The buzz…

Diving Deeper - Music from Around the World - Janet Collins

It’s a day typical day like any other in a Mini Maestros class. Carers and students gather happily greeting each other with a quick catch up chat. There’s a familiar, anticipatory buzz in the air which you immediately sense from carers and children  - they know what's about to happen!

Let’s begin!! Straight into the "Hello Song" with a little peekaboo to follow. Then comes a stop-start percussive instrumental activity. We notice a child whose preferred learning style is quiet observation, but wait, what’s happening now? As the music begins, this little one leaps to her feet dancing excitedly in response to the music. An expression of surprise, exhilaration, laughter and joy is splashed all around the room. But what has triggered this reaction? The selected music played is ‘Ve David’ taken from Shenanigans' collection. The music is mainly from Hebrew origins, but also has a strong Arabic influence.  Collaborated instruments played are bagpipes, accordion, bouzouki, flute, clarinet, vocals and bass drum which you find in other cultures.

One would have to ask; what difference does this make to a child born here in Australia who has not been exposed to this style of music before? As we look a little closer, we discover how linked we really are to music from all around the world.

For decades, musical songs and dances have been passed down generationally from grandparent to parent to child. Every culture in the world has its own unique style of music that is enjoyed by all ages on every continent. The musical traditions of a particular culture are a major force in that culture's expression. The passing down of music from generation to generation has high importance in cultural identity and connection. Singing and dancing were used to solidify those deep connections within that particular people group.

And yet, is it an exclusive tribal connection? What is that soul substance and common thread that unifies us globally? The fascination continues to express itself when we cross-pollinize cultures. We begin to see an immediate similarity. If we explore music from all around the world more deeply,  we will find there is a synergy that’s indubitable and an ever important fabric of our societal connection.

Lullabies are a universal language in themselves and cross-pollinize every culture. They are often used as a soother, even for non- infants. Lullabies are also used to pass down or strengthen the cultural roles and practices. In Albanian culture, lullabies were rhythmically sung rocking a child in a home-made cloth cradle hung from a ceiling. The traditional Hebrew Numi Numi Lilith-Abi lullaby was used for the development of communication skills and emotional connection. African lullabies would tell stories about an African experience;  a social historical commentary on one hand and therapeutic medium on the other.

In Japan, a traditional counting song called Ichijiku Ninjin which is nearly 100 years old is still sung today. It plays on words specifically the numbers one through ten in Japanese that sound like words for vegetables.  In Nigeria, there is a hand clapping game called “Tinko Tinko”.  This usually involves two children doing a series of clap patterns on their own and each other’s hands while singing rhymes. In Spain, there are two well-known hand-clapping games: “Mariposa” and “Chocolate”. Each of them involve breaking the title name in syllables, so, besides the coordination skills required to perform the clapping pattern, the game teaches children the letters and correct pronunciation. ‘Miss Mary Mack’ is a well known, rather complex, and lengthy singing/clapping/memory/rhyming and rhythmic game and known in England, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and sung by our very own 4-5 year old Mini Maestros students.

As people moved across continents, so did their traditions, songs, and dances, merging into the surrounding cultures. For example, who can resist singing along to ‘Old Mac Donald Had a Farm’ which was written in 1908 by a 74-year-old Mrs. Goodey at Marylebone Workhouse, London. It’s sung by Afrikaans, Egyptian, Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Czech, Danish, German, Finnish, Hebrew, Italian, Korean, Malay, Persian, Portuguese, French, Persian, Russian, Serbian , Slovene, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish people.

In our modern day technology, driven societies and global family disconnections, some of these traditions can sadly be lost. This is why at Mini Maestros we believe the interrelation link is a critical one in creating and fostering perhaps a new unique and wholistic identity within a diverse people group. We as music educators of the next generation, are devotedly committed and have dutifully collated a large number of songs and dances from all around the world and incorporated them in the Mini Maestros curriculum.

Although the 21st century culture has emerged, the all-important organic fundamentals never need to cease. When a child intuitively connects with music and culture from another part of the world, we begin to realize the importance of bringing this into play as custodians to the next wee generation, celebrating all cultures and leaving a powerful mark for future generational connections and identity!!

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