hugo ball and sound poetry (o gadji beri bimba)

HUGO BALL’S SOUND POETRY may seem a mere stringing of words together to many readers or listeners. It is a form of verse without words. “Sound poetry is an artistic form bridging literary and musical composition in which the phonetic aspects of human speech take the foreground instead of the more conventional semantic and syntactic values.” Needless to say, sound poetry is intended to be heard, not read!

The German dada (Dada?) (daDa?) poet’s most famous sound poem is probably gadji beri bimba, which I reprint here in its non-sensical entirety. As no translation is required, this is taken from the German edition Gesammelte Gedichte (“Collected Poems”), from the publisher Verlag der Arche (1963). Apparently, Herr Ball intended the poem to be all lower case, sans capital letters:

gadji beri bimba

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

Finally, this brief exposure to Hugo Ball, sound poetry, and the dada sensibility is here as an addendum to the post that precedes this: “o gadji beri booboo – fetchers of wads, guardian of being.” As I wrote it, of course I suggest that you read it . . .



A glaring mistake

At the beginning of the First World War, Hugo Ball tried joining the army as a volunteer, but was denied enlistment for medical issues. After witnessing the invasion of Belgium, he was disillusioned saying: “The war is founded on a glaring mistake, men have been confused with machines.”

Considered a traitor in his country, he crossed the frontier with the cabaret performer and poet Emmy Hennings and settled in Zürich. Here, Ball continued his interest in anarchism.

In 1916, Hugo Ball created the Dada Manifesto, making a political statement about his views on the terrible state of society and acknowledging his dislike for philosophies in the past claiming to possess the ultimate Truth.

The same year as the Manifesto, Ball wrote his poem “Karawane,” which is a poem consisting of nonsensical words. The meaning however resides in its meaninglessness, reflecting the chief principle behind Dada. (Wikipedia).


FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page is a modern piece of advertising for the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, where Ball read his sound poetry. Nowadays it’s a cultural center dedicated to Dada as well as an art space presenting contemporary international artists related to Dada.