Friday, July 8, 2011

Jukebox Friday: Vader Abraham - 't Smurfenlied (The Smurf Song)

Pierre Kartner performing as
Vader Abraham in 2007.
Photo: Remco Klein/Wikimedia
Pierre Kartner was born in Elst in the Netherlands in 1935. He has produced and recorded music since the late 1960s. As a producer, he was instrumental in the success of the levenslied ("life song") genre, a sub-genre of pop music distinguished by sentimental songs about familiar topics such as love and exotic holidays.

Kartner's alter ego Vader Abraham ("Father Abraham") came to life in the song "Vader Abraham had zeven zonen". The song is a cheerful march telling the story of Father Abraham's seven sons, all of whom are alcoholics. ( Listen to it on YouTube if you dare.)

In 1990, Kartner was tasked with writing the music for the opening and closing credits to the animated series Moomin, based on Tove Jansson's books. Ironically, it was never shown on Dutch or Belgian television.

This was one of my very favourite TV shows as a kid. How could it not be, with the scariest cartoon character ever conceived?



Kartner's most internationally-famous song was written to promote the film The Smurfs and the Magic Flute, which was released in Belgium in 1976. The Smurfs were, of course, created by the Belgian comics artist Peyo. Vader Abraham's "'t Smurfenlied" was released on 15 October 1977, and it topped the charts for seven weeks in a row, only dropping out after 17 weeks.

Based on the single's success, Kartner recorded an entire Smurf album, which went to number one in 16 countries. Altogether, Kartner's Smurf-themed recordings have sold more than 25 million copies.



Lyrics (original Dutch):

Abraham: Waar komen jullie toch vandaan?
Smurfs: Waar de smurfenhuisjes staan
A: Hebben jullie ook een eigen taal?
S; Ja die spreken wij allemaal
A: Doen jullie iets dat wij niet durven?
S: Ja, want wij zijn echte smurfen
A: Dit is een lied met een leuk refrein
S: Jullie zijn groot en wij zijn klein.

A: De fluitsmurf begint

(instrumental)

A: Ja, zing maar na!
S: La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la
A: En nu de tweede stem...
S: La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la
A: En nou allemaal!
Everyone: La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la

A: Kunnen jullie door een waterkraan?
S: Wij kunnen door een waterkraan.
A: En ook door een sleutelgat?
S: Ja, ook door een sleutelgat!
A: Kunnen jullie op een blokfluit spelen?
S: Ja, daar kunnen wij ook op spelen!
A: Vinden smurfen dansen fijn?
S: Ja, maar alleen op dit refrein!

Everyone: La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la
A: He, wie is daar verkeerd aan het smurfen?
He, zing eens netjes mee!
S: Yes, sir!
Everyone: La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la

A: Waarom zijn de smurfen klein?
S: Omdat jullie groter zijn.
A: Gaan jullie met die muts naar bed?
S: Ja, die wordt niet afgezet
A: Gaan jullie net als wij ook slapen?
S: Nee, wij moeten drie maal gapen
A: Wat is jullie grootste wens?
S: Smurfen, maar dat snapt geen mens

Everyone: La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la


Lyrics (English translation):

Abraham: Where do you come from, anyway?
Smurfs: Where the little Smurf-houses are!
A: Do you also have your own language?
S: Yes, and we all speak it!
A: Do you dare some things we don't?
S: Yes, because we are real Smurfs!
A: This is a song with a nice chorus
S: You are big and we are small

A: The flute smurf begins!

(A flute begins to play)

A: Yeah, just sing along
S: La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la
A: And now the second part...
S: La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la
A: And now everybody...
Everyone: La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la

A: Can you get through a tap?
S: We can get through a tap!
A: And also through a keyhole?
S: Yes, also through a keyhole!
A: Can you play on a recorder?
S: Yes, we can play that, too!
A: Do Smurfs like to dance?
S: Yes, but only to this chorus!

Everyone: La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la
(A: Hey, who's not smurfing right?
Hey, sing along nicely!)
(S: Yes sir!)
Everyone: La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la

A: Why are the Smurfs so small?
S: Because you are so big!
A: Do you wear that hat to bed?
S: Yes, we don't take it off!
A: Do you sleep just like we do?
S: No, we have to yawn three times!
A: What is your greatest wish?
S: Smurfing, but no human understands that!

Everyone: La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la lalalalala la la la
La la lalalalala la la la, la la la


The Smurfs and the Magic Flute and the accompanying hit single caused the first international breakthrough for the Smurfs. It was a forerunner of the massive success they would experience on the back of the 1981 Hanna-Barbera cartoon series.

Regarding the new film, which opens on July 29: I'm just hoping it doesn't suck.

Lastly, a bonus for any Norwegian readers out there. You might have heard Geir Børresen's 1978 cover of "'t Smurfenlied". You might love it as much as I do. Here it is.

6 comments:

  1. Let's not forget the Smurfs also did house music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u56X0hmv3mU

    The Smurfs... My first encounter with gothness in a way: Gargamel was an alchemist/wizard living in an eerie dark castle in the middle of the woods, always dressed in black and had a sinister cat. Gothic to the bone!

    Also, the Smurfs are true communists (which I obviously like as a commie myself):
    - there is no hierarchy or social classes. Except for Papa Smurf the Smurfs are all equal.
    - there is no competitive capitalist market. For each profession there is one Smurf, without competition.
    - all Smurfs have similar dress and housing, no richer class or slums.
    - there is no money or currency, they seem to have a communal system similar to Israeli kibbutzim or collective farms. No money as means of trade is used.
    - the trade and contacts with the outside world are limited to the absolute minimum.
    - Papa Smurf is the authoritarian leader, without political opposition. The Kim Jung-Il/Lenin/... of the Smurf village.
    - political opposition or dissidents are non-existing.
    - to emphasise his believes, the Papa Smurf dresses in red (the communist colour) robe and has a beard similar to Karl Marx.
    - Gargamel is the complete opposite: obsessed with gold and money (even wanting to turn the Smurfs to gold) ; but communism always wins in the cartoon! :)

    So given my own political background it's impossible not to love the Smurfs. One remark though: how do they keep their population going? There are only 2 female smurfs (of which one is underaged) for the entire village. Does she get 10 smurfs per birth? And who is the father? For sure there is no monogamy in Smurf village!

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  2. Some interesting ideas there. The song isn't bad, either!

    I found the communism analogy interesting and plausible. But then I read this interview with Peyo's son. http://www.onthemedia.org/2008/feb/29/smurfiversary/transcript/

    I suppose it's still up for discussion, though.

    And regarding how the Smurfs reproduce: my guess is that they do have 10 or so children at a time. That would explain why there are so many Smurfs of the same age, too.

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  3. And who gets the honour of causing the reproduction? (aka who hits the bed with the Smurfin? :))

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  4. Haha :D

    Erlend, you really have to watch The Smurfs and the Magic Flute sometime :) It was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid! I even still remember the tune :D *whistles it to you*

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  5. @Gerrit: That honour probably goes to the Smurf with the most magic in his flute.

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  6. @Bika: Sounds great, I'd love to watch the original Smurfs cartoon :)

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