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Museum Collection

Sounds of the World. Chasing the Song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”

A big hit in Japan was the TV show “Sounds of the World. Chasing the Song  “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” made by the Japanese TV company “TelecomStaf”. The song record was sent to the State M.A. Sholokhov Museum-Reserve by a producer Khadzime Nisino.

The telejournalists discovered a secret of creation of the song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” in the American folk music and “the power and charm of this vocal work”. The song appeared during the war in Vietnam and was fast to spread all over the world conquering the hearts of millions of the participants of the youth protest movement. It was widely spread around the world in the second half of the XX century.

Where are the flowers? Answer, please.
Where are the flowers? Answer, please.
Where do they grow?
Where are the flowers? Answer, please.
When will everyone see?
When will everyone see?

The song was made by an American composer and singer Pete Seeger after he read the novel “And Quiet Flows the Don”. He made notes of the lullaby text “Koloda-Duda”, and being impressed by it he queried the younger generation: “Where have all the flowers gone?” This refrain appealed to the world to think over about the war consequences.

Mikhail Alexandrovich Sholokhov introduces the song “Koloda-Duda” to the readers in the first book of his novel: Dariya is crooning a lullaby to her baby with the chant seeping persistently into Grigoriy’s ears. A picture of the Cossack’s life appears before the listener: the Don free waters, rush covered banks, industrious and thrifty young women, Cossacks, who had gone to the war, and the eternal succession of life is philosophically reflected.

-         Koloda-Duda, where have you been?
-         I’ve been watching the horses.
-         And what did you see?
-         A horse with a saddle

All fringed with gold…

-         And where is your horse?
-         Outside the gate.
-         And where is the gate?
-         Swept away by the flood.
-         And where is the water?
-         It was drunk by geese.
-         And where are the geese?
-         They’ve gone into the reeds.
-         And where are the reeds?
-         The girls have mown them.
-         And where are the girls?
-         The girls have taken husbands.
-         And where are the Cossacks?
-         They’ve gone to the war.

Just this lullaby, well-remembered by many of the people from their childhood, has become a source of Pete Seeger’s song, which gave a philosophical expression of a protest against the war in Vietnam. The song was performed by Pete Seeger himself, by Joan Bayez, Kingston, trio “Peter, Paul and Mary” (the USA), as well as by a German film actress Marlen Ditrikh.

In August of 1964 Pete Seeger was going to be on tour about the USSR. In the March the singer sent his music of the song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” to Mikhail Alexandrovich Sholokhov and asked him about making an appointment.

Sadly, the meeting failed to take place. But the writer’s archives hold the song music and a letter from the Foreign Commission bearing this information.

The Japanese TV company decided not only to tell the history of the song, but also to show the places connected with the sources of its creation. In August of 2000, a Japanese producer Khadzime Nisino visited Stanitsa Vyoshenskaya to see the prospect shooting sites. And in September, within two days, the material had been shot, which revealed the history of the song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” As well, an interview with Svetlana Mikhailovna Sholokhova was recorded, in which she confirmed, that her father’s archives hold the letter from America with Pete Seeger’s song music.

The first night show was held over the Japanese TV on December, 5, 2000. The on-lookers met with the author of the song, its performers, admirers, saw Sholokhov country, the places connected with creation of this song.

Thus, the Japanese people, then the viewers of other countries learned, that the song flying to the sounds of guitar and banjo over numerous crowds of people was written under the impression of the old Cossack lullaby from the novel “And Quiet Flows the Don” by Mikhail Sholokhov.

Valentina Leonova