Four Dada poems with music, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of 'Dada & the Fabled Past'

Performance 1984 of Jerome Rothenberg's That Dada Strain by Luke Morrison & the
Performance 1984 of Jerome Rothenberg's 'That Dada Strain' by Luke Morrison & the Center for Theater Science & Research, San Diego, and New York

Wrote Dada poet Hugo Ball at the moment of discovery (1916): “I have invented a new genre of poems, Verse ohne Worte, (poems without words) or Lautgedichte (sound poems), in which the balance of the vowels is weighed and distributed solely according to the values of the beginning sequence.  I gave a reading of the first one of these poems this evening. I had made myself a special costume for it.  My legs were in a cylinder of shiny blue cardboard, which came up to my hips so that I looked like an obelisk ... I also wore a high, blue-and-white-striped witch doctor's hat.” (Translation by Ann Raimes in H. Ball, Flight out of Time: A Dada Diary)


And the newspaper announcement on February 2nd 1916 in Zurich, Switzerland, written by Ball himself: “The Cabaret Voltaire. Under this name a group of young artists and writers has formed with the object of becoming a center for artistic entertainment. In principle, the Cabaret will be run by artists, permanent guests, who, following their daily reunions, will give musical or literary performances. Young Zurich artists, of all tendencies, are invited to join us with suggestions and proposals.”


For which the following poems in extension:


Gadji Beri Bimba                                                                                                           

[talking heads version at]


gadji beri bimba glandridi laula lonni cadori
gadjama gramma berida bimbala glandri galassassa laulitalomini
gadji beri bin blassa glassala laula lonni cadorsu sassala bim
gadjama tuffm i zimzalla binban gligla wowolimai bin beri ban
o katalominai rhinozerossola hopsamen laulitalomini hoooo
gadjama rhinozerossola hopsamen
bluku terullala blaulala loooo

zimzim urullala zimzim urullala zimzim zanzibar zimzalla zam
elifantolim brussala bulomen brussala bulomen tromtata
velo da bang band affalo purzamai affalo purzamai lengado tor
gadjama bimbalo glandridi glassala zingtata pimpalo ögrögöööö
viola laxato viola zimbrabim viola uli paluji malooo

tuffm im zimbrabim negramai bumbalo negramai bumbalo tuffm i zim
gadjama bimbala oo beri gadjama gaga di gadjama affalo pinx
gaga di bumbalo bumbalo gadjamen
gaga di bling blong
gaga blung

Tristan Tzara’s “Chanson Dada” (poem & performance)

Translation from French by Matthew Rothenberg

this is the song of a dadaist
who had dada in his heart
he tore his motor apart
he had dada in his heart

the elevator lugged a king
he was a lumpy frail machine
he cut his right arm to the bone
sent it to the pope in rome

that’s why later
the elevator
had no more dada in its heart

eat your chocolate
wash your brain
gulp some rain


this is the song of a bicyclist
who loved dada from the start
she therefore was a dadaist
like all with dada in their heart

but her husband on new year’s day
learned everything & in a crisis
sent to the vatican right away
their two bodies in two suitcases

nor the bicyclist
nor the man
was ever happy or sad again

drink some bird’s milk
wash your sweets
eat your meat

[Performance by Noise 292 at with Kristin Martin (rhythm guitar), David Rives (lead guitar), Wendell Kling (trash percussion), Joanne Norris (drums), Matthew Rothenberg (bass, vocals). Translation originally published in J. Rothenberg & P. Joris, Poems for the Millennium, volume 1 (University of California Press, 1995).]


That Dada Strain with Music & Lyrics after Ethel Waters


Transcribed from vocals by Ethel Waters, recorded 5/1922. From Ethel Waters 1921 - 1923, The Chronological Classics, vol. 796.


The following text of "That Dada Strain," with accompanying recording, makes a curious & little noticed connection to the European Dada activities that immediately preceded it. The melody, minus words, became a traditional jazz standard that persisted over the next several decades. The composers, when credited, are generally given as Mamie Medina (lyrics) & Edgar Dowell (music). More recently I used the title for a series of poems & performances, but without reference to the lyrics themselves. It should be noted, however, that the otherwise undefined “Da-Da” parallels precisely the invention by Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Kurt Schwitters, & others of what was then a radically new sound poetry – a twentieth-century poetry without words. For the full Ethel Waters recording check the following:, among other sites on the web. (J.R.)


Have you heard it, have you heard it,
That Da Da Strain?
It will shake you, it will make you
Really go insane.
Everybody's full of pep,
Makes you watch your every step.
Every prancer, every dancer,
Starts to lay 'em down,
Everybody when they hear it
Starts to buzzing 'round;
I get crazy as a loon,
When everybody hums this tune:

Da-Da, Da-Da,
Da-Da, Da-Da,
Because the feeling
Sets your brain a-reeling;
Just like you're falling,
That runabout refrain, [?]
When everybody starts to
Da-Da, Da-Da,
Da-Da, Da-Da,
I want to do it once again,
I'm simply wild about that Da-Da,Da-Da Strain!

Oh, Da-Da Da-Da
Da-Da Da-Da,
Because this feeling
Sets your brain a'reeling,
Just like you're falling,
That runabout refrain, [?]
When everybody starts to Da-Da,Da-Da, Da, Da-Da
I want to do it once again,
I'm simply wild about the Da-Da,Da-Da Strain.

Da, Da-Da, Da-Da,
Da-Da, Da-Da,
Da-Da, Da-Da,
Because that feeling
Sets your brain a-reeling.
Just like you're falling,
That runabout refrain, [?]
Oh, Da-Da, Da-Da,
Da-Da, Da-Da,
I wanna do it once again,
I'm simply wild about that
Da-Da, Da-Da Strain                                                                                                              


That Dada Strain, with Music by Bertram Turetzky & Words by Jerome Rothenberg


That Dada Strain


the zig zag mothers of the gods
of science the lunatic fixed stars
& pharmacies
fathers who left the tents of anarchism
the arctic bones
strung out on saint germain
like tom toms
living light bulbs
“art is junk” the urinal
says “dig a hole
“& swim in it”
a message from the grim computer
“ye are hamburgers”


[The first recording of this performance, with Bertram Turetzky on bass & Jean Charles François on percussion, is available at]