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John Kanaka | Lyrics

from the MMF Songbook



John Kanaka is a sea shanty. Shanties are the work songs that were sung on the square-rigged ships of the Sailing Age. The rhythms of the songs coordinated the work of many sailors hauling on lines. Traditional shanties include short haul shanties, halyard shanties and capstan shanties. Short Haul shanties served sailors in tasks requiring quick pulls over a short time period. Halyard shanties served sailors for heavier work which required additional setup time between pulls. Capstan shanties served for long repetitive tasks which required a sustained rhythm, though did not involve working the lines.

Lyrics

I heard, I heard, the Old Man say,
John Kanaka-naka tu-lai-e! (too-lie-ay)
Today, today is a holiday!
John Kanaka-naka tu-lai-e!
Tu-lai-e!, oh, tu-lai-e!
John Kanaka-naka tu-lai-e!

We'll work tomorrow, but no work today,
John Kanaka-naka, tulai-e!
Today, today is a holiday,
John Kanaka-naka, tulai-e!
Tulai-e, oh! tulai-e!
John Kanaka-naka, tulai-e!

We're bound away for Frisco Bay,
John Kanaka-naka tulai-e!
We're bound away at the break of day.
John Kanaka-naka tulai-e!
Tulai-e, oh! tulai-e!
John Kanaka-naka, tulai-e!

A Yankee ship with a Yankee crew,
John Kanaka-naka tulai-e!
Oh we're buckos for to push her through.
John Kanaka-naka tulai-e!
Tulai-e, oh! tulai-e!
John Kanaka-naka, tulai-e!

A Yankee ship with a Yankee mate,
John Kanaka-naka tulai-e!
He's the bugger who can change your gait!
John Kanaka-naka tulai-e!
Tulai-e, oh! tulai-e!
John Kanaka-naka, tulai-e!

Oh, haul away, oh, haul away!
John Kanaka-naka tulai-e!
Oh, haul away, an' make your pay!
John Kanaka-naka tulai-e!
Tulai-e, oh! tulai-e!
John Kanaka-naka, tulai-e!


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