View This: “America” – The Harmonica Pocket

With the debates coming to an end and Election Day quickly approaching, it can be overwhelming to get caught up in all the politics and weight of the decision making process.

Keeth Apgar of The Harmonica Pocket, brings us a timely video for the single “America,” originally released on July 4, 2012. The video, in conjunction with the song, illuminates the profundity of Apgar’s thoughts on the “state of affairs.”

Below you can share a few sentimental moments with Apgar by viewing the video for “America” and following along with lyrics below. You can also listen to and purchase the song through the Bandcamp widget below. While I would typically recommend The Harmonica Pocket’s music for the under 5 crowd, this one feels like it’s directed towards listeners above the age of 8.

America

America I love you
America where’d you go?
America you’re confused and lost
So won’t you please come home?

America your mountains
America your shining seas
America all your children
And your American dreams

America your people
America your dustbowl
America your trail of tears
And ghosts of buffalo

America your brown soils
America farms and fields
America your land is poison
I can’t wash you with these tears

America I am angry
America don’t lie to me
America how’d this happen
To the land of the free?

Your politician speeches
Your promises for change
There’s oil on your beaches
And radiation rain

I want to swim in your rivers
And breathe your fresh air
I want to drink your clean water
And plant flowers everywhere

America I miss you
America I need you now
America back on your feet again
Stand up strong and proud

America I am sorry
America this took so long
America to speak up and sing
This patriotic song

America I love you
America where’d you go?
America you’re confused and lost
So won’t you please come home?

Please come home.

View This: “Miss Elephant’s Gerald” – The Pop Ups

I’ve mentioned before that Fall is my favorite season but I should also mention that one of my favorite holidays is Halloween.  It could perhaps relate to the fact that my birthday is very close to Halloween, but either way I love it.  And, I’m enjoying watching my daughter get into it now as well.

One of our favorite kindie bands is The Pop Ups and the release of this track makes this month even more rewarding.  When I first heard “Miss Elephant’s Gerald,” I loved the play on words but I was curious to see just how this would play out in video.  Once again, The Pop Ups do not disappoint!

I honestly don’t know how to describe all of what’s going on in this video, but I know it’s highly entertaining and I laugh out loud each time I watch it.  Between the adorable little Elephant, the puppets and all sorts of comedic references (there’s a guy with giant thumbs playing the drums!) “Miss Elephant’s Gerald” is a pleasure for both parents and kids alike.

Below is a sample track with the link to purchase the song for just $1!  And while you’re at it, I would definitely recommend checking out their other stuff.

View This: “Halloween” – Princess Katie and Racer Steve


NYC-based kid rockers Princess Katie and Racer Steve have a new video from their upcoming album Love, Cake and Monsters!  Appropriately timed and named for this time of year, “Halloween” runs like a short film.  It’s colorful and theatrical with a whole cast of characters including dancing skeletons.  The video is done exceptionally well and I particularly love the moving flashlights in the beginning.  The design and animation, done by Taili Wu and Shane McGill from Newspeak is excellent.

Adding to the spookiness of it all is a 53-piece orchestra from Macedonia singing along in the background.

I have to say that the song is catchy but the video is defiitely one I kept wanting more of.  It’s a great item for Halloween.  Definitely worth a look or two!

Check This Out: Elena Moon Park: Rabbit Days and Dumplings

I have always believed that music breaks down barriers and brings people together.  It allows us to get to know one another more intimately whether it’s on a personal level, local or global scale.  Music also has a way of capturing memories and restoring them.

I was born in the United States, however, my heritage stems from Eastern Europe. My Grandmother made the trek from Europe to America, by boat, with my mother and her two sisters after WWII. Just like many other immigrants who came to America, she was in search of a better way of life.

I grew up in a non-religious household, however, we managed to preserve the traditional aspect of our religion by celebrating major holidays. And with every holiday there was always plenty of songs. Some of the songs were in the spirit of giving thanks for the food we ate and others were related to games we played. Even mystical characters got their own songs. Music played an integral role in bringing us together and helping us to better understand our roots.

I have always loved World Music for its raw expression of the culture it represents and the diverse array of instruments used. Sometimes it is the only window we have into understanding a community of people. And even though I may not always understand the language, I believe the music speaks for itself.

Elena Moon Park, a key player in the Dan Zanes and Friends ensemble, recently released her debut children’s album, Rabbit Days and Dumplings, which also won her a 2012 Parents’ Choice Award. Released through Festival Five Records (a label started by Dan Zanes in 2000), Rabbit Days and Dumplings takes us on a picturesque retreat, delivering a carnival of sounds from East Asia (Korea, Japan, China, Tibet and Taiwan) that have been reinterpreted and translated into a beautiful array of songs. No plane tickets necessary!

Rabbit Days and Dumplings is a personal album built on Park’s exploration of her own cultural roots while also capturing “songs, styles, traditions, languages, instrumentation, stories and feelings.” Park further explains, “It’s a reflection of conversations with friends, learning about the songs they listened to growing up and the songs that linger in their memories.” Park, a Korean-American born in East Tennessee, pays tribute to both sides of her heritage by mixing traditional American folk music with traditional Asian sounds and vocals. Renowned collaborators such as the masterful Wu Man, Jean Cook (a violinist who plays with Elizabeth Mitchell & You Are My Flower), popular Tibetan singer/songwriter Techung, members of Bang on a Can and the Kronos Quartet, to name a few, are featured throughout the album further contributing to the authenticity of the cross-cultural landscape that makes up Rabbit Days and Dumplings.

A majority of the songs are sung in their native tongue, but include enough of the English language, making it accessible to a wider range of listeners. Although, it’s the Asian languages that my 3 year old is most intrigued by and tries to sing along with. Specifically, one of her favorites is, “Si Si Sima,” a Tibetan jump rope song introduced to Park by Techung, who just released his own collection of family music. Before my daughter knew much about the song, she would dance to it while alternately hopping on each foot. Coincidence? Possibly, but the song motivates her to move to the sound as if she is reenacting the experience. We usually end up playing the song 6 or 7 times before she is ready to move on, but each time she hears it she exclaims “Listen to me sing it, Mama!”

The album opens with “Sol Nal,” which prompted the making of Rabbit Days and Dumplings. This joyful song describes the many celebrations that happen around the Korean New Year. It is led by Park’s powerful vocals and backed by some of the members from Dan Zanes and Friends.

Some of our favorite songs, in addition to the aforementioned “Si Si Sima,” include “Diu Diu Deng,” which features Dan Zanes on banjo and a fantastic solo by Wu Man on the pipa (a plucked Chinese string instrument). The song is about a train chugging into a tunnel as droplets of water fall from the ceiling onto the roof of the train. I particularly love the layering of English and Chinese vocals towards the end of the song.

“Poong Nyun Ga,” one of my favorites on the album, features steady drumming from the Korean Traditional Marching Band of New York, trumpets, an accordion, a mandolin and a piri (Korean reed instrument) that mixes perfectly with the joyous crowd of voices that triumphantly sing in hopes of an abundant year (in the name of a plentiful harvest or good luck in general). The vibe of the song is infectious and I can’t help but clap and sing along every time I hear it. Of similar sound is the brassy New Orleans style of “Diu Shou Juan,” a Chinese song that typically accompanies a children’s game called Drop The Flag. Sung in Mandarin and English, “Diu Shou Juan” is an excellent example of Park’s ability to create a beautiful union of Eastern and Western cultures.

Elsewhere, we get to hear Zanes and Park sing together in “Akatombo.” The definition of the title means “red dragonfly” and the song reflects on memories of a past time. It’s a beautiful song in which we get to wholly experience the depth of Park’s gorgeous voice. Paired with Dan Zanes’s soft, signature rasp, the song is quite moving.

Winding down the album, Park also gives a nod to popular Western music with “Summer is Here.” The song’s composition reminds me a little of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” for some reason (which, to me, isn’t a bad thing at all). It’s a charming song based on Park’s experience growing up in Tennesee, hiking through the mountains and eating kimbap, a food that resembles sushi. “Tinsagunu Hana” completes the album with an offering of gratitude for all the hard-working parents, including Park’s own, as she sings “…although we number all the stars in the sky we cannot count our parents’ words of advice.” Listening to this and thinking about all that I have learned as a parent myself I can’t help but think, “isn’t that the truth!” Although, I am going to make sure to play this one for my Mother, as well.

I am truly impressed by the work that was put into making the album. Highly recommended for all ages. Rabbit Days and Dumplings is a timeless classic and one that fully supports Park’s strong belief that music has the ability to transcend borders, ages, languages and backgrounds.

The album contains beautiful illustrations by Kristiana Pärn while the liner notes provide snippets of song lyrics, Asian script, phonetic representation and English translation, which makes it fun to follow along. Below is a sampler containing five songs from Rabbit Days and Dumplings. You can also find song lyrics and backgrounds for most songs on the album here.

The album can be purchased from Festival Five Records, as well as the other usual outlets. A portion of the proceeds will be given to DonorsChoose.org to support creative education in our schools.

Full Disclosure: I was given a copy of the album for possible review, however, the opinions and thoughts expressed throughout are my own.

View This: essence – T-REXXXX!

essence-CD-Cover-Artwork2-486x486We had the pleasure of seeing essence perform this song at the Palo Alto Children’s Library during a Randy Kaplan show at the end of September. “T-Rexxxx,” a single from essence’s upcoming children’s album A Dog Named Moo, was a big hit with the audience and is still a hit with us at home.   “T-Rexxxx” is a great tune which you may just see in print sometime soon as essence is currently working on making it into a book (along with other songs from A Dog Named Moo).  I especially like the claymation by Steve Girard & Matt Christensen and the direction by Jennifer Steinman (director of the award-winning documentary Motherland).

Parents will get a kick out of this heroic dino-tale while their little ones, ages 2 and up, will enjoyrawrrrrrr-ing along with the biggest baddest beast that ever lived.

Recap: Family Music Show with Orange Sherbet and Randy Kaplan

On Saturday, September 29, 2012, Kids Can Groove hosted its first concert featuring Orange Sherbet and Randy Kaplan. My motiviation in organizing the show was to bring quality music to the Southern Bay Area that was not just for kids but for parents to enjoy as well. And by all accounts, it turned out to be a wonderful success! In fact, parents were buying CD’s for themselves just as much as they were buying music for their kids.

A tremendous thank you to everyone who helped make the Family Music Show as exciting as it turned out to be. I want to send a giant thank you to Katie Tupper for being a great friend, huge support and solid volunteer, my husband for manning the snack table, and Rani for making fun crafts and musical instruments out of recyclable materials. In addition to these extraordinary individuals, I am incredibly thankful to Colette Blain of Nature Parties for taking the time to make every one of our attendees feel extra special with her creative goodie bags, decorative placemats, delicious cookies and generous donations for our raffle.

Additionally, I want to thank the generous support of our sponsors and business partners who are amazing community resources and a pleasure to work with. Specifically, Deborah’s Palm, Dinah’s Garden Hotel, as well as, Janada Clark, MA Parent Educator & Parent Coach and Patricia Rossi Photography who both donated valuable prizes for our raffle. Also, a big thanks to the All Saints Episcopal Church, Palo Alto Children’s Library and the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose for organizing these shows with me.

Orange Sherbet, one of our favorite Bay Area bands, opened the show with several numbers from Delicious, their most recent album and winner of a 2012 Parents Choice Gold Medal. Two of the main members, Jill and Steve Pierce, were joined on stage by their son and daughter, who gave stellar performances. It was a real treat for the crowd as most of us are familiar with Jill and Steve’s highly popular and extremely creative music classes through Mary Ann Hall’s Music for Children. In fact, Steve was Em’s teacher over a year ago and she still refers to “Teacher Steve” as her favorite music teacher. Orange Sherbet served up some jazzy songs from Delicious like “Juicy Berry,” “Rice and Beans,” “Waffle Day,” “Stone Soup” (one of our favorites) and the title track, “Delicious.” Other songs included Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up,” as well as, “Monkeying Around” and “Ball” from their 2005 Big Brother, Big Sister release. As a bonus, Randy joined the group for a rendition of “Stay A Little Longer (Stay All Night),” a classic made popular by Willie Nelson. It was the perfect lead-in to Randy’s performance.
As for the main act, Randy Kaplan, winner of various parenting awards including a 2012 Gold Award from NAPPA (National Parenting Publications Awards) for his most recent release Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie, opened his set with “Grape Juice Hesitation Blues,” from his 2006 release Five Cent Piece. Randy immediately engaged his young audience, mainly preschoolers to elementary age, in a conversation about their favorite kind of juice and working to convince them that his water bottle was filled with cloud juice, which was met with lots of protests and laughter. “Grape Juice Hesitation Blues” was a perfect opener as it gave Randy several opportunities to incorporate the kids into the song as he asks, “Can I get some grape juice now? Do I have to wait?” The kids were overjoyed to yell out silly answers like 1 week, 100 years or 5 hours. The set progressed with songs from Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie, including “In A Timeout Now,” which produced a choir of yodelers under Randy’s direction, “Runaway Blues” and “Shake That Thing.” The set included other gems from previous albums such as the aforementioned Five Cent Piece, Loquat Rooftop, as well as, The Kids Are All Id.

Randy has been a favorite in our household for a very long time, but getting to experience him live was a real treat. The way he captivated his young audience was impressive and much like a preschool teacher’s dream. The children were sitting in a semi-circle, listening to every word Randy sang, which is important as his stories are what make him so unique. He is a master storyteller and the audience loved the show. Even adults without kids were purchasing merchandise and commenting on Randy’s distinctive style.

I feel bad that I wasn’t able to record much of the Family Music Show as I had hoped, especially during the Orange Sherbet set. Organizing and setting up a concert is alot of work, but it was totally worth it! I did, however, get a video of Randy’s hit single “Don’t Fill Up On Chips” which gives you an idea of Randy’s knack for communicating with his audience and encouraging kids to participate and use their imaginations.

Randy also played two shows on Sunday, September 30 at the Children’s Museum of San Jose, which we were not able to attend, and one show on Monday, October 1 at the Palo Alto Children’s Library which we did attend. While neither of these shows were hosted by Kids Can Groove, I helped organize them. Based on the feedback I got from the museum, I was pleased to hear that both shows drew a crowd of about 100 people. You can find the track listing for Randy’s shows at the end of this post.

The library show also had a nice turnout, drawing approximately 80 people. It was a decent sized crowd, especially since it was an off-day in terms of performance scheduling for the library. The show had great energy and several kids from Saturday’s show returned, happily singing along with Randy on several of the songs. Even the adults were getting into it. I was totally impressed at how much the kids knew in just two days. But, from what parents were telling me, their kids were playing Randy’s CD’s and singing Randy’s songs all weekend. The video for “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” featured below, is just one of many examples in which the crowd was excited to be a part of the show.

Randy performing “Runaway Blues” from Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie

During the show, Randy introduced myKaZoo Music labelmate, essence and they did a duet of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” Randy does his own version of this song on The Kids Are All Id. Essence went on to play “Gotta Wear Clothes” and “T-Rexxx,” a rockin’ heroic tale about a peanut-butter cup eating dinosaur. Both songs are from her upcoming album A Dog Named Moo. I highly recommend checking out the album. In addition to the songs mentioned here, there is an awesome mashup of The Police’s “Roxanne” called “Rocks and Sand.”

Randy was back and once again wrapped up the performance with “No Nothing.” The children loved the song and proceeded to imitate Randy both during the song and as they were leaving the library. This time the quacking sounds were louder and filled with more laughter from the newly minted Randy fans, which you can see in the video below.

Once the show ended, the kids were running up to Randy asking if he could sing just one more song. Unfortunately, time was up, but I am hopeful that we will see Randy around these parts again…

Set List (the songs listed below are broken down for reference and not in the order which they were performed).

Single (Not tied to a release)
Don’t Fill Up On Chips

Mr. Diddie WahDiddie
Runaway Blues
In A Timeout Now
Ice Cream Man Rag
Shake That Thing

The Kids Are All Id
My Little Laugh
The Derby Ram
Forever Young

Loquat Rooftop
No Nothing
Tomorrow

Five Cent Piece
Grape Juice Hesitation Blues
Shampoo Me
Mosquito Song
Over the Rainbow
You Can’t Always Get What You Want

What We Like: October Playlists

Our home is constantly filled with music.  It keeps us sane and often helps ease us into our days and nights.  We have been listening to alot of great music lately, both old and new, and I thought I would start to share some of it with you on as much as possible.

Additionally, since naptime has become non-existent, we’ve really been trying to take some “quiet time” in the middle of the day.  Music is a major part of making that happen.  Chilled out music = chilled out toddler which = chilled out mommy.

So, this week I am publishing 2 playlists.  The first is called October Fun Part 1 containing lots of fun jams that are useful for really anytime that is not “quiet time,” at least in our house.  The second one is called October Slow Jams which is a bunch of slower songs perfect for anytime of day that calls for a little unwinding (or easing into if you haven’t had your morning pick-me-up yet).

So, without further adieu, I present to you October Fun Part 1 (the first list turned out to be really big so this month might have more than one list) and  October Slow Jams.   You will find a mix of songs both old and new in this playlist.  Also please note that if an artist is not on Spotify, they won’t appear in the playlist.  Feel free to listen to the playlists as they are ordered or on shuffle or both.  Mix it up however you’d like.

I also urge you to visit each of these artists’ websites and either buy or download their music.  You can do that by simply clicking on the links next to each song below.

October Fun Part 1

Fanga Alafia – from Welcome to the Village, Aaron Nigel Smith’s first release with One World Chorus.  Proceeds from the sale of this album will benefit the Cura Orphanage in Kenya, Africa.
Bright Clear Day – Sarah Lee Guthrie and Family (Go Waggaloo)
Afraid of Heights – Harmonica Pocket (Apple Apple)
Sunshine - Vered (Good Morning My Love)
Eleanor The Elegant Elephant – Caspar Babypants (HOT DOG!)
In A Timeout Now – Randy Kaplan (Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie)
Germs – Ozomatli (OzoKidz)
I Am a Paleontologist – They Might Be Giants (Here Comes Science)
Make Me - Big Bang Boom (Because I Said So!)
Tickle Monster – Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys (Bubble Ride)
Green Beans Everywhere – Hullabaloo (Raise a Ruckus)
The Shark FighterSenorita Mariposa – Mister G (Chocolalala)
Sol Nal – Elena Moon Park (Rabbit Days and Dumplings)
15 tracks, 44 minutes

October Slow Jams

Bare Feet – Harmonica Pocket (Apple Apple)
Merry -Go-Round – Elizabeth Mitchell (Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie)
Mother Nature’s Son – Aaron Nigel Smith & One World Chorus (Welcome to the Village)
Underneath the Rainbow – Kira Willey (Kings & Queens of the Forest)
Even Bugs Are Sleeping – Caspar Babypants (HOT DOG!)
Time To Fly – Hot Peas ‘n Butter (Catchin’ Some Peazzz)
Goodnight Little Arlo (Goodnight Little Darlin’) – Charlie Hope (Keep Hope Machine Running: Songs of Woddy Guthrie)
Powder Blue Reprise – Renee and Jeremy (It’s A Big World)
Listen to the Horses – Raffi (Quiet Time)
Green Green Rocky Road – Randy Kaplan (Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie)
All the Pretty Little Horses – Laurie Berkner (Whaddya Think of That)
You and Me and a Bottle of Bubbles – Lunch Money (Original Friend)
Catch the Moon
 – Elizabeth Mitchell & Lisa Loeb (For the Kids Too)
Time – Johnny Bregar (My Neighborhood)
Sleep – Vered (Good Morning My Love)
15 tracks, 42 minutes