The Kao Tay Story
November 19, 2009 by Dan Nichols
In the summer of 2005, Craig Taubman taught me this chant. He suggested it would be a good activity for group building. He taught us to sing:
Layna, layna mao tay
Ha-ya-no, ha-ya-no, ha-ya-no
Later, Craig told me he learned in Algonquin Park, Canada when he was a song leader there. He told me it is Native American and he had no idea what it meant.
And so it was for me…
I used the song and hand motions as a device that summer to get a groups focus without asking for their attention. It worked very well despite some wierd looks from a few counselors and campers.
I sang this song at Young Judaea Sprout Lake Camp that summer of 2005.
An Israeli counselor named Donna told me she couldn’t help but hear Hebrew when we sang it.
L’an, l’an mahuti
Chayeinu, chayeinu, chayeinu.
She translated the Hebrew for me as:
To where, to where, to myself
Our lives, our lives, our lives.
I told Donna that’s cool, but what does that mean? I turned randomly to a girl who was watching us have this conversation. I asked her what it meant to her. She said, let me think about that and I’ll get back to you.
The next day she walked up to me with her friends. They said, Tracy, Tracy, tell Dan what you think the song means.
Help me find
Who I am deep inside
Help me see, help me see, help me see.
We all erupted in applause and that night Donna and Tracy taught the entire camp their versions.
It was an incredible moment for all of us.
I found out later that night that Tracy had lost her father earlier that year and had spoken to no one regarding her feelings over the loss.
I was humbled and speechless.
I decided to tell this story everywhere I go.
Now it seems, quite regularly, folks come up to me with their own piece of the puzzle. It’s beautiful.
A year went by and I was back in Oconomowoc, WI where I first heard this song from Craig Taubman. I told the story late one night to everyone assembled at the conference. As I was packing up my guitar and woman walked up to me and handed me a piece of paper. She told me she was a folk dancer in Florida and that this song, Kao Tay, was indeed, a Native American song. She told me the paper contained the direct translation from the Native American into English. The paper read:
Let me be one
With the infinite sun
Forever, forever, forever.
So there it is. It’s uplifting for me to be in the presence of something that takes on a life of it’s own. When I learned this song I had a plan and a goal. Then I started singing it with people. I thought I knew what the song was meant to do. I had no idea.