Kabara’s Lullaby

for soprano and bass or solo soprano

Paul Alan Barker

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for soprano and bass or solo soprano

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Composer Paul Alan Barker
Year of Composition 2007
Duration -
Categories (all composers)
Catalogue ID ce-pab1kl1


In a cylinder recording made in South Africa in 1936, a woman named Kabara sang a lullaby to her baby in the language of Ku|khaasi. The language is now extinct, and this song represents the only known example.

Her performance of the song carries the entire weight of a lost language and culture, a knowledge which can never be regained, caught in the very act of being transferred from a mother to her baby, who’s name was Matabab.

My thanks to Prof. Anthony Traill, Professorial Research Fellow in the Linguistics Department of the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa and to Dr. Bonnie Sands from the USA for making the recording available: http://www.yourdictionary.com/elr/extinct.html

The language used clicks (!) and other sounds not common to Western languages. My attempted transcription of some phrases can only be seen as an approximation, and moreover, we cannot know the meaning of the words either sung or in the apparently spoken interjections. The transcription should be studied alongside the recording.

Kabara’s Lullaby takes the musical and linguistic patterns of the original and extends them to create a longer work. It is composed in homage to the mother and her lost world.