Serene Sunday: Kumbaya

Kumbaya was the first spiritual I learned as a child.  I recall being taught it during a Girl Scout meeting.  Then I heard it frequently during folk revivals, civil rights and Vietnam protests of the 1960s.  Kumbaya is Gullah for “Come by here.” It’s an old African American spiritual from the 1930s.  According to Wiki, “the song was originally associated with human and spiritual unity, closeness and compassion, and it still is in many places around the world.”

There are many versions but I’ve picked my favorite folks singer, Joan Baez because all this song needs is a simple guitar and lovely voices.


Joan Baez – Kumbaya (1980)

Joan Baez performanced Kumbaya 1980 in France

12 thoughts on “Serene Sunday: Kumbaya

  1. When you learned the song in Girl Scouts, did you learn the hand motions too? I barely remember them now. (Not near as fun as the hand motions for “Little Cabin in the Woods,” of course.)

  2. We used to sing this song in Girl Guides and around the campfire while camping out. Joan Baez’s version is a bit high for me to sing comfortably. I like it better when she brings it down a notch at the end of the video.
    I’ll bet this song is not as well known as it used to be in my youth. Thank you for showing it here.

    • Sadly this song is being used a joke. In recent years, I’ve seen it used in parodies for over the top sentimental unity. It’s too bad, considering its history. Glad it took you back.

  3. @Trinalin I’m jealous! Love songs with hand motions 🙂 (we also had a cabin in the woods song!!Surprise LOL)
    @Phylly3 I learned it also in something equivalent to the girls scouts & we sang it in rounds, something I also enjoyed. love Joan Baez but prefer a lower octave version. It probably is one of the first English language songs I learned with “there is an L-O-V-E love in my heart” :-))
    Just checked w/my 10 yr old girl who loves to sing, she’s heard the song before at girls scouts but hasn’t learned it in school.
    A beautiful thing this song crossed over culturally
    Thanks J for the post

    • Thanks for commenting. I was closer to this song since I grew up during the 60s. I do wish more kids would learn and understand its meaning today.

    • iz4blue/Fanny said: “we also had a cabin in the woods song!!Surprise LOL”

      My mom is really good with the hand motions for this song (as Judi can attest). As you repeat the song, you remove one more line, but still do the hand motions. And you speed it up. Ah, the joys of campfire songs!

      Little cabin in the woods
      Little man by the window stood
      Little bunny hopping by
      Frightened as he could be.
      “Help me! Help me!” sir he said
      “‘Fore the farmer shoot me dead!”
      “Come little bunny, come with me
      Happy we will be!”

  4. I think I learned it in Sunday School. Lovely song, and I, too, am always sad when I hear someone make fun of it. I think that’s the index that it’s really made it, though, when people can make fun of it.

    • Yes, I hear that imitation is a form of flattery. But the downside is a lot of people have never heard the song or don’t understand its history, so they believe the parody instead. It’s sad.

  5. It’s such a beautiful song. And Joan was “the spirit of the ’60s” – certainly of that era. So many of us learnt it at the height of the Folk era.

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