Matt at No-sword has a post that starts off with Gary Snyder and quickly moves to something I knew nothing about and found fascinating, a refrain in Ainu song known as a sakehe, “a group of words the meaning of which is not well understood but which are retained for the importance of their sound and their function in the song).” Here’s a description Matt quotes from Sarah M. Strong’s “The Most Revered of Foxes: Knowledge of Animals and Animal Power in an Ainu Kamui Yukar” (2009; pdf):
As a native speaker of Ainu, Chiri Yukie knew orally the chants she had heard since childhood. For her, each kamui yukar was not a static, memorized “text” but rather a living oral tradition, and her written versions possess qualifies of oral performance. One feature of each chant that was clearly central to her experience of it was its refrain or sakehe. Because the refrain of each kamui yukar is unique to the particular chant it was traditionally used as a way of identifying the chant. Both in the earlier notebook versions and in the Ainu shin’yoshu text Chiri includes the sakehe as a defining title after first identifying the animal spiritual being who is singing its tale. Thus, in the case of the third chant of the Ainu shin’yoshu she names the chant as that “of the fox (chironnup) about itself” and further identifies it with its unique sakehe, haikunterke haikoshitemturi. Although the sakehe, with its long phrases, might seem puzzling for readers unfamiliar with the tradition, for those within Ainu oral tradition it serves as an easy way to distinguish this fox kamui yukar from others about the same animal spiritual being.