Music Trekking: Didgeridoo

Didgeridoo

Originally made from a hollowed-out branch or stick, sometimes a eucalyptuses tree hollowed out by termites, the didgeridoo is truly a unique instrument! The didg player blows on one end and a loud, droning sound comes out of the other. Experienced didgeridoo players do a kind of special breathing – called circular breathing – that allows them to play for amazingly long times without stopping or taking a breath!

Didgeridoos come from Aboriginal culture in Australia and many have the characteristic “dot” patterns seen in much of this region’s art. Most traditional didg makers create instruments that have special animals or symbols formed from these dots on their creations. The images might reflect their family group, their clan or some animal or trait that is important to them.  Together with bilma, rhythm sticks called clapsticks, sounds are made used keep the beat in dreamtime ceremonies.  Here’s a quick look at how the two are used together:

According to Aboriginal stories, our planet and everything on it was created during an era called “dreamtime” when the ancestors walked the Earth. I was so fascinated by the didg and it’s traditions that I recorded a song about it called “You Gotta Didg!” In this video you get a glimpse of a large mountain-like form behind the musicians and dancers. That is a famous landmark in Australia called Uluru in the Aboriginal language and Ayres Rock in English. Uluru/Ayres Rock is an Aboriginal sacred site and plays a very important part in the dreamtime legends.

Are dreamtime ceremonies serious matters for adults only? No! Kids listen, play and participate in the retelling of these stories and legends from a very early age. That’s how children become inspired to keep the traditions and oral history alive. There are even games for little ones, such as a kind of Australian freeze tag. In one of these games, the didgeridoo plays a variety of notes and when it hits a special tone, all children must freeze and stay completely still. Anyone who misses the tone or can’t stand still long enough is out! In this way, kids are learning ceremonial dances while playing with friends and having fun at the same time!

The history of Australian Aborigines is rich and exciting to explore. Hopefully, this has inspired you to discover more about some of the amazing instruments of Australia and the legend and lore of the land down under!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content. She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

[Photo credit: (ccl) etringita]

Music Trekking: The History of La Bamba

Let’s Stomp and Shake to… La Bamba!

Who would think that a humble little folksong from the region of Vera Cruz, Mexico would grow up to be a best-loved song all over the world – and even get itself listed as # 345 in Rolling Stone’s Magazine’s List of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Such is the impressive history of a song called “La Bamba”.

Although La Bamba has been recorded by artists such as Harry Belafonte, Los Lobos and even by a Greek Musician named Tzimis Panousis, most people are familiar with the version recorded by Richie Valens in 1958. Surprisingly, although Valens was proud of his Mexican heritage, he spoke no Spanish and had to go to his aunt, Ernestine Reyes, to learn the lyrics of this song phonetically. Other musicians in the band helped add a rock and roll edge to the song and it became a chart-topping success. Years later, both Valens and the song were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for this contribution to popular culture.

But what is “La Bamba”? The name refers to a dance. Most foklorists guess that it comes from the Spanish verb “bambolear” which can be translated to “to shake” or “to stomp,” a perfect title for an active upbeat dance that sometimes got faster and faster as it went on. What about the words? That’s a bit tricky because there is no definitive set of lyrics since many of the verses were improvised. The tune and the chorus were well known in Mexico – especially in Vera Cruz. However, clever singers or deejays would add new verses in order to charm or amuse the crowd. They might sing about how silly your uncle looks in his flowered shirt of how beautiful a young lady appeared as she stepped into the room. Although there are lots of verses, the most popular ones can be heard in most modern versions of the song.

“Yo no soy marinero/I am not a sailor” is one or the verses everyone recognizes. In Spanish, the singer is telling everyone that he is not a sailor – he’s the captain, a verse that would make sense in that area of Mexico known for it’s fishing. Can you make up your own silly or funny verses to this song – of course! If you speak Spanish, add a line or two in that language. If you speak English or another language, try your hand at it as well! The melody is addictive and you may just create the next great version of this popular song.

In my version of La Bamba, I chose to stick with the verses I had heard most often. You can check it out here:


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.  She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

Music Trekking: Down By the Ocean

Wild and Free

Are you lucky enough to go on vacation to the seashore this summer? If you have you’ve probably noticed some wonderful creatures that live in and around the seas like crabs, starfish, conch shells, jellyfish, or maybe even a dolphin jumping through the waves.

Have you ever thought about how important it is to keep the oceans clean so all these amazing creatures can be a part of our lives? That was exactly what I was thinking when I wrote this song – Wild And Free. My family and I had just traveled to Florida and visited a sanctuary for manatees. This unique place had an area where you could walk down a flight of stairs and observe inside the manatees swimming lagoon. You could see them up close and personal, face-to-hairy face! The staff at the sanctuary talked to us about dangers to manatees in the wild and what people could do to learn more about them and to protect them. I was inspired and I wrote this song. Because so many different people also fall in love with dolphins and whales – I gave them their own verses, too!

You might have noticed that the tune to this song is another song about an ocean – “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean.” Because I’m a folksinger, I often like to recycle classic melodies from folksongs and add my own words. If you want to try your hand at writing songs, you can do the same thing. Take any tune you recognize, pick a subject for the song and make up your own verses. Write about your friends, your family, or maybe even a visit to the ocean.

Who knows what good things your songs might inspire!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.  She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

Music Trekking: Limbo!

Looking For Some Summertime Fun? Do The Limbo!

Every so often there’s a dance or a game that is so much fun that it captures the imagination of people all over the globe.  Take a look at these limbo pictures from the USA, Greece and Israel:

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Wondering where the limbo began? Actually, it started with a something that was very sad. The limbo originated with slaves that were brought to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. The men and women that were slaves were kept in different quarters deep inside the ship. In order to get over to see each another, the slaves needed to cross under very low spaces. Originally the limbo was done as a solemn and slow dance or ritual, sometimes as part of wakes or funerals. However, sometime after the 1950’s and 1960’s, calypso music became very popular and the limbo became better known as a dance done with colorful clothing and upbeat, happy music. That happier, more joyous limbo celebration became the dance that has made it’s way all around the planet.

So how do you play? The basic rules are simple. Two players hold a horizontal stick and a line of dancers or players try to make it underneath. Each time the group finishes passing underneath, the bar lowers just a bit. Technically, players are supposed to bend backward and are not allowed to touch either the pole with their body or the ground with their hands. But if you’re playing with kids – you can change the rules to make it work for the age or ability level of those involved. And of course, put on some fun music, preferably something that transports you straight to a sunny Caribbean isle.

If you want to get creative musically, you can also assemble a host of metal buckets, trash can lids, hub caps and frying pans and start a version of a steel pan or steel drum band. It’s a great way of blending dance and games with creating rhythms, music and song.

A few years ago I recorded a limbo song and have since received photos, videos and e-mails from all around the world that attest to the popularity of this really cool activity that can be played by almost anyone, practically anywhere. Check out my song and video here:

One of my favorite videos of this tradition is from Africa where a group of kids – many in wheelchairs – adapted the rules and played a fun version of the limbo in their schoolyard. They’ve answered that vital summertime question “How low can you go” – now, how about you?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.  She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

Music Trekking: Here Come Our Mothers

Here’s To Our Mothers!

Although Mothers Day as we know it is not recognized all over the globe, there is not one single culture that doesn’t celebrate the roles of mothers, grandmothers and similar figures in their folklore, stories and songs. Do other cultures love their moms and like to sing about them? You bet they do!

This month I wanted to share a song and video from the Zulu tradition. It’s called “Here Come Our Mothers, Bringing Us Presents.” It’s a song I learned from the wonderful South African performing group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The lyrics are in English with a chorus in Zulu, so the song is really easy to understand and enjoy.

Are you wondering what’s going on in the song and why the mothers are bringing presents? If so, you’ll probably enjoy the story behind the song that explains what is happening.

It would appear that Zulu moms are very much like any other moms – they work very hard all year long. For most of these moms living in small villages, they plant and grow food. After they’ve harvested their crops and saved what they need, they take the rest to town. There they will trade for other supplies to last the rest of the year. And, with the little bit of money that’s left over they will buy something special for their children. Maybe it will be a delicious piece of fruit or a special sweet only made in the nearby town. In any event, the kids consider this a really exciting day.

While the moms have disappeared on their trip to the market, the young people are at home waiting. On that day, they try their best not to fight with their siblings or cousins. They try to listen to their elders and they may even do extra chores without being asked. All this is done in anticipation of their mom’s return. When the mothers can finally be seen coming over the hill, the kids burst out into song. In the song, which is sung a bit different every time, they imagine what goodies they might be able to enjoy once their moms are safely and happily back home again.

If you sing this song you can make it different each time. You can add the names of fruits or vegetables you might like to get from the local farmers market or grocery store. You might add the names of treats or sweets you like and pretend that you’ve spent a whole day waiting for your mom to surprise you with them. Wouldn’t it be fun if the song said “Here Come Our Mothers, Bringing Us Maple Candy,” or maybe shaved ice from the Tuesday Market?! Feel free to play with the lyrics. That’s what a folksong is all about!

How will you celebrate Mother’s Day this year? Does your family have a special tradition? Comment here so we can learn more about the wonderful things you do to celebrate the special moms in your life!

If you like this video and want to color some pictures from it, you can download the coloring pages here:


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.  She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

Music Trekking: Andean Music for Spring

That Little Chicken! (Ese Pollito)

Is there anything more adorable than a baby chick? A perfect omen that Spring is on the way! This month I’m featuring a huayño – a type of traditional song from Peru.  The video to follow tells the story of someone who gets a chicken as a gift and it will not be quiet. Notice that in Spanish, the chicks seem to say “pio, pio, pio,” instead of what we might think of as “peep, peep, peep!” The lyrics are in and English as well so you can easily learn a few new words in another language just by singing along. Chicken is “pollo.” A little chick is a “pollito.” A “regalo” is a gift or something that has been given and the phrase “ese pollito” probably means that someone was pretty tired of “that chick!”

ESE POLLITO
Traditional – Peru
New English Lyrics By Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou

Ese pollito que to me regalaste
Ese pollito que to me regalaste
Pio, pio, pio, pio siempre me dicen
Pio, pio, pio, pio en su corral…

This little chicken that you brought to my house
This little chicken that you brought to my house

Peep, peep, peep, peep – is all that she tells me
Peep, peep, peep, peep – all the day long!

Do you have a favorite baby animal song? Do you know any songs about animals in other languages? If you speak another language, can you tell us what chicks or rosters say when you describe their sound? It’s really fun to compare and check out the differences from place to place and culture to culture.
But, no matter where you live, I’m wishing you a beautiful new Spring and happy new beginnings.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.  She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

Music Trekking: A History of Kumbayah

Come by Here: A Short History of Kumbayah

If you’ve ever gone to summer camp or sat around a campfire with a guitar, chances are good you’ve sung “Kumbayah.” It’s one of those wonderful – make it up as you go – folksongs. After the first verse of Kumbayah, you can sing that someone is crying, laughing, sleeping, etc. and add as many verses as you want. The song is different and unique each time it is sung. But have you ever wondered where it came from and what it means? Here’s a little bit of the background and history, plus two slightly different versions of this well-known song.

History of Kumbayah

Did someone compose this song? Is it from Africa? From America? It’s background is a bit cloudy, but this much is certain. A minister named Reverend Marvin V. Frey claimed to have authored the song in 1936 when he was inspired by the preaching of a woman evangelist. He published it as a songsheet with the title “Come By Here”. The original meaning was that the song was a prayer or invocation. The words ask God to come and be by our side as someone is smiling, or laughing or sad. The Rev. Frey claimed that the song changed names around 1946 when a missionary family returning from Africa traveled around the USA singing it with the altered lyrics, “Kum Ba Yah”. However, the song also appears as “kumbayah” sung by people who speak “Gullah” in the Georgia and South Carolina Seas Islands. So, it is hard to say what it’s exact origins are, but clearly the song has been well-loved, popularly sung and made it’s way around both the United States and the world, and has been changed as it traveled from country to country.

Here’s my video version of Kumbayah with a South African feel.

Here’s a version that is quite different but still very beautiful sung by the Soweto (South African) Gospel Choir for your listening pleasure:

So after checking out these two versions, are you ready for a campfire-style sing-along of the popular version of this song? Before you groan because you’ve heard this song so many times, remember that if you are singing it with your family or friends, you can make it fresh in lots of great ways. If you have children, you can play with the hand motions. If you’re doing a boring task, ask your kids for an activity and then sing new verses for each of them. If you’re stuck in the car for a long ride, try making up verses from something seen out of the window: “Someone’s driving in a blue Ford truck, Kumbayah.” “Someone’s walking their dog by the side of the road, Kumbayah. “ Believe it or not, it’s great first songwriting exercise and a fun way to play with words, sounds and music in the form of a game.

No matter how you chose to share this well-loved song, you’ll be inspiring some wonderful musical memories. What a great way to become part of the folk process!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.  She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

A free copy of this month’s song can be downloaded on Daria’s Monthly Song Page.

Music Trekking: The Russian Guitar

Discovering The Balalaika

If you’re watching someone “rock out” in the USA, chances are they are playing a guitar. It might be a bass guitar, an electric guitar, an acoustic guitar or maybe even a 12 string guitar, but it probably is some kind of guitar. Along with the banjo and the fiddle, it’s one of our country’s “stringed instruments of choice.” Now if you were to travel almost halfway around the world to countries like Russia or the Ukraine, you’d also see some pretty amazing musicians and musical groups. But instead of the familiar guitar, they might be making their own musical magic with a triangular-shaped instrument called a balalaika.

Unlike the guitar, the balalaika is actually a family of instruments with a variety of sizes from the smaller, mandolin-sized prima balalaika to a huge contrabass balalaika which is so large that it needs wooden legs to support it as it stands on the floor. And the contra bass is so large that it is played with a pick made from a large piece of leather or even a boot heel – wow!

If you’d like to see a balalaika, check out this video in Yiddish and English called Tum Balalaika:

This folksong from Eastern Europe is actually a riddle song. In the original Yiddish, a boy is seeking a lovely girl who is as pretty as she is smart. So he stays up all night and devises a series of riddles that are questions for her. The chorus of the song: “tum bala, tum bala, tum, balalaika” imitates the strum of the balalaika. If you’d like to see some of the riddles he poses, there’s an English translation below.

Because I often sing for audiences that speak mainly English, I sing the original verse in Yiddish and then add new verses in English that tell the story. The girl is as clever (or more clever) then the boy. She answers all his questions then asks him to be her beau. It’s a perfect ending since the young lady also wanted a boyfriend as clever as he might be handsome!

If you’d like to see and hear an actual balalaika, check out this balalaika orchestra:

You’ll see a group of boys and men of various ages playing the Beatles Song “Yesterday” on their balalaikas. Notice the different sizes and shapes working together to create the beautiful melody.

Read the rest of this entry »

Music Trekking: The Chinese New Year

Happy New Year and Happy Chinese New Year!

Along with the January 1st ringing in of the new year, there are several other types of new year celebrations that are marked by different cultures, countries and other religions. For instance, on January 23rd, Chinese New Year celebrates the arrival of a new year – the year of the Dragon!

What’s a Chinese New Year celebration like? Great fun and lots of festivities. I’ve chosen this video from Sydney, Australia’s Chinese New Year celebration because they’ve boiled a huge amount of the city’s activities into a short video. Take a look and you’ll see awesome parades, music, martial arts, dragon boat races, and much more — plus they’ve even added some of their own Australian Aboriginal music. In this video, you can see a short segment of people playing the didgeridoo and the bilma (Australian clapsticks) making it a truly multicultural celebration:

What is Chinese music like when a big celebration is not in full swing? Check out this video of a popular group of traditional musicians from China called the 12 Girls Band (女子十二乐坊). In this video you can see them playing some really unique instruments such as a Chinese fiddle called an erhu, a pear shaped lute called a pipa, a hammered dulcimer as well as several types of flutes and zithers. Although this group was formed to play Chinese folk music, they also do some amazing versions of folksongs from other cultures such as “El Condor Pasa” and even versions of songs written by modern artists such as Coldplay and Enya. I chose this video because it allows you to get a close look at the 12 girls in the band and the instruments that they play:

Until next month … Happy New Year(s) to you!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.  She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

A free copy of this month’s song can be downloaded on Daria’s Monthly Song Page.

If you’d like to check out more about instruments from this region of the world, Daria will be sharing Chinese New Year customs, the Tibetan Singing Bowl and a “Make-Your-Own” Chinese Gong craft this month at Making Multicultural.

Music Trekking: Games and Music for Hanukkah

Watch a Little Dreydl Spin!

December is such an exciting time of year as folks prepare for holidays such as Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. For those who are celebrating Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights, there are goodies to prepare, a menorah to light with it’s eight special candles, relatives to greet and a wonderful little game to play based on a top that spins, called the dreydl (or dreidel).

So why is it called a dreydyl? The word “dreyen” in Yiddish means “to spin” so the name makes perfect sense. The dreydyl song talks about a toy made out of clay and it is certain that the first dreydls were made this way. If you have one today – it is probably made from either wood or plastic. And it will have four Hebrew letters on it. What does each letter mean? Well, it tells the tale behind Hanukkah, how a very small bit of oil that should have lasted only a short time was miraculously able to burn in the Temple for 8 days! It spoke volumes to the Jewish people about how God was able to provide for those who were faithful. If you watch the video, the letters will appear and you can see their meaning as well as how they relate to playing the game.

If you’d like to play the dreydl game at home, you’ll need a pile of goodies. You can use walnuts, candies, pennies or special chocolate coins called Hanukkah gelt (literally, Hanukkah money). Everyone takes a turn spinning the top and they either pass their turn, add a treat to the pot, take half of the pot or take it all. What fun!

Is this a custom your family does around the holidays? If so, why not share it with some friends and teach them about the things you do. If not, what are the special customs that mean the most to your loved ones? Can you share them with your neighbors or friends so they can enjoy them as well.

Whatever holidays you celebrate – may they be bright, beautiful and full of love!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.  She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

A free copy of this month’s song can be downloaded on Daria’s Monthly Song Page.

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