As long-time readers of this blog already know, I am a firm advocate of raising children with a global orientation. One of the most effective – and fun! – ways to do this is through introducing your child to music from around the world. Not only will you both have a great time listening and dancing to the music, you will also be introducing that little mind and heart to a host of new sounds and rhythms. As he grows, this exposure will give him positive experiences to build on, laying the foundation for future cultural explorations.
When my little Monkey was a baby, I spent hours combing through the music collection of our library, eventually listening to all of their global music selections for children. It was well worth it, as we discovered some wonderful tunes from around the world. Unlike many Americans, my little guy is used to hearing melodies sung in other accents or other languages. And he is as familiar with African drumming and Latin beats as he is with the cadences of US folk songs. And above all, he has a great time! “More songs, Mommy! Pwease!” No problem, kiddo 😉
One of the gems I discovered was Little Pim French Bop. Songs on this CD were some of the first that my little Monkey really responded to when he was a baby. They are so fun yet also gentle and charming. Many are classics that you may already know, such as “Frere Jacques” and “Sur le Pont d’Avignon,” while others are originals, such as “Tap Tap Tap.” Since I don’t speak French, I really appreciate that the CD comes with a 16 page insert that includes full English translations of all the songs.
If you want to be the coolest parent on the block, you must get B is for Bob for your child. It was produced by Bob Marley’s son, Ziggy Marley, who can be seen in this interview talking about the album. Now you can listen to your favorite Marley songs with your child, without worrying about any pesky drug references! Some may call it censoring, but Ziggy calls it “re-imagining,” so we’ll go with that.
Any list of global music for kids would be incomplete without mentioning Putumayo Kids. You may already be familiar with the Putumayo world music CDs sold in many stores, but did you know that they also have an extensive line of music CDs for children? Some CDs have a theme, such as sleepytime music or dance music, while others focus on a country or region. Personal favorites? Brazil and Hawaii!
I was also happy to find Mis Amigos Los Animales by Mona Warner, which includes a number of classic children’s songs in Spanish, such as “La vibora del mar” and “Los elefantes.” My little Monkey also enjoyed “El perro dice,” which goes through the sounds that various animals make. Since we are raising him to be bilingual, these cute, fun songs were a real help in reinforcing some basic Spanish, especially since Warner’s singing is so clear.
In my search, I ran across a number of albums from Latin America and Europe, but I found very few from other continents. That is why I was so happy to find Under African Skies by Wendy Oldfield. Although we definitely enjoy the music, it is the storytelling that I find absolutely entrancing. And you can feel good knowing you are supporting the independent label African Cream, which several years ago launched the line African Cream Kidz, dedicated to sharing the songs and stories of Africa with children around the world.
And finally, one of my Monkey’s all-time favorite albums: Virtues in Me by Radha and the Kiwi Kids. As you may guess from the name, this group is based out of New Zealand. Their album also falls under the category of spiritual education, as it takes familiar children’s songs and gives them a twist, using them to teach values, so you end up with “Gentle Old MacDonald” and “Three Kind Mice.” Come for the songs and virtues, stay for the New Zealand accents. Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard a Kiwi kid talk in that sweet little accent about being “gentle with the eggs.” Just listen to “Gentle Old MacDonald,” and you’ll see what I mean!
Of course, international music doesn’t have to be labeled as “children’s music” to be appropriate for kids. My little Monkey loves anything by Free Planet Radio, an instrumental group that plays world fusion music with a jazz twist. And it’s hard to top the soothing, lush music of Mariam Matossian. Talk about a beautiful way to ease your child into dreamland!
What music do you listen to with your child?