Sampler: More Multicultural Children’s Songs from Ella Jenkins

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Today, August 6, 2014, Ella Jenkins turns 90. To celebrate, here is a sampler of her latest Smithsonian Folkways release More Multicultural Children’s Songs.

http://www.folkways.si.edu/radio/more_multicultural_childrens_songs_preview/

More Multicultural Children’s Songs is a collection of songs from Ella’s world travels. Listeners will catch fish in Hawaii just before attending dinner festivities, and visit an Australian Zoo. There are also familiar songs like “Kookaburra” and “Waltzing Matilda,” but regardless of whether they are familiar or not, Ella adds her own special touch to each song, gracefully capturing the spirit of the cultures they represent.

The remainder of the songs on the sampler can be found at the Smithsonian Folkways site here.

 

Check this Out: Love Bug – Raffi

Raffi_LoveBug_LGLove Bug, Raffi‘s first album in 12 years, wiggles its way through your heart and beautifully delivers the best kinds of hugs and peaceful wishes. Raffi’s comforting voice picks up right where he left off, and right where we left off when Raffi was part of my daughter’s nightly bedtime routine. In fact, upon hearing the opening notes of “Doggone Woods,” she thought she was hearing one of her favorite songs from previous records. I explained that it is a new Raffi song which sounds just like the songs she loved when she was little and she responded with an affirmative “Yeah, just like the olden days.” It’s true, Raffi has mastered a timeless sound that has captivated generations of listeners, leaving a musical mark in the annals of their childhood.

There are several themes that run through the album, i.e. nature, family, play, but the main undercurrents are related to love and connectedness between family, as well as how children interact with and understand their world. Emphasizing this point is “The Real World,” a song which offers the idea of experiencing what the world has to offer outside of virtual engagement: “In the real world where the music plays, in the real world of love and connection/ In the real world/ Where the children dance/ In the real world where the sun beams down…In the real world where hearts are pumpin’/ In the real world.” What was interesting was that when my 5-year-old was listening to this song, she drew a connection between the imaginary world vs the real world by informing me that: “In the imaginary world there are superheroes and villains but in the real world we have police and bad guys like robbers.” It was pretty cool and rather unexpected to hear how Raffi’s words resonated with her in that way.

The most poignant and profoundly deep song, “Seeing the Heart,” captures the innocence of childhood and the propensity children have to see goodness, love and possibilities in the world. “Seeing the Heart” paints a picture of a mother and son creatively working together. “Mama drew the pictures/ Boy drew the words/ A mother and son connection.” What makes this song so touching is what the boy adds to the picture. “He showed a chamber of goodness, wealth and poverty/ He showed a pump of flowing happiness/ He drew a hate outtake valve/ A simple attachment.” Raffi nails the fact that children often feel the world just as much, if not more than, they see it. It’s as if they have a sixth sense allowing them to genuinely experience the world with their hearts.

Like most of Raffi’s music, the sounds of the songs on Love Bug are enjoyable and fun to sing along with, but what my daughter and I got out of this was a closeness from many of the positive messages nestled within each track. The songs on the album are upbeat, but we weren’t always moved to dance to them. Instead, we were moved to explore the meanings within them, together, resulting in some thought-provoking conversations. Although, if you are looking for a little movement, songs like “Cool Down Reggae” and “Pete’s Banjo” are your tracks.

And now for the verdict: After 12 years, Raffi remains an iconic figure that will forever remain a familiar voice for generations of listeners. Love Bug will bring the joy of music to many families, while also reminding us to live life with childlike wonder.

Love Bug is available at Amazon and Indigo.

Below is a video for the title track “Love Bug.”

Hear Raffi’s NPR interview here.

Check this out: Ice Cream for a Good Cause!

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It’s summer that usually means cruising around listening to awesome music and cooling off with delicious frozen treats. Growing up, it also meant sliding down our slip n’ slide (which was officially called “Wet Banana“).

What you may or may not be aware of is that July is National Ice Cream Month! To honor this special holiday month, there is a “sweet” Kindie compilation for you to enjoy which was produced, designed and curated by Groovy David (David Brownstein), Mista Cookie Jar (C.J. Pizarro) and Trevor Goober of The Zing Zangs.

The Ice Cream Sundae Project contains songs about ice cream and desserts by top Kindie artists. The proceeds from the purchase of the album will go directly to Feeding America, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to feed the hungry through a nationwide network of food banks.

According to Brownstein, “Most people don’t know that [July is National Ice Cream Month], so I thought it could be a fun idea to create a compilation album of all the dessert flavor songs out there. But as I started working on the idea with Trevor and later Cookie, I felt there could be a broader theme. That awareness of these “dessert” songs could bring attention to families in need of real food services.”

There is an awesome mix of talent here all participating in a good cause!

The album can be downloaded via CDBaby.

You can learn more about The Ice Cream Sundae Project here.

Track Listing

  1. Groovy David – Ice Cream Sunday
  2. Yosi Levin – Just Desserts
  3. Joanie Leeds – Ice Cream
  4. Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band – Who Stole the Cookies?
  5. Danny Weinkauf – Ice Cream (Healthy Eating)
  6. Rocknoceros – Cannoli Adjustment
  7. Jambo – Ice Cream Soup
  8. Todd and Cookie – Ice Cream Time Machine
  9. The Zing Zangs – Whip Cream
  10. Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could – Ice Cream Girl
  11. Bari Koral Family Rock Band – Anna and the Cupcakes
  12. Sugar Free Allstars – Ice Cream Truck
  13. Charity and the JAMband – Cake
  14. David Tobocman – Ice Cream on a Hot Dog
  15. Caspar Babypants – A Thousand Tiny Donuts

Videos

 

Check this out: Just Say Hi! – Brady Rymer And The Little Band That Could

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Get those boogie shoes ready everybody! Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Just Say Hi!, the latest release from Brady Rymer And The Little Band That Could, keeps the sweet sounds of rock n’ roll alive with a spirited set of what might be Rymer’s most personal songs to date. And by spirited, I mean full-on no stoppin’ this boppin’ blazing train of good times. Like the famous rock n’ roll icons of yesteryears (Springsteen, Mellencamp, Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles), Rymer has rhythm and blues running through his veins. Collectively, this talented troupe makes each song sound like a celebration.

Music, specifically rock n’ roll, has played a major role in Rymer’s upbringing and he directly pays tribute to this genre in many of his songs, whether he’s singing about being raised on rock n’ roll music, playing “Stairway to Heaven” in his garage after school, or learning a piano rag with Grandma Helen. The joy of being with family and friends is interwoven throughout the album as well. “Get This Party Started,” cruises down memory lane with a young Rymer listening to Elvis in the backseat of his parents’ Oldsmobile, to the present day where a glance in the rear view mirror reveals his own children hoppin’ and boppin’ in the backseat to Beyoncè’s Single Ladies song.

Nominated for a Grammy in 2009, Rymer has always been able to connect to the emotional side of his audience, empathetically trying to relate to what they might be feeling and then seeking to uplift their spirits through empowering messages and words of kindness. Just Say Hi! is bookended by two songs that support these messages. Starting with the title track, Rymer encourages kids to just say hi (even if they are uncomfortable, i.e. being a new kid in school). as a way to start building friendships while the last track, “Light of Love,” encourages listeners to connect with each other through the simple act of smiling at one another: Everywhere you go and everything you do/ Every single person that you run into/ Give ‘em a smile big & bright/ And shine your little light of love.

Just Say Hi! offers many opportunities for you to shake, rattle and roll. The songs we are spinning the most right now are the breezy, “I Spin” and “Getting Your Ya-Ya’s Out,” the perfect answer to burning off a sugar rush. Although, you might want to listen to the former before the latter. Despite it’s action-oriented name, “I Spin,” is a slower number that will help everyone begin to wind down.

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Brady with Moppit the monster.

Other standout tracks include “Home,” a rhythmic dance song infused with comforting images that reinforce the saying “Home is where the heart is,” and “Tomorrow’s People,” a reggae tune featuring a supergroup of kindie musicians. Reminiscent of “We Are The World,” the voices of Laurie Berkner and Susie Lampert (The Laurie Berkner Band), Elizabeth Mitchell and her husband Daniel Little (You Are My Flower), and Drew Holloway and Jack Forman (Recess Monkey) highlight the power of music to effect change, as well as offer hope and gratitude.

Rymer is a glowing light within the children’s genre. While there has always been a charismatic sound to his music, Just Say Hi! seems to take a more unfettered approach, providing insight into Rymer as an individual and a musician. Each song is delivered with fervency and infectious enthusiasm, or, as my 5-year-old said, “Brady sings his songs with a heart full of joy.” That just about sums it up! There is positively no way your family won’t be moved by the soul and sincerity found within this album.

Just Say Hi! is available at Amazon and iTunes. Connect with Brady via Facebook and Twitter and make sure to check his official site for tour dates. A special nod also goes to Katie Gastley for the artwork on the album and creation of Moppit the friendly blue monster you see in the photos above.

 

Check this Out: D is for Django – Django Jones

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The saying goes “A dog is a man’s best friend.” However, in Django Jones’ case, a dog is a band’s best friend.

Django Jones is made up of Doris Muramatsu, JJ Jones and Nate Borofsky from the former indie folk-pop band, Girylman. The Atlanta-based trio, well known for their tight harmonies, insightful songwriting and playful sense of humor, recently released their children’s music debut, D is for Django. The primary inspiration and muse for the album is Muramatsu’s dog, Django, who is also the subject of several songs on the album.

By making Django the subject of many songs (he even has a voice!) provides a focus and allows the band to express their emotions more freely. Many of the songs carry positive messages filled with comfort, love and reassurance which is no doubt responsible for the album’s warmth. Whether it’s Django saying “I love you” to each member of the band (with the each member echoing the sentiment back), a lullaby called “Love You Like I Do” or the trio complementing each other after a song, there is a social emotional aspect to this music that is a nice model for young ears.

“All That I See” opens the album showcasing Muramatsu’s gorgeous voice as it encourages conquering fears and realizing your full potential (and beauty): “..Fight cobwebs with style, and bask for awhile, in your inner beauty...” “Smallest Breed” encourages self-acceptance and self-confidence despite one’s size: “… I have the guts to stand up tall…” “All Along” addresses Django’s nightmare with heartfelt lyrics “Don’t cry baby, there’s nothin’ wrong, when you wake up, I’ll still love you, I’ve been here all along.” 

The rest of the album offers a variety of songs ranging from the action-packed fun of “P-O-P” in honor of popcorn (video below) to educational songs about the importance of breakfast, the bones in our body and germs. The trio takes things down a notch towards the end of the album with lullabies.

D is for Django delivers solid three-part harmonies that fill the room with poised assurance. The vibrant collaborative energy between the band members and their furry muse holds up the solid foundation upon which the album was built. Listeners will find their hearts warmed by the group’s earnestness and humor, as well as the sentimentality behind it all. It’s easy to enjoy music when it feels like it’s being made by friends for friends.

Get to know the band at their official site where you can learn about the birth of Django Jones, preview songs from the album and, most importantly, order a copy for yourself.

 

Check This Out: Zee Avi’s Nightlight

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Artist: Zee Avi
Album: Nightlight
Label: Little Monster Records
Release Date: April 2014

Music has it’s way of making an imprint for sure, gently taking your hand and reassuringly leading you back into your memory bank, nostalgically connecting you with those times when you were sonically swooned. That’s the feeling I get from Zee Avi’s Nightlight.

Nightlight, Avi’s debut into the children’s foray, is filled with breezy acoustic melodies. There is very much a “coffeehouse” vibe to Avi’s style. Even Starbucks picked up on her comforting, soulful sound by including her second adult album, Ghostbird, in their entertainment catalog. A special reward for Avi as the first Malaysian artist to be recognized by the coffee mogul. Although this is only a small accomplishment compared to the many awards she has already received. Most notably, Avi won the International Youth Icon Award and was honored with the Brand Laureate Award for leadership as a singer/songwriter and establishing a successful career in the international music scene.

Over the course of 30 minutes, Avi covers unexpected songs such as the Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves the Sun,” and Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game,” neither of which is compromised in the way of lyrics just because it’s a kids’ album. The integrity Avi maintains while floating over every word is just beautiful. There are songs which are familiar as well such as “Rainbow Connection” and Bobby McFarrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” the former of which is rendered in its own unique way, featuring Avi’s jazzy vocals. Avi also pays tribute to her Malaysian roots in “Nightlight Medly” which is a sweet mix of American and Malaysian lullabies.

Zee Avi’s Nightlight invites you to close your eyes and follow along as the warm glow of her voice lights up your room. This is something every family should have in their collection.

You can listen to samples, as well as purchase Nightlight via Amazon and iTunes.

Learn more about Zee Avi in my interview with her here.

Below is a sweet lyric video for Avi’s “Who Loves the Sun,” as well as a Nightlight sampler courtesy of ZeeAvi via YouTube. Enjoy!

Check This Out: Blink of An Eye – Frances England

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Since I became a parent, there have been so many times where I wish I could siphon out my memories at the end of the day and have them automatically recorded. I regularly feel compelled to stop time, and thankfully I have successfully done so with the click of my camera’s button. As my daughter got older and moved into a busier phase of her life – walking, running, jumping, biking, – life seemed to move faster than I could keep up with. Frances England‘s 2013 release, Blink of an Eye, has invoked great nostalgia, reminding me of my obsession with creating memories.

England has been recording gentle, acoustic melodies that capture the wonderment of childhood as it appears and is felt through the perspective of a child. Since her 2007 debut, Fascinating Creatures, each song has consistently been delivered with beautiful emotion, winning over the hearts of many grown-up listeners, as well as kids.

Blink of An Eye is filled with songs that create a vision of togetherness. My favorite tracks, “Day You Were Born”, “The Sun Will Shine Again” and “Salt Water Swirl,” gorgeously illustrate the awestruck relationship and tender bond between parent(s) and child(ren).

Sometimes music provokes a physical and emotional reaction and this album strikes a chord in both categories. The warmth of England’s soft voice is akin to the feeling of the sun shining on your face as you are cradled, buoyantly, in a lush, grassy field.

Typically, England’s sound is acoustic. For Blink of an Eye, England recruited the masterful Dean Jones which is made obvious by the “kitchen sink” rootsy and eclectic accompaniment on many of the songs (most notably “Blink of An Eye” and another one of my favorites, “Move Like A Saturday Night”). Elizabeth Mitchell and Molly Ledford of Lunch Money also lend their talents in ways that enhance England’s unique sound, ultimately creating achingly beautiful harmonies. “Bicycle Built For Two” is a perfectly paired collaboration between Ledford and England.

England’s fourth album to date, Blink of An Eye, captures the sentimentality and sweetness of being a parent. Just as a mirage offers temporary wonderment, so do the fleeting moments of childhood. Thankfully, England reminds us of those precious memories in this album.

Blink of An Eye is available through England’s site, CDBaby, Amazon and iTunes. You can also sample clips from this album (along with previous releases and her awesome artwork!) at her official site.

Bonus: Below are some beautifully produced videos from the album. Get ready for some goosebumps!

Sun Will Shine Again” [Courtesy of Frances England via YouTube]

Day You Were Born” [Courtesy of Frances England via YouTube]

Tell Me It All” [Courtesy of Frances England via YouTube]

Check this out: Marsh Mud Madness (available in DVD and CD)

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After spending 5 days exploring Sapelo Ilsand, a barrier island of Savannah, GA, Day began the production of his DVD Roger Day’s Marsh Mud Madness which was filmed live at the Savannah Music Festival and on location at the University of Gerogia Marine Institute. As a compliment to the DVD, Day subsequently released a CD, which contains the live recordings from the DVD plus studio versions of two songs.

Regardless of which type of media you choose for your listening experience you won’t be disappointed. Roger Day does an excellent job of transforming your speakers into an ecological romp as he introduces kids to the critters, creatures and plant life of the Savannah marshland. Prior to launching into the anthemic, “I Love To Study Mud,” Day proclaims that he is here to talk about “slimy, gooey, mushy mud!” He then instructs listeners to put on a sun hat and big boots and get ready to stomp in the mud. And let me tell you, with a little creativity and a sprinkle of imagination, stomping in invisible mud makes for some good, clean fun. I particularly love how Day compares marsh mud to chocolate soup, in this upbeat title track, as he sings “you see marsh mud it’s like chocolate soup/ that you can smell from miles around

The beauty of Marsh Mud Madness is that it is engaging. Each song is associated with easy to learn movement(s), helping listeners visualize what they are learning about and essentially making you feel as though you are also a part of the show. In many ways, Day’s enthusiasm and passion for exploration is akin to that of the Kratt brothers from the show, Wild Kratts, and Ms. Frizzle, the unique protagonist in the popular series The Magic School Bus. Similar to these shows, Marsh Mud Madness is full of scientific facts conveyed in an adventurous way.

What sweetens the experience even more is that Day is a talented musician with tons of charisma who has a natural ability to captivate an audience. By following along with Day, whether watching at home or listening in the car, you will learn how to groove like the Fiddler Crab, move like a periwinkle snail, learn how to creep about like the Ghost Crab and mimic the flushing of an estuary. You’ll even come across jumping dolphins! There is so much to love about Marsh Mud Madness, and it has been priceless to hear Em regurgitating facts to friends and family members about how the Ghost Crab is the cousin of the Fiddler Crab and how Alligators were almost extinct.

I am so glad there are two versions of this album because each one is equally gratifying and it’s not very often that I watch live performances on DVD. I would definitely recommend purchasing both together because the DVD is filled with enrichment (for excellent examples, check out the videos below) and makes for a perfect indoor activity. Plus, once you watch the songs performed through the DVD, you will find yourself singing them repeatedly and wishing you could crank them up in your car. You can sample and purchase tracks from Marsh Mud Madness via the Bandcamp widget below. The CD and DVD are also available for purchase through CDBaby.

Bonus: After the successful releases of the Marsh Mud Madness DVD and CD, Day became a Skype in the classroom teacher. Day started teaching through Skype as a way to help kids who were stranded in an Alabama school during a bad winter storm. Shortly after Day offered to “visit” the kids (by posting a message on his Facebook page), he was contacted by teachers and immediately connected to the students via Skype. The students loved singing and playing along with Day, which served as a comforting distraction from the anxiety of being stuck without their families. Skype caught wind of what Day was doing and prominently featured him in a blog post . Day continues to use Skype as a means to provide instruction to kids around the country. Included in his 30-minute lesson, Day teaches the kids two songs, one of which is called “Mosquito Burrito,” a playful song from his DVD, Marsh Mud Madness. For those interested in exploring more of Day’s material I would absolutely recommend Marsh Mud MadnessTeachers can access grade specific study guides here.

Listen to this: Rainbow Beast & The Rock Band Land Rockers – Tales From The Monstrosity Scrolls

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ArtistRainbow Beast & the Rock Band Land Rockers

Album TitleTales From The Monstrosity Scrolls

DescriptionA magical exploration that celebrates the intricacies of a child’s imagination delivered with musical mastery.

While I am tidying up my review of this album, along with some other goodies from Rainbow Beast, there is absolutely no reason to delay the presentation of this awe-inducing piece of work. Tales From The Monstrosity Scrolls is filled with powerful rock songs made up of original stories written by kids between the ages of 4-8 years old. The kids, referred to as The Rock Band Land Rockers, are members of a collaborative creativity program in San Francisco that is run by Rainbow Beast members Brian Gorman and Marcus Stoesz. The songs may seem dark, certainly darker than standard children’s music today, but I would encourage you to listen to them in their entirety because of the deeply profound messages they contain. Sure, there are superheroes, dragons and fluffy clouds, but they are presented in an atypical way that turns sticky sweet sing-alongs on their head. And, if you’ve spent any time around an imaginative 1st grader, you know the whacky paths their creativity can lead them! By providing a safe, supportive environment Gorman and Stoesz have found a way to honor the intellect and potential of these young kids by allowing them to seek out their polka-dot skeleton and ice girl fantasies within the relative safety of a rock-n-roll education.

Check this out: 123s and ABCs – Ella Jenkins

UnknownWhen the announcement of Pete Seeger’s passing was made, I was in the midst of preparing a review about Ella Jenkins‘ latest release with Smithsonian Folkways. As I read the obituaries of and tributes to Seeger, I thought more about the profound effects each of these artists have had on audiences of all ages. In light of my reflections, it occurred to me how many parallels there are between these two legends. To start, each has earned a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for their musical contributions. Along with this honor, they each have had a rich recording history with Smithsonian Folkways, releasing a legacy that will forever set an example for others within the music and educational fields. Not to mention the multigenerational and cultural impact their music has had on children and families throughout the world. Most importantly, what ties them together the most is that they have lived their lives with purpose and that purpose has been fueled by a sense of pride and joy, coupled with the belief that music is meant to be shared.

On her 34th release with Smithsonian Folkways, Ella’s joyful spirit is captured once again. The songs on 123s and ABCs are simple and highly interactive, presented mostly in Ella’s signature call-and-response style and provide layers of benefits for young listeners. The album contains 16 wonderfully curated tracks aimed at teaching letters, counting and basic math (addition and subtraction). The secondary benefits seek to build language skills, strengthen memory, and develop rhythm through a variety of musical games. And, remaining loyal to Ella’s multicultural appreciation, 123s and ABCs presents songs in four languages – English, Spanish, Swahili, and Yiddish.

The album opens with “Easy as ABC,” an alphabet game that encourages listeners to associate a word with a letter and then use that word in a sentence. As Ella sings, “C is for caring/ And I care a lot about you,” it’s hard not to feel comforted by her sincerity. It is this line that captures Ella’s authenticity and loving heart.

“Eight Clay Pigeons” and “And One and Two…” are fun counting songs that encourage movement while “ABCs” is a sweet little chant that underscores the positive effects music has on learning: “123, 123 were the very first numbers that were taught to me…/ ABC, ABC were the very first letters that were taught to me/ XYZ, XYZ were the very last letters that were taught to me.”

123s and ABCs is another fine example of how wonderful it feels to sing along together. Ella is a teacher, a leader and a friend who has devoted her life to sharing that which has enlightened, educated and enriched so many children’s (and grown-ups’) lives. The following quote perfectly describes Ella’s grace and thoughtful approach to music making. (source: NPR):

“I think most people like music and most children like music, and there’s a variety of music. But whatever you happen upon with something that you really feel that you really like, I’d say listen to it and listen to it often. And if you want to kind of emulate it, if you want to try to repeat or imitate, do it in a way that when you’re sharing it, someone else is going to think it’s beautiful, too. So there are a lot of wonderful composers around the world, and sometimes we get a lot of them right here in Chicago. But anyway, when you get these and you start to sing or you can dance like the people that you have heard or watched, then put your best performance forward, and I think the children will do the same.”

123s and ABCs is highly recommended for all ages and can be purchased through AmazoniTunes and the Smithsonian Folkways Site

Bonus: Smithsonian Folkways is also offering a free download of the track “Easy as ABC.” Read more on Ella Jenkins on her Smithsonian Folkways Artist Spotlight page.