The song is the subject of an article this week in Tablet magazine, in which Marjorie Ingalls reflects on the song's explosion onto the Jewish camp scene where it was and still is a staple of the zimriah and rikudiah (song and dance festvals) that are focal points of the camp season.
A Ba Ni Bi is actually not nonsensical, at least when sung in Hebrew. It gets a little weird when it's sung in Chinese, Spanish, Thai, and other languages. But more about that later, and in the weeks to come.
As Ingalls, points out, It's cleverly written in S'fat HaBet (B Language,) an Israeli variation of Pig Latin. The phrase Aba Nibi Obo Hebev Obo Tabach is simply Ani Ohev Otach (I Love You) with the suffixes ba, bi, bo, and beh appended to each syllable. If it were sung in English, the words would be Iby Lubuve Youboo. But nobody sings it that way.
Here's a little nostalgia -- the original prize winning performance at the 1978 Eurovision Song Contest, followed by a version of the song performed by bridesmaids at a wedding dinner in Sabah, Malaysia. We'll post more unusual versions throughout the summer. Enjoy!