Veterans Day Guest Post: Derek McGee of Funkinships

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Today is a special holiday in which we honor and pay tribute to the brave men and women who serve/have served our country. The band of brothers and sisters that put all of themselves into protecting and fighting for freedom and justice.

In honor of Veterans Day, I am proud to present a guest post by Derek McGee of the band Funkinships. Derek is an Iraq war veteran whose reintegration into regular life was made easier with the help of music, and a friend by the name of Charlie Chamberlain. The two men met aboard the Mystic Whaler, a sailing classroom on the Hudson River. Together, along with the crew and some friends on board, Derek and Charlie created Funkinships, and subsequently released their debut album, Post Folk Absurdist.

Derek’s guest post highlights the significance of being a part of a pack. The powerful effects of strength in numbers, both actively and emotionally. The strength of your crew, your band, is what gives each individual member strength, especially out on the battlefield. It’s a piece that will resonate with many, whether you are honoring a veteran you know, or simply observing the day with your own pack. As a bonus, check out “Chicken Flap Fly” at the bottom of the post.


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Veterans Day is different for veterans than it is for the rest of the country.  For most it is a chance to show appreciation to the men and women who served in the Armed Forces, but for those who served it is a time to reflect on our time serving.  I will tell you what this looks like for me.  I miss my herd.  Humans are a social animal.  We belong in herds, tribes, packs, clubs, or platoons.  Whatever you call your group, you need one. That was one of the hardest parts about getting out of the military.  I was suddenly on my own.  I have a fiancé and as of 6 weeks ago a daughter, but I still miss the completeness that only a herd can bring.  Today, my herd is the band Funkinships. That includes anyone singing or playing along.  Funkinships has a fluid membership.

We all want to belong to something larger than ourselves.  Making music with the people around you lets you do more than feel like you are a part of something bigger — you can hear it.  You can hear how you fit into the whole.

When I came back from Iraq the second time I bounced around looking for a herd.  I tried finance.  That didn’t work. I joined a sailboat crew — that worked but I couldn’t do it forever.  Then one day on the boat I met Charlie Chamberlain, a musician.  Together we wrote songs (even though I had no musical experience) and held a band rehearsal with some other volunteers on the boat.  I got that same sense of contentment I did bunking with my platoon in the train station north of Fallujah, Iraq.

So, this Veterans Day I will look through the old photos and reach out to my fellow Marines like I always do.  But I will also put on the Funkinships CD and sing along.  And while I am thankful for the veterans of this country, like everyone else, today I am especially thankful that there are people willing to sing along with me.  Because I need a herd.  What is your herd?

Video: “Anta Gata Doko Sa” -Elena Moon Park and Friends (World Premiere)

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Experiencing how other cultures greet each other is one of the things I love most about learning a new language. In many ways, the greetings are similar—”Hello,” “How are you,” “What is your name,” “My name is”—but expressed with their own unique flavor. The richness of World Music gives us a vehicle through which we can better understand and connect with a community of people, which is why I am thrilled to present today’s video premiere, “Anta Gata Doko Sa” (“Where Are You From?”).

Elena Moon Park made her 2012 debut with the stunning Rabbit Days and Dumplings, an album that mixes traditional American folk music with traditional Asian sounds offering a diverse array of songs from East Asia (Korea, Japan, China, Tibet and Taiwan).

“Anta Gata Doko Sa” is a popular Japanese children’s song often sung while playing with a bouncing ball. Park’s video features beautifully animated oil painting (credit: Lauren Gregory) that fluidly glides along with the smooth Dub-infused rhythm of the song. The combination is fun to watch and learn from. Look for a charming little girl who bounces a ball with her shoulders and transforms into a ball herself.

For those in the New York area, Elena Moon Park will be performing in Symphony Space’s Just Kidding Series with Sonia De Los Santos on Nov. 5. I highly recommend this show as both of these artists are extremely memorable.

Check out Park’s video for “Sol Nal” which features Sonia De Los Santos.

Subscribe to Park’s YouTube channel to view additional live performances, and follow Park on Facebook to stay in touch.

Check this out: Alphabet Rockers – The Playground Zone

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Every day another tragic story of intolerance gets added to the pile. The future of our country and the world at large looks pretty bleak—if you believe we are powerless. But I can’t go there. I have to believe that we can DO something. That we can make some change happen. Otherwise, why not just give up and live in bunkers underground?

Thinking about change on a large scale—nationally and internationally—is a tall order. How can we move the needle even just a hair? Can we lean on music to work some magic here?

Letting Go of the Baggage

When my daughter Emily was around three years old, an African American girl sat down next to us at the library. Emily pointed to the girl’s arm and asked, “Why is your skin brown?” The girl’s response was striking. “Because my mom and dad are like that. My brother said it doesn’t come off.” That last part hit me hard.

I went on to explain to Emily that friends are all different colors and come from different places. The diversity of the people in our everyday lives allows us to have a uniquely dynamic social experience. I’ll admit the topic was uncomfortable for me, only because I have already been exposed to the heaviness of how skin color can define you.

Emily wasn’t fazed. She didn’t have the baggage. This year when her first grade class studied Martin Luther King, Jr., she and her classmates were stunned that not so long ago they wouldn’t have been allowed to sit together at lunch because of their skin color. To them, this idea was ridiculous. And their reaction shook me awake. Kids are not inherently biased. Skin color means nothing until someone or something gives it meaning.

If there is going to be change and acceptance and tolerance in our future, kids are where we need to start. It’s not a new idea. But it’s an idea that can’t wait anymore.

This is where music fits in. It becomes the voice inside your head. It reinforces messages in a way that is direct and relatable. Music can empower children with the fuel and fire to move forward with the desire for change, peace, acceptance, and a more inclusive world.

Starting the Conversation with Our Kids

Oakland-based Alphabet Rockers deliver hip-hop music infused with positive messages. This seems simple but the work of Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Shepherd, Jr. goes deep.

Their latest release, The Playground Zone, is a different album for the Alphabet Rockers. It boldly steps into a more social, personal light. Produced while at the Oakland Zoo Labs Music Residency, McGaw and Shepherd created a powerful album that shines a light on timely issues related to race, ethnicity, neuro-diversity and the strength found in community.

These topics may not be obvious dinner table discussions and for sure they aren’t always comfortable to initiate. But we have a responsibility to guide our children—and to help shape their perception of themselves and the world. How children process and integrate words, ideas, fears and beliefs are what drive their thoughts and actions. This is where change is going to happen. 

McGaw and Shepherd are passionate about putting their craft to work and helping parents and educators engage and connect with young children. The music plants seeds of acceptance that can grow to empowerment and knowledge that can ultimately change the world. As a parent, the songs offer a roadmap for questions like: How do I get the conversation started? How do I keep it age appropriate and simple? How do I talk about acceptance in a way that won’t be misconstrued or create more anxiety about what goes on in the world?

As a group, the Alphabet Rockers are stepping forward and putting out the call—for all of us to step up. Change is not going to happen just because it’s the right thing. Or with two hip-hop artists on a stage. We are all responsible. In “Change the World” McGaw and Shepherd emphasize that it’s time to make the changes that we suggest to others. It’s time to recognize the power in numbers and walk together.

Wishing for the day where we don’t have to hide – who we are, how we pray, how we love – it’s all right
Everyone gets the chance to speak their mind
And people stand up – stand up for what’s right
How about you – would you make that change?
How about me – will I do the same?
Wishing for a time when the world’s safe for all
And no matter who it is there’s help when we fall
No one feels alone – love is the call
And people feel safe without borders, or walls
How about you – would you make that change?
How about me – will I do the same?

The brilliance of The Playground Zone’s foundation is that it’s built around the playground—a familiar place where kids get to be kids. It’s a testing ground for negotiation, a lab in itself for divisions and collaboration. It’s where you find who you are and who you want to be with. As serious as this may sound, play is at the heart of if all. The playground is meant for all children to find a place to coexist together. To feel confident that the ground they are standing on belongs as much to them as to their best friend or the kids climbing monkey bars and playing tag next to them. This self-evident truth is the subtext for The Playground Zone.

We Are Not All Created Equally. That’s a Beautiful Thing.

Children start off with a clean slate, able to see equality across differences. In fact, without other influences, labels don’t even emerge for a good portion of their little lives. Differences are curiosities but easily embraced. As children grow and outside influences seep in, they become aware that not only are they different from their peers, but those differences mean something. In songs like “Oddball,” the Alphabet Rockers welcome the idea that we are all different.

This song goes out to all the brains of the world
We all got them, they all work differently
You feel like you don’t fit in? Well…

In “Gimme Some Skin,” Alphabet Rockers take a familiar gesture and turn it into an opportunity for connection between races, highlighting the magnificence of different skin tones coming together. The symbolism of something so basic and familiar is electrifying when spoken through Shepherd’s voice.

Skin color is a spectrum we know that fact
Highlight its beauty through high five contact
Human is human we have the same parts
Skin tones are different but not too far apart
Every high five is special because we are
The colors, together they raise the bar
Bringing us together, dropping that guard

The Lyrical Flow—Conversation is Key

Through lyrically poetic verses, hip-hop and rap speak out and communicate to others who can relate. McGaw and Shepherd passionately and confidently begin timely conversations carried along by their own self-expression with heartfelt lyrics and rhymes articulated over infectious DJ beats. Their technique is solid and clear. Their quest to encourage inclusion, tolerance and equality is felt in every syllable.

Unity and love are at the forefront of the Alphabet Rockers’ messages and with those guiding principles kids are encouraged to embrace their uniqueness, rock an ultimate high five with a friend and just get their wiggle jiggle on. A refreshing spectrum that has the possibility to make a significant, rippling impact.

Alphabet Rockers’ music presents their young audience with a fundamental shift in thinking—to see the world with more open and tolerant eyes than generations before. The Playground Zone gives parents a place to start conversations with kids and a place to let the music speak for itself uniting us with a vision of liberty and justice for all.


The Playground Zone is available through the official Alphabet Rockers store, iTunes, and Bandcamp.

More information on Alphabet Rockers can be found at their official site.

Stay in touch through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.

Singled Out: Free Music – “Time to Make the Donuts” – Recess Monkey

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Following in the footsteps of their kindie peers, Recess Monkey’s 12th(!) album, Noveltieswill be released exclusively through Amazon Music to Prime members starting June 17, 2016.

In honor of this milestone, the Seattle band of spunky monkeys is offering a free download of “Time to Make the Donuts.”

Amazon Prime Members can stream or download this new single starting today through June 23, 2016 at no additional cost via Amazon’s Prime Music service.

RECESSMONKEY66.72Novelties arrives just in time for summer with a celebration of original and frosty treats. The album is now available for pre-order through Amazon. Customers who pre-order the album will also instantly receive the single, “Time to Make the Donuts” to enjoy at no additional cost. Novelties will be available on June 17, 2016 for digital download and CD purchase on Amazon Music as well as on Prime Music for Amazon Prime members to listen ad-free at no additional cost to their membership.

Go on, give your ears a little sugar!

 

 

Free Music Download: Summer Sounds Playlist

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We love playlists any time of year but there are certain times where it feels like the season dictates the need for certain kinds of sounds. Summer is one of them. Every summer, we look forward to creating a soundtrack that echoes the feeling of warmer weather, beach days, outdoor concerts, nature walks and road trip adventures. Even when the hot, sticky weather calls for more time spent indoors, we reach for things that are upbeat, breezy and remind us to just take it easy.

Thanks to our friends at Sugar Mountain PR, the following playlist will help kick-start your summer soundtrack. Starting today, the playlist is available for download through May 25, 2016.

Like what you hear? Click on the artist’s name to visit their site and learn more. Be sure to also check their shows/schedule pages to see if you can catch a summer concert in your town.
Frances England – “Explorer of the World” (Explorer of the World) 
Charity and the JAMband – “Sing a Summer Song” (Earth)
Raffi – “Garden Song” (Owl Singalong)
Aaron Nigel Smith – “Take Time In Life” (ONE)
123 Andrés – “Fly, Fly” (Arriba Ababjo)
Alphabet Rockers – “Players’ Life” (The Playground Zone – coming soon
Sugar Free Allstars – “Upside Down Town” (Self-titled)
The Not-Its! – “Bird On A Wire” (Are You Listening?)
The Whizpops – “Pika” (Ranger Rick’s Trail Mix Vol. 1 – out May 20, 2016)
Red Yarn – “I Had A Rooster” (Wake Up & Sing)
Okee Dokee Brothers – “One Horsepower” (Saddle Up)
Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could – “One Day By The Riverside” (Press Play – coming soon)

Audio Premiere: “Shine” – Charity and the JAMband

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San Francisco’s Charity and the JAMband recently released their sixth album for families entitled Earth. As the title would suggest, the album is an ode to Earth, but moreso to the interconnectedness we have with it (and each other), and how our actions have a direct impact on maintaining a sustainable well-being for our planet.

Though this is a concept album, there is a variety of tracks that are also wonderful meditations meant to cultivate lovingkindness, peace, happiness, unity and build awareness of the power we have to effect change together any day of the year.

As part of the celebration honoring the album’s release, I am pleased to present the premiere of the song “Shine.” “Shine” offers a musical meditation built on cultivating feelings of goodwill within ourselves which can then be given to all other living things, and directed back toward the earth. The intention is to shine out everything we’ve got – love, appreciation, peace – toward others, in hopes that our positive energy will carry far and wide. “Shine” also serves as a starting point for discussion with children about themes of kindness, generosity, and responsibility.

Charity Kahn, lead singer and founder explains:

“Shine” is ultimately about what we have to offer to our world. Part of our job in this life is to cultivate positive qualities in ourselves — like peace, joy, and love — and then to reflect these outward, sharing our best selves with others and our planet. And, perhaps most importantly, to remember that suffering is also part of life, and that all beings suffer. When we remember this truth — that we all suffer, and we all wish to be free from suffering — we are then capable of true compassion.

As with all of Charity and the JAMband’s music, “Shine” is delivered in a powerful way with lots of positive energy that simply rocks.

To learn more about the story behind the song, visit Charity and the JAMband’s official site where you can also find activities to share with your children. Kahn will be posting a new song story every day through May 6, 2016 so tune into Facebook and Twitter for updates.

a1506770584_10“Shine” is featured on Charity and the JAMband’s sixth album Earth. More info can be found on the band’s official site and copies of the album can be downloaded/purhcased through BandcampiTunesCD Baby, Spotify (streaming).

To learn more about Kahn and her mindfulness based practice and offerings check out a guest post previously published here.

 

 

 

The Imaginary Accomplishments Podcast – Todd McHatton

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I am just gonna dive right into this new find here because I am extremely excited about it.

Todd McHatton has just launched a new podcast that we are cuckoo crazy over.

The Imaginary Accomplishments Podcast, dubbed as “an imaginary NPR style rock and roll space comedy,” debuts (officially) Thursday, April 21, 2016, but is available digitally now for anyone ready to experience a harkening back the golden age of radio. Broadcasting twice monthly from a red and white rocket hurtling through the Galaxy friendly monsters Marvy and Finch along with other special guests (voiced by McHatton) cover topics that channel the mystery, intrigue, drama, and comedy of old time radio. Each character has a very inviting way of drawing you into their world of galactic awesomeness. The podcast covers live sports coverage of events like the Semi-Final Regional Galactic Bubble Blowing Contest, music reviews featuring artists like Flat and U Lence, news programming and even quirky sponsors.

The fact that this podcast is being marketed to kids/families makes it so unique because it’s reach is really so broad. There really is nothing like it out there in the kids podcast market and it’s so refreshing. Adults who love Monty Python and even cult fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 will appreciate the way the characters exchange dialogue throughout, and particularly when it comes to the science-based aspects of the podcast. There is also a touch of Mister Rogers in there in terms of the thought McHatton has put into bringing all of these weird and wonderful characters to life. Underneath it all, there is a big-hearted person who has managed to hold on to that sense of wonder and imagination that has allowed him to create infinite amounts of excellent experiences for all ages.

Underneath it all McHatton’s love of comedy, novelty, and preserving vintage gold of yesteryear just shines. Listeners will be drawn in by McHatton’s natural and endearing presentation which feels as though he is sharing his favorite things with you, his friends.
In short, The Imaginary Accomplishments Podcast is just McHatton being McHatton and that has always been my favorite thing about listening to anything he produces. I think it will be yours too.
Subscribe to The Imaginary Accomplishments Podcast today because I really shouldn’t be the only one putting this on repeat more than once an hour.
And there are TWO episodes just waiting for you! Go!