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Le Ranz des Vaches (Lyôba)

Swiss Alpine Folk Song

Le Ranz des Vaches (The Cow Line-Up) is a Swiss cowherding song in the arpitan (Franco-Provençal) dialect. The song dates to the 16th century and is from the Alpine region in the canton of Fribourg, Switzerland.

The song makes mention of the armayi (French: armailli), a term used to describe the cowherders of the Fribourg and Vaud Alps. Known for their excellent cheese (“Gruyère” cheese is actually from the city of Gruyère located in this region), the armaillis are dairy farmers whose livelihood is earned by producing milk, butter and cheese from their pasture-raised cows. The cowherders often sing and play their alphorns to call the cows for milking.

One can imagine the scene: Wearing their traditional costume, the armailli sing “lyoba” (from ayôba / alyôbâ, which means “to call the cattle”) and play their alphorns, the sound ringing across the green hills. Hearing the sound, the cows head to their master, the rustic bells around their necks loudly ringing in the mountain air, and they obediently line up to be milked.

The armaillis, their cows and the Ranz des Vaches have been featured prominently for many years in the Fête de Vignerons (Winegrowers Festival) in Vevey, Switzerland, as can be seen at the 5:42 mark in a marvelous display from 2019 here.

The song is so well-loved by the Swiss people that some even consider it an unofficial national anthem. It is a manifestation of the authentic simplicity, innocence and culture that sprang from the hearts of Catholic peoples – even the simple shepherds – and is a lasting testament to organic society, a product of the Catholic Civilization that was once faithful to her call.

We have provided two interpretations of Le Ranz des Vaches below: The first is the famous 1977 version by cowherder-singer Bernard Romanens, the second version by the cowherder-choir Les Armaillis de la Roches.

Le Ranz des Vaches (Lyôba), performed by Bernard Romanens

Le Ranz des Vaches (Lyôba), performed by Les Armaillis de la Roches

Arpitan Lyrics:

Lè j’armayi di Kolonbètè
Dè bon matin chè chon lèvâ.

Lyôba, lyôba, por aryâ.
Lyôba, lyôba, por aryâ.

Vinyidè totè, byantsè, nêre,
Rodzè, mothêlè, dzouvenè ôtrè,
Dèjo chti tsâno, yô vo j’âryo,
Dèjo chti trinbyo, yô i trintso,

Lyôba, lyôba, por aryâ (bis).
Lyôba, lyôba, por aryâ (bis).

Lè chenayirè van lè premirè,
Lè totè nêrè van lè dêrêrè
Lyôba, lyôba, por aryâ (bis).

English Translation

The cowherders of Colombettes
Got up early in the morning.

Lyôba, lyôba, to milk.
Lyôba, lyôba, to milk.

Come all, white ones, black ones,
Red ones, stars on the head, young ones, others
Under this oak tree, where I milk you,
Under this aspen, where I make the cheese.

Lyôba, lyôba, to milk.
Lyôba, lyôba, to milk.

The ones with cowbells go first,
The very black ones go last,
Lyôba, lyôba, to milk.

lyrics and music Le Ranz des Vaches

For a high-resolution JPG version, click here.

For a PDF version, click here.
For a version with harmony, click here.

For a version in F Major, click here.
For a version in F Major with harmony, click here.

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