Cries and criers

For those who are interested in folk manifestations, traditional music and oral literature, long and winded forms of expression must definitely be much more attractive than short cries. However, the short forms, such as cries, shouts or calls, are an extremely interesting branch of folklore which deserves our attention. We can differentiate cries directed at animals and commercial cries (which are the simplest ones), as well as more complex pastoral (or shepherds’) cries.

How can this kind of oral expression be characterised? Cries are musical messages usually sent by one person in order to initiate contact with the recipient (a person or an animal) and convey some kind of information (which constitutes the content of the cry). Cries are normally performed outdoors in open spaces (cf. Bielawski, Tradycje ludowe w kulturze muzycznej / Folk Traditions in the Musical Culture).

A woman vendor, Typy Wywoływaczy gdańskich (Types of Street Criers of Gdańsk), source: Polona.

Words spoken to animals

The characteristic words shouted to animals have a simple form; they have usually been used for farm animals, such as chickens, cows, ducks, geese etc.

David Teniers (1610-1690) source: Polona.

What should you shout to animals?

When you want to speak to piglets, you may try using the following words:

Zuki, zuki, zuki, c,c,c, zucki, zucki

Cf. the recording from the Phonographic Collection, No T3568.14b

The following ones are best spoken to the geese:

Dzieci, dzieci, cigo, cigo, cigo… (The word dzieci means children)

Cf. the recording from the Phonographic Collection, No T3568.13c.

But if you want to talk to the chickens, try these words:

Ciu,. Ciu., ciu, cipy moje,. Cipy, cipy, ciu ciu (The word moje means my used for the plural noun, so my cipy may mean my chickens)

Cf. the recording from the Phonographic Collection, No T3568.13a

A woman and a cow, 1926, source: Polona.

Commercial cries

Commercial cries were usually the domain of men. They are characterised by a short word content dressed in a simple melodic formula. The purpose of this kind of cries was to draw attention to the service or object on offer.

Source: Barbara Brzezińska, Zawołania gdańskich domokrążców (1762-1765) [Cries of Door-to-door Salesmen from Gdańsk (1762-1765)], in: Muzyka 2005 No 2, pp. 45-78.

An interesting set of 40 engravings, known as Wywoływacze Gdańscy (Cries of Street Vendors from Gdańsk), was published in the eighteenth century by Mateusz Deisch, although it is debatable who actually produced the engravings – Deisch himself or one of his co-workers (the issue is described in detail by Barbara Brzezińska in Muzyka 2005, No 2, pp. 45-78).

The set contains images of street vendors and tradesmen who advertise their products by crying, singing and shouting. The types of vendors portrayed in the engravings include a coppersmith, a scissors grinder and peddlers of green branches (see also the essay O chodzeniu z goikiem), fruits, groats etc.

Typy Wywoływaczy gdańskich (Types of Street Vendors from Gdańsk), source: Polona.

Typy Wywoływaczy gdańskich (Types of Street Vendors from Gdańsk), source: Polona.

An interesting feature of the set is the figure of a street musician playing the barrel organ. The musical notes provided underneath are much more complex than in the case of the other criers. I have already commented on the repertoire of street musicians in my text Zakazane piosenki.

The difference is indeed substantial as most of the cries exclaimed by the featured peddlers from Gdańsk are based on only two differing sounds – these are very simple forms which sometimes just contain one or two words (occasionally four or more).

An organ grinder; Typy Wywoływaczy gdańskich (Types of Street Vendors from Gdańsk), source: Polona.

Barbara Brzezińska differentiates the following types of commercial exclamations heard in the eighteenth-century streets of Gdańsk:

–  declamatory cries,

– declamation with shouts,

– other types.


Pastoral (shepherds’) cries

The traditional Polish (as well as Czech/Bohemian) pastoral cries consist of short repeated motifs with varied texts. According to Ludwik Bielawski (Tradycje ludowe w kulturze muzycznej / Folk Traditions in the Musical Culture, 1999: 231) they can be termed counting-out cries. The shepherds may count out the names of the cows, the first names of the members of their families, delicious meals that they are dreaming of etc.

Source: Ludwik Bielawski, Tradycje ludowe w kulturze muzycznej (Folk Traditions in the Musical Culture), Warsaw 1999.

The shepherds often used a wooden trumpet or a natural horn on which they played simple melodic formulas and bugle calls.

Zalewski, Żywiec : published by R Faruzel, bookshop [1935] ([unknown place : unknown printer]). Source: Polona

In addition to the counting-out formulas, there were also pastoral dialogue cries, most common in the Carpathian Mountains, the so-called helokania karpackie, which contained the cry of “Helo, helo!” – hence the name. These helokania usually have a tripartite construction:

  1. A cry to initiate contact
  2. A declamatory part consisting of several (up to around twenty) brief verse couplets. This part conveys the message.
  3. The conclusion, which occasionally hints at the cry from the initial part.

I have already written about an interesting modern use, or rather an inspiration, of helokania here.

Source: Ludwik Bielawski, Tradycje ludowe w kulturze muzycznej (Folk Traditions in the Musical Culture), Warsaw 1999.

Hey hey!

The cries, both the short – to animals or to potential customers in the streets, as well as the longer ones – pastoral cries, are an immensely interesting topic which is yet to thoroughly researched, from both the historical and contemporary perspective. Deisch might have immortalised the eighteenth-century street vendors but the story goes on – in many larger and smaller towns, on the markets or the tourist trails, people advertise their services (e.g. invitation to an eatery) and products (e.g. newspapers) by shouting out promotional slogans. Theirs is a fascinating world definitely worth exploring.

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