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Why My Child Can’t Sing Pop-See-Ko and Neither Should Yours

This is a call to action to all of my parents with school-aged children. Actually, this is a call to action to every girl who has spent time on the blacktop during recess in elementary school. I’m still baffled about this new craze permeating primary school classrooms. 

Let me tell y’all a story…

Average day, nothing special. I pick up my daughter from school after leaving my own campus. My daughter’s name is Addyson. First grade. Seven years old. We get home and the first thing she does is grab her tablet and asks me could she show me a new song that she learned in class that day. My baby is a music head so I’m like “cool.” Again, average day, nothing special.

I’m in the process of preparing dinner so I’m not thinking anything of the song until I recognized the beat. Because I was familiar with the beat, all childhood memories rushed over me and I started to sing, assuming that I knew the words right….wrong. What I thought was “Jig-a-Low” was……”Pop-See-Ko.”

What is Pop-See-Ko you say? Before you proceed reading this post, watch below

No seriously. Watch the video first and then keep reading.

If you are anything like me, your reaction to that video was probably the same as mine.

“What. is. This?”

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“What is a pop-see-ko?”

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“Why the only Black dude got on a wig and NO RHYTHM?”

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“Turn this trash off! Now let me show YOU something!”

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It was a mix of emotions!

I was confused as to what I just watched and why it was so popular. I was pissed that society just did what it does best, find a way to take Black culture and whitewash it for click bait and sales (and present it as if it’s new), I was excited to teach my daughter Jig-a-Low and share that nostalgic moment with her, and I was anxious about the array of other things I know for a fact I am going to have to teach my child about her culture because it is either taught with inaccuracy or not taught at all.

As trivial as a post about “pop-see-ko” may seem, I know you HAVE to feel me. Jig-a-Low is a childhood classic like It’s All That, My Brother and Me,  Kenan & Kel, and Friday (because we all watched it when we weren’t supposed to). My coordination never worked well with double-dutch and the boys wouldn’t let me touch the basketball during recess and my turn was up during foursquare and I got tagged out during Down by the Bank so, Jig-a-Low was like a catch all. It was inclusive, didn’t need any special skills, it just was. It is already kid-friendly!

Miss me with the negative connotation about the word “Jig-a-Low” (gigolo) because I never asked my parents what it meant and I doubt y’all did either. Especially since we always stretched out the word, “jig a loooooooooow jig jig a loooowwwwww.”

I’ve made my point so I digress.

It may seem cute, but, it’s not.

The erasure attempt of this classic was done so subtly and strategically that the makers probably thought that the song was popular so long ago that us old heads (millennials) probably wouldn’t even notice it.

Nah G. I peeped game. I’ve been peeping game and my daughter is not about to have any parts of it.

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If your child, niece, nephew, cousin, god-child, etc hasn’t sang the song around you just yet, wait until Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. You will hear it. And when you do, politely tell them how those words shall never be spoken of again. Point. Blank. Period.

Do it for the culture.

Save the babies.

Word.

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    • Ben

      August 22, 2017 at 7:15 AM

      No one complained or cared when a black man stole Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower. Music often involves parody. If all you can do is cry racism over a kids song, I feel there are soooo many better things you could involve yourself in other than crying about cultural appropriations.

      Reply
      • Alana Flowers

        Alana Flowers

        October 6, 2017 at 11:19 AM

        Racism, not much.
        Cultural appropriation and white washing exudes all throughout this video.
        But you are right, there are several things I could involve myself with and I actually do
        I have an MSW and I work in college access for underrepresented, low-income first generation college students, and I work with the housing authority to create equitable housing policies, and I protest state violence towards people of color.
        And I can also point out cultural appropriation in kid’s songs….which is exactly what I did. 🙂

        Reply
  • Matt

    August 29, 2017 at 5:54 PM

    I don’t know that particular song, but Pop See Ko is quite possibly the worst kiddie content I’ve ever heard. Vapid, tone-deaf, and certainly no help in raising a child with any sort of value system other than ME! ME! Me!. It’s TERRIBLE.

    Reply
  • Jana

    August 31, 2017 at 12:58 PM

    I thought this was going to be a tongue-in-cheek article with a clickbait title. But nope, you genuinely are crying racism on a goofy little kid’s song. What a joke.

    Reply
    • Alana Flowers

      Alana Flowers

      October 6, 2017 at 11:17 AM

      I’ve re-read this article a few times. I don’t remember ever using the term racist. However, I purposely used the terms cultural appropriation and white wash because that’s exactly what this is. Are you familiar with those terms? Do you know what they mean?

      Reply
  • The black guy with the wig

    October 5, 2017 at 4:03 PM

    This was waaaay to serious for no reason. Here’s how it went. I worked assistant sound engineer. Shoot needed two more videos so they opted to do that. Asked the crew and producer and myself to help. We grabbed whatever costumes and prop pieces that fit (and I mean that we could physically get into), and that’s literally all there is. Nothing racist about it.

    Reply
    • Alana Flowers

      Alana Flowers

      October 6, 2017 at 11:15 AM

      Hi Black Guy with the Wig. I appreciate your comment. However, I am not too sure if you actually read the post. I am pretty sure I didn’t mention the word racist in this piece nor do I feel like the creators of this content (including you) are racist. I purposely used the term “cultural appropriation” and “white-wash” because that’s exactly what it is and that’s exactly what I meant. I do have a question: are you familiar with the original song I am referring to in this post? Where Pop See Ko was taken from?

      Reply
  • Crystal

    October 8, 2017 at 9:25 PM

    It wasn’t whitewashing, to belittle or take anything away from the black culture.

    Here’s the real reason it was changed. Jig a low (gigalo) and what it means is not kid appropriate. They cleaned it up… THAT’S IT!

    Get over it. Stop teaching and focusing on hate & racism. Our kids learn it from us and the world around them. If we (parents) stop focusing on the color of our skin our children won’t learn to do it. It stops with each and every adult who is raising a child. Period.

    Reply
  • Kinlin Schultz

    October 23, 2017 at 2:10 PM

    I don’t know how educated you are in music but, are you sure Pop See Ko’s tune originated from the song ‘Jig-a Low’? Did you research that? Is the tune to Jig-a Low an original tune. You find that many many song tunes originate from a tune that was originated long before we hear it. If you look in nursery rhyme books you will find that many poems can be song in different tunes. If you are familiar with hymnals you will find that each hymn has a reference for where the tune originated. One tune can be used for several different hymns. (just like nursery rhymes) I was listening to the radio the other day and heard a JS Bach tune in a hip-hop song (and the song was not pure of heart). So my point is that maybe you recognize the tune from a song that was not necessarily moral in nature but the song Pop See Ko was not meant to be harmful to children and it’s intention is not to teach come kind of awareness or to be white washed. It is just meant to be a fun song to help kids to be active during 6 hours of learning everyday. Where it is originated is no matter in this case. If you are absolutely sure that the tune originated with the Jig-a Low song I would love to see prof of that. But I am guessing the tune is much older than that song. I did a little research before posting this but haven’t found anything. Either way, it doesn’t really matter where it originated other than it is a fun song for kids!

    Reply
  • Sam

    November 16, 2017 at 11:20 AM

    I’m a speech-language pathologist in the schools and I’m sorry to say I’ve used this song for breaks on two occassions, even though I’ve had a nagging suspicion about the beat being appropriated. Today I decided to do some digging, and my research led me here, so thank you for sharing this info. Cultural appropriation is stark and real.

    Reply
  • LC

    February 9, 2018 at 8:17 AM

    I am an elementary music teacher and looked this song up when my kindergartener came home telling me about this from her school (I apparently live under a rock). I am also an Irish musician and am always interested in the lineage of tunes, etc. You might be interested to read this analysis (if you haven’t already).

    http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2011/12/childrens-rhyme-gigalo-examples.html?m=1

    While I can’t comment on any particular cultural perspective, I am sad as both a parent and teacher that with recess cuts, rhythm/rhyme games which were traditionally learned/shared among children on the playground are seeming to disappear from that arena. (The blogger above makes a great point that the lyrics children actually sing are often not the ones that adults choose to preserve!)

    Reply
  • Adriana

    February 28, 2018 at 10:37 PM

    I don’t know how I ended up on your blog but I’m glad I did. Before reading your post I hadn’t heard of jig a low… however my children have started listening to pop see ko at school.
    After reading your post I googled jig a low and my jaw seriously dropped!!! You are absolutely correct in saying pop see ko, plus the other songs like pop see ko 2.0 etc are a blatant rip off of the jig a low song. The one I saw on YouTube had the same tune and the introductions at the start of the song followed the same format…
    Hey
    Hey
    Are you ready?
    For what?
    … So sad that they have remade the song, with a new name and given NO credit to the original.
    It makes me wonder what other songs of theirs are rip offs of some other song. Very troubling considering this music is targeted at young children. I don’t want my kids learning that it’s okay to steal another persons work, change it slightly to suit your own agenda and not give credit where it’s due.
    I’m sorry that this has happened to you and your culture. It is so wrong I’m going to show jig a low to my children’s teacher tomorrow and ask that she show my children’s class the original version of this song.

    Reply
    • Alana Flowers

      Alana Flowers

      May 11, 2018 at 3:34 PM

      Thank you for this! A lot of this post was satirical (still serious) but I know it’s not just me. I hate how society decides what gets commercialized and marketed and what doesn’t. Black people create things that are dope EVERY SINGLE DAY but we never get credit. Our work only gets acknowledged if its a white face in front of it…unfortunately.

      Reply
  • El

    February 28, 2018 at 10:48 PM

    Omg! You’re so right! I double checked the lyrics. It’s not just the tune, it’s everything.

    JIG A LOW LYRICS
    Everyone:
    Jig A-Low, Jig Jig A-Low
    Jig A-Low, Jig Jig A-Low

    Leader: Hey (Leader insert Girl’s Name)!
    Girl: Hey What?
    Leader: Hey (Leader insert Girl’s Name)!
    Girl: Hey What?

    Everyone: Are you ready?
    Girl: To What?
    Everyone: To Jig!
    Girl: Jig What?
    Everyone: A-Low!
    Girl: Oh!

    Girl only:
    My hands up high (raises hands)
    My feet down low (hangs hands to feet)
    This is the way I “Jig A-Low” (Girl does a brief dance, ex. Pony or just wiggles)

    Everyone repeats:
    Her hands up high (raises hands)
    Her feet down low (hangs hands to feet)
    This is the way she “Jig A-Lows” (copy girl’s dance)

    POP SEE KO LYRICS
    Leader: Hey!
    Others: Hey what?
    Leader: Are you ready?
    Others: For what?
    Leader: To pop
    Others: Pop what?
    Everyone: Pop See Ko!

    Leader: My hands are high
    My feet are low
    And this is how I pop see ko (leader does dance)
    Everyone: His hands are high
    His feet are low
    And this is how he pop see kos (copies leaders dance)

    Everyone: Pop see ko
    Pop-pop see ko
    Pop see ko
    Pop-pop see ko

    Reply
  • Laurel

    April 14, 2018 at 9:42 AM

    I think the real problem is that Pop See Ko is just a terrible song. My son came home from summer camp all excited to show me the songs that they listened to on a website called Go Noodle. I was amazed and disappointed at how non-nonsensical most of them were. There was utterly no value in most of the songs he showed me other than to make me wonder what the heck I just watched.

    Also, I don’t think it matters that Pop See Ko uses the same tune/beat as Jig-a-low. It sounds like you have some good memories of singing that song with your friends and that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean that the song cannot be subject to change over the years. I get upset every time I hear Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” because it takes the music from “Sweet Home Alabama” and layers some really stupid lyrics over top of it, but what am I supposed to do about that? Also, I went to a school with no black children in it and we still sang Jig-a-low, so I’m not sure that you can say that it belongs to black culture. I agree that the only black guy in the video is wearing a terrible wig and the the other two guys look like jerks. It is just a bad video all around and I wish that educators would not use this crap in their classrooms.

    Reply
    • Alana Flowers

      Alana Flowers

      May 11, 2018 at 3:31 PM

      Yes one thing we can agree on is that this song truly does suck. My frustration comes with the work that gets commercialized and what doesn’t. Although this post leans more on the satirical side, it leaves me with frustration of the things that I always have to go back and provide my child with historical context. I can guarantee you, the playground song Jig-a-low was created by Black youth. Much like alot of what we create, it makes its way throughout society and is deemed cool, but we will never get credit.

      Reply
  • Jeff

    May 11, 2018 at 1:49 PM

    For you to make a racist issue out of a song that kids enjoy and actually move to just shows who the racist is. It’s you! Perhaps you should learn something about music. Musicians including blacks, whites, and all colors have taken music melodies, rhythms, harmonies, and other music aspects from each other for thousands of years. This is how music develops. Stop making everything a racial issue to satisfy your own agenda.

    Reply
    • Alana Flowers

      Alana Flowers

      May 11, 2018 at 3:26 PM

      But Jeff, here’s the thing, EVERYTHING has to do with race. From the “origin” of this country, to policies that are made and subsequently practiced, to music we listen to. If it’s not race related, its class related. Period. As a woman of color raising a young woman of color, she will ALWAYS come in contact with things that will make her have to think about her skin color…unfortunately. While this blog post was more on the satirical side, daily conversations I have with her about race/class/gender because she is a minority are a lot more serious. My “agenda” is to equip my kid and the kids I educate of what’s to come.
      And fact-ually, Black musicians have gotten their music stolen from them FOR YEARS! So many songs that have won so many awards and get so much airtime but the creator never gets the credit because of their skin color. The likes of Elvis, The Beatles, etc are just some of the musical thieves.

      Reply

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