not necessarily one who is your sibling). That referent who coined in the 1960s by African Americans, along with the term "soul brother","soul man", and "soul music". These terms are found in the lyrics and titles of numerous examples of African American non-religious music.

The term "soul sister number nine" in playground rhymes means that the person is bragging on herself. "Soul sister number nine" means "a superlative soul sister". "Number 9" is a spiritually powerful number. And besides, it's easier to rhyme with than the number "10" :o)
The implication of the terms "soul brother", "soul sister", and "soul man" (the comparable term "soul lady" wasn't used) was that African American people and (by extention) other Black people were more in touch with or more comfortable getting in touch with and expressing the spiritual and emotional aspects of life than any other race/ethnicity. Whether this is true or not isn't the topic of this post.

I'm not sure which came first- "soul" prefacing the word "sister", "brother", and "man" or the word "soul" prefacing the word "music". The term "soul music" began to be used in the 1960s as a referent for certain genres of African American non-religious music. Here's an excerpt from
"Soul music is a popular music genre that originated in the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s. It combined elements of African-American gospel music, rhythm and blues, and often jazz....

According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, soul is "music that arose out of the black experience in America through the transmutation of gospel and rhythm & blues into a form of funky, secular testifying".[2] Catchy rhythms, stressed by handclaps and extemporaneous body moves, are an important feature of soul music. Other characteristics are a call and response between the soloist and the chorus, and an especially tense vocal sound. The style also occasionally uses improvisational additions, twirls and auxiliary sounds...

Soul music dominated the U.S. R&B chart in the 1960s, and many recordings crossed over into the pop charts in the U.S., Britain and elsewhere"

The #9 in the referent "soul sister #9" probably comes from the cultural meaning given in the United State to "cloud nine". Here's some information about "cloud nine" from "World Wide Words: Cloud Nine
"The phrase to be on cloud nine, meaning that one is blissfully happy, started life in the United States and has been widely known there since the 1950s."
The expression is often said to have been popularised by the Johnny Dollar radio show of the early 1950s, in which every time the hero was knocked unconscious he was transported to cloud nine. I can’t find a contemporary reference to this. But there was another show, often listed alongside it in the schedules:

"Cloud Nine. Friday. 8:00 p.m. This excitingly new show presented by the Wm. Wrigley Jr., Co. blends fantasy, music, drama and comedy into 30 minutes of imaginative entertainment."

This is the first use of the phrase we have. But there is indirect evidence that it was by then already known. As one instance, the Los Angeles Times reported that a yacht taking part in a race around Catalina Island in June 1947 was called Cloud Nine.


Variant forms of the expression are recorded even earlier.".."

These examples are presented in chronological order based on the date of my direct collection of the example, or their posting date on YouTube, with the oldest examples given first.

For the record, all of these examples are bragging, confrontational rhymes that have their source in African American culture and contain a number of African American Vernacular English sayings.

The term "soul sister" is written in italics to highlight it in the examples.

Example #1
Ah Beep Beep
Walkin down the street
Ugawa. Ugawa
That means Black power.
White boy.
I said it. I meant it
And I'm here to represent it.
Soul sister number 9
Sock it to me one more time.
Uh hun! Uh Hun!
Source: Tracy S.,(African American female); Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; childhood remembrance, 1968 ; collected by Azizi Powell, 2000 {in Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania}
Tracy told me in 2000 that, although she was in kindergarten at the time, she has clear memories of {Black} older girls & girls her age standing on their porches reciting this rhyme in a taunting way while White policeman were patrolling the streets of her neighborhood during the riots that occurred as a result of Martin Luther King's assassination. Tracey said that she considered this to be more than a taunt. She said that the rhyme to be an expression of Black pride & unity as well as a taunt directed to the White policemen.

"Ugawa" ("Ungawa"), pronounced "oon-GAH-wah", is a word created by an American movie producer to represent the speech of Black Africans in Tarzan moves, and to represent the language that the fictitious character Tarzan used to talk to animals. In the late 1960s & early 1970s, afro-centric African Americans took hold of that word and included it in a rhyme that both celebrated Black power. A common verse in those rhymes was "Ungawa!"/"Black power!" or "Ungawa/"We got the power" (with "power" in both examples pronounced like "po-wah").

In the example given by Tracy, "white boy. Destroy" means "Destroy white boys". Whether she knew what she was saying and whether she should have been saying it is a whole 'nuther matter.

"Sock it to me!" was a popular African American saying during the 1960s. That phrase probably originated as a sexualized expression. However, that phrase was popularized by its use in Aretha Franklin's hit 1960s R&B record "Respect". In that record, and in other records and vernacular use, "Sock it to me" may have meant "Give it to me." (meaning give me the best that you've got!"). Contrary to some interpretations, in that Aretha Franklin record, and in James Brown's use of that phrase "Sock it to me" never meant "Hit me".

Example #2
I'll be. be
Walking down the street,
Ten times a week.
Un-gawa. Un-gawa {baby}
This is my power.
What is the story?
What is the strike?
I said it, I meant it.
I really represent it.
Take a cool cool Black to knock me down.
Take a cool cool Black to knock me out.
I'm sweet, I'm kind.
I'm soul sister number nine.
Don't like my apples,
Don't shake my tree.
I'm a Castle Square Black
Don't mess with me.
- John Langstaff, Carol Langstaff Shimmy Shimmy Coke-Ca-Pop!, A Collection of City Children's Street Games & Rhymes {Garden City, New York, Double Day & Co; p. 57; 1973}
"What is the story"/"What is the strike" = "What's happening". "What's up?".
"Take a cool cool Black to knock me down" = It would take a cool, cool Black [person] to knock me down. "Cool" is used in its vernacular sense and means "hip" (up to date with the latest street culture and also "unruffled", in control of her or his emotions.
"Castle Square" is probably a neighborhood or a housing develpment within a neighborhood.

Example #3
Soul Sister Number Nine
Sock it to me one more time
Say Ungawa we got the power
Say Ungawa we got the power

Little Sally Walker's walking down the street
She didn't know what to do so she jumped in front of me

She said "go on girl, do your thing do your thing
go on, girl do your thing, do your thing. Stop!!
-A clip from the 2003 American movie "Soul Of Rock"

The poster of that YouTube video, rachelarmstrong, (January 24, 2008) included the words to that rhyme on the video clip screen shot. Her transcription is given above.
As a (friendly) amendment to that transcription, I hear the two chanters saying "Say Unn Ungawa. We got the powa. Say Unn Ungawa. We got the powa."

Here's that video:

Soul Sister Number Nine (?)

Ray [VII] Uploaded on Jan 24, 2008
From the movie "The School of Rock"
Click for information about that movie.

**** Example #4
"The lastest hand clapping rhyme i've heard from my daughter goes something like this:

eenie meanie popsaweenie
you are the one for me
education, numeration
I like you
Going down down baby
Down by the river
sweet sweet sugar
I like you
So sister number 9
hit me with it one more time
Caught you with your boyfriend
naughty naughty
Didn't do the dishes
lazy lazy
Jumping out the window
cos you flippin CRAZY

Crazy has to be screamed out at the top of your voice in the worst essex/cockney accent you can muster

She's 8 (year 3) What is the world coming to
-stormin norm (Great Britain) : , June 22, 2006
"so sister number nine" is a folk processed form of "soul sister number 9". The eight year old probably wasn't familiar with that term and changed it to something that made more sense to her.

Example #5

Ayraness, Uploaded on Sep 21, 2009

soul sister number nine stuck it to me one more time
said un, ungawa, we got the power
said un, ungawa we got the power
little sunny walker walking down the street
she don't know what to do
so she jump in front of me
and said go on girl do your thing,
do your thing,do your thing,
said go on girl do your thing, do your thing, stop!
Here are comments from that video's viewer comment thread, including two comments from me:
Azizip17, 2009
"Hello! It's interesting to learn that this rhyme (which is actually a combination of two African American rhymes) has made it to the Philippines. I wonder if you learned it from the "American School of Rock" movie. "Ungawa" is a made up word which movie producers said was like "African talk". But in the late 1960s, Black people used it to convey pride in our African heritage. That rhyme dates from that time. "Little Sally Walker walking down the street" is a girls' circle game. Thanks!"

Azizip17, 2009
"Sally Walker: Girls form a circle with 1 person in the middle. They stand, not holding hands and sing the words. The middle girl jumps in front of a person & does a dance. That person does the same dance. She becomes the new middle person. The original words for the phrase "Stuck it to me" are "sock it to me", meaning "give it to me." This originally had a sexualized meaning. By the way, the phase "Sock it to me" is prominently featured in Aretha Franklin's 1967hit R&B song "Respect"

ayraness, 2012

BigMTBrain, 2013
"Hahaha... Just now, out of the blue, I started chanting the main refrain that I recall from childhood. Indeed, the girls in the neighborhood would do exactly as Azizip17 explains; however sometimes, they would also chant it while jumping rope. I also recall that the main refrain went something like... "I said un, ungawa, knows ya got the power. Said un, ungawa, knows ya got the power..." ("power" being pronounced as "powah" to better rhyme with "ungawa") :)"

Click "The Changing Definition of "Soul Sister". pancocojams is another blog that I curate.

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