We Are Happy – A Song Of the Abayudya of Uganda

JJ Keki UgandaWe’re so pleased to have a guest post here from a musician who had truly traveled the world to share music. Take a moment to meet Jay Sand and learn about the “We Are Happy” song he uses to open his wonderful concerts that shares world traditions with the children.

I’m Jay Sand, a music teacher from Philadelphia and founder of All Around This World (http://www.allaroundthisworld.com), a global music and world cultures program for little kids. In 1999, long before I discovered my passion for multicultural music, my backpack, my camera, my guitar and I ventured to Africa where I visited, photographed and sang songs with members of several communities of Africans who practice Judaism–from Tunisia to Ethiopia, Ghana to Zimbabwe. My goal at the time was to document the multicultural reality of the Jewish people and share images, music and stories from my travels with an American Jewish community that seemed reluctant to accept Jews that were not Western and, especially, not white.

The African Jews who welcomed me most fully on my first voyage were the Abayudya of Uganda, a group of about 1,000 Bagandans who live scattered among several villages near the eastern Ugandan city of Mbale. “Abayudaya” means “the people of Judah.” In 1919 a prominent Ugandan leader, Semei Kakungulu, completed his process of religious exploration by committing to following Jewish laws and practices as described in the Old Testament and declaring himself and his several hundred followers to be Jews. For the next 75 years the Abayudaya had very little contact with others who practices Judaism, save for some meetings with visiting European-descended Jews who informally shared information about observances and holidays. The community didn’t wait for Jewish travelers to tell them how to practice. They built their own customs based on Jewish books visitors brought them and wrote their own Jewish music using lyrics from Bibles Christian missionaries had translated into local languages. In the mid 1990s community members decided to reach out, sending their young “Rabbi,” Gershom Sizoumu to Nairobi, Kenya to connect with the wider world.

In Nairobi Gershom connected with a friend of mine who sent me a cassette of the Abayudaya’s unique African-Jewish music. It was melodic, joyful and so inviting that I began to formulate a scheme to visit Uganda that I finally realized in 1999. The highlight of my time with the Abayudaya was getting to sing with Gershom and other members of the community. Over the next several years I traveled around the United States making multimedia presentations about African Jews at museums, universities and for community groups. The audiences responded most enthusiastically, and were most accepting of the non-traditional Jews I had visited, when I taught them African-Jewish music.

“We Are Happy” is one of two songs the Abayudaya sing to greet important visitors. Rabbi Gershom and his brother JJ Keki wrote the two songs and led the community in singing them for me during my first visit. When I founded All Around This World in 2009 and realized every children’s music class must — must! — have a hello song, I couldn’t have been more pleased when Gershom and JJ gave me permission to blend their two songs into one and sing that song with my students. Since then I have sung my version of “We Are Happy” at the beginning of every class, each time changing the language of our greeting to match that week’s featured country. In my classes I’ve taken “We Are Happy” to well over a hundred countries and taught it to thousands of children and their grownups. Every time my students sing “We Are Happy,” while my tiny, enthusiastic students are thinking about how much fun they’re going to have learning about the world music class, I think of Gershom, JJ, and their tiny, enthusiastic community that appreciates the mind-opening power of a song.

Listen to the “We Are Happy” original on YouTube:

Listen to the merengue version of “We Are Happy” found on the All Around This World: Latin America CD:
http://allaroundthisworld.bandcamp.com/track/we-are-happy-hello-hola-merengue

Meet the Abayudaya:
http://www.bechollashon.org/projects/abayudaya/abayudaya.php

Lyrics of “We Are Happy” on All Around This World: Latin America:
Ooh, bop bop bop! Ooh, bop bop bop.
We are happy, we are happy on this day.

Hola everybody! (“Hello” in Spanish),
Bom dia everybody! (“Good morning” in Portuguese),
Buiti binafi everybody! (“Good morning” in Garifuna),
Imaynallam everybody! (“How are things going?” in Quechua)
 

 

 

Pictured at the top left of this post is JJ Keki, composer of one of the two greeting songs Jay blended to create his own version of “We Are Happy.”

Instruments From Ancient Mexico – The Conch Shell Trumpet

conch shell trumpetA conch shell is a beautiful thing.

But who would guess that cultures all around the world would not only admire it’s beauty but also figure out that – with a few minor modifications – it becomes a completely functional, natural trumpet!  Among others, there are conch trumpets heard in music from the South Pacific, Tibet, Korea and pre-Incan cultures.  Archeological finds and older documents also place it in Aztec culture and ceremonies as well.  Here’s a bit more about the Aztec conch shell trumpet.

aztec conch trumpetPictured here is a musician called a “quiquizoani” playing the conch shell.  The name is in the Nahuatl Indigenous language of Mexico and this specific image can be found on page 23 of the Aztec Codex “Magliabecchi”, currently preserved and archived at the University of Utah in the United States.

One of the best sites for information on Aztec instruments, including great pictures from archeological sites and historical references is Mexicolore.com (see resources below).  Their research shows that there were 7 different types of conch shells and that the largest was called the ‘quiquiztli’.  As you might imagine, the shell trumpet was highly symbolic and associated with the breath of life as well as the rhythms of the sea.  Similarly, it was associated with the call to prayer, marking time during the day and during the night, the moon, fertility and Ehécatl – the Aztec God of the Wind.

Research also shows that conch shell trumpets were used by the Aztec military in a manner similar to modern day bugles.

Conch Shells in The USA

Closer to home, conch shells are part of a unique contest in the Florida Keys.  Although the tradition of blowing the conch trumpet dates back over 200 years, it was originally used mainly for maritime signaling. Recently, however, the contest is a lot more colorful with contestants that vary in age from 3 – 83 and even perform with unique outfits, hula hoops and other novelty approaches.

Want to find out more about this modern conch contest?  Check out the link below for some amazing variations on this ancient musical theme

What Does A Conch Trumpet Sound Like?

Check out this short video where a young buy demonstrates how to cut the conch shell and how to practice getting the trumpet sound.

http://multikidsmusicvids.com/?p=1002

Resources

MexicoLore’s Conch Shell Page
http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/music/conch-trumpet

Florida Keys Newsroom – Info On The Annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest
http://media.fla-keys.com/section_display.cfm?section_id=295

An Earth Day Song – In Spanish

Although Earth Day began in the USA in 1970, the idea of loving and caring for our planet is a universal concept. When I was growing up, I remember hearing a Native American group sing the words: “The Earth Is Our Mother, We Must Take Care of Her”. All over the globe, people express their love for “Mother Earth” through music, songs, culture and in so many other meaningful ways.

In 2004, I adapted a new version of the beautiful African-American spiritual: “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” and added lyrics based on a project done with elementary school students. Since that time, the song has been used in China, Singapore, South America, Scotland and in dozens of other venues across the world. This year, a wonderful bilingual blogger translated the lyrics into Spanish.

Spanish Translation

The Spanish version was written by Cecilia Fencer, head and heart of Spanglish.house.com . She loves diversity and equality.  Translating this spiritual to an Earth Day captured her imagination because she believes God made us responsible to take care of his creation.

(Lyrics to the original “We’ve Got The Whole World In Our Hands” song can be seen below as well as a video of a project using the song in Malaysia.)

Tenemos Todo El Mundo En Nuestras Manos

New version of lyrics in English
c 1994 Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou
c 2104 Spanish translation Cecelia Fencer

Tenemos todo el mundo en nuestras manos.
Tenemos todo el mundo en nuestras manos.
Tenemos todo el mundo en nuestras manos.
Tenemos todo el mundo en nuestras manos.

Debemos reciclar, ahora que podemos.
Reducir, reusar y reciclar
Reducir y reciclar ahora que podemos.
Tenemos al mundo en nuestras manos.

Tenemos plantas y animales en nuestra tierra,
plantas y animales en nuestra tierra.
Tenemos plantas y animales en nuestra tierra.
Tenemos al mundo en nuestras manos.

Tenemos todo el mundo en nuestras manos.
Tenemos todo el mundo en nuestras manos.
Tenemos todo el mundo en nuestras manos.
Tenemos todo el mundo en nuestras manos.

Tomemonos de las manos, como hermanos.
Tomemonos de las manos como hermanos.
Tomemonos de las manos como hermanos,
tenemos al mundo en nuestras manos

Encuentra tus sueños y haz lo que puedas,
ten tus anhelos y lucha por ellos.
Encuentra tus sueños y haz lo que puedas,
tenemos al mundo en nuestras manos.

Tenemos todo el mundo en nuestras manos.
Tenemos todo el mundo en nuestras manos.
Tenemos todo el mundo en nuestras manos.
Tenemos todo el mundo en nuestras manos.

We’ve Got The Whole World In Our Hands

(Sung To The Tune of: He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands)

new lyrics © D.A. Marmaluk-Hajioannou

We’ve got the whole world, in our hands
We’ve got the whole world, in our hands
We’ve got the whole world, in our hands
We’ve got the whole world in our hands

We should recycle now – all that we can
Recycle now – all that we can
Recycle now – all that we can
We’ve got the whole world in our hands

Be kind to the plants and animals – of our land
Be kind to the plants and animals – of our land
Be kind to the plants and animals – of our land
We’ve got the whole world in our hands

Join hands with sisters and brothers – throughout the land
Join hands with sisters and brothers – throughout the land
Join hands with sisters and brothers – throughout the land
We’ve got the whole world in our hands

Clean up pollution – everywhere we can
Clean up pollution – everywhere we can
Clean up pollution – everywhere we can
We’ve got the whole world in our hands

Dream your bright dream – then do all that you can
Dream your bright dream – then do all that you can
Dream your dream – then do all that you can
We’ve got the whole world in our hands

We’ve got the whole world, in our hands
We’ve got the whole world, in our hands
We’ve got the whole world, in our hands
We’ve got the whole world in our hands

Resources

Free During April 2014
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rock Out! E-book of 10 Recycled Musical Activities
http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

History of Earth Day
http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement

DARIA Songs For Earth Day – from TeachersPayTeachers
www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/EARTH-DAY-SONGS-DARIA-SINGS-FOR-EARTH-DAY-545561

DARIA Songs For Earth Day – From Itunes
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/daria-sings-for-earth-day-ep/id428500463

An Easy Introduction To Irish Instruments

may day morris dancingQuick!  Can you name 10 instruments used in traditional Irish music?

How about these?

Bagpipes, Uilleann Pipes, Harp, Banjo, Bodhran, Guitar, Fiddle, Accordian, Penny Whistle or Tin Whistle and Flute

Pictured above in this May Day Morris ensemble are guitar, accordian and fiddle along with a larger Irish drum and a trombone.

With St. Patrick’s Day on the way, it’s a good time to learn about Irish instruments.  Here’s a link to a site we love because it gives a short, sweet and accurate view to the basic instruments heard in Celtic and Irish folk music.

http://www.emmedici.com/journeys/eire/cultura/musica/estrumenti.htm

playing on bodhran at a traditional sessionBodhran – Homemade and Otherwise!

Want to try a homemade, hand-on version of the bodhran; a drum that probably originated from a winnowing sieve for grain?  We’ve got a post below where you can make and play your own version,  complete with the special beater of tipper used it play it.

http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/uncategorized/make-your-own-bodhran-irish-drum/

Prize Green tin whistle - key of DWin A Tin Whistle and Instruction Book

During the month of March 2014, you can also win an Irish tin whistle and learn to play many of these beautiful Irish melodies for yourself.  The easy Rafflecopter contest is located on DARIA’s world music for kids site, here:

http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

Playing River Rocks As An Instrument – Hawaiian `ili`ile

There’s a special kind of hula, called hula ‘ili’ili, that’s done with the dancer tapping smooth river stones together as part of the rhythm and the dance.

Hula is a rich and beautiful tradition from Hawaii that actually originated with the Polynesian people who first settled in this region.  Hula can be done sitting or standing and can be accompanied by chants or song.  And it incorporates many unique and wonderfully simple instruments – such as pu’ili (bamboo sticks cut to sound as rattles) or ‘ili’ili, smooth stones held in the hand in a manner similar to castanets.  You can read more about pu’ili in the posts below.  Here’s more about the river rocks.

‘Ili’ili are two smooth stones, approximately the same size, that are held in a dancer’s hand.  The hand movements tap the stones together for the percussion sound and that becomes part of the overall arm movements incorporated into the dance.  If that sounds too complicted, here’s a short video by Kuma (Kuma is a respectful title meaning teacher or source of knowledge) Rachel that shows how to master the basics of playing ‘ili’ili.

What kind of stones are used as ‘iliili?  Most seem to be the dense smooth stones that come from volcanic rock and have been worn perfectly smooth by water.  They are often dark in color and are the same type of stones (basalt) used in hot stone massage therapy. A set of 4 rocks is required to play ‘ili’ile.

Can you try this at home if you don’t live in the Hawaiian islands?  Absolutely.  Choose four smooth rocks and practice the techniques above to create your own version of this perfectly natural percussion instrument!

Resources And Related Posts

Make Your Own Pu’ili Rhythm Sticks
http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/classroom-music/make-your-own-puili-hawaiian-rhythm-sticks/

Win A Set of Pu’ili, Hawaiian Rhythm Sticks
http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

The Ukulele – Four Strings and Jumping Fleas
http://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/the-ukelele-4-strings-and-jumping-fleas/

Win A Ukulele
http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

Ka `Imi Na`auao O Hawai`i Nei – Website Exploring Traditional Hawaiian Culture
http://www.kaimi.org/

Kuma Rachel’s Hula Information And Tutorials
http://www.hulajustforyou.com/

Hawaiian English Concordance of Hula-Related Terms
http://www.trussel2.com/haw/haw-hula.htm

Playing The Spoons…In Russia!

Russian wooden spoonsWith the Winter Olympics in Sochi beginning soon, it’s a good time to check out some folk music traditions from that region.  We’ve started with the musical spoons.

Anyone who has experienced “down home” American folk music has probably heard a musician play the spoons.  But did you know that spoon-playing as percussion is a part of traditional Russian folk music as well?  And, although the clicking and clacking of the spoons is similar, the Russian technique of playing adds a few really neat twists that put it in a league of it’s own!

Russian Spoons or Lozhki

Known as lozhki (Ло́жки), Russian musical spoons most often are the beautifully carved and decorated wooden spoons famous in that part of the world.  Where American spoon players usually use two silver spoons in one hand, Russian players typically play three or more and use both hands. They can also put extra spoons in pockets or on their clothes and use them as extra percussion surfaces.

If you watch this video of a folk orchestra featuring a spoon player, you’ll see some pretty amazing hand (and foot) work!

How do you pronounce “Lozhki”?  You can hear the correct pronunciation of the Russian word for spoons here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ru-%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B6%D0%BA%D0%B0.ogg

The Paraguayan Harp

paraguayan harp from wikiFew countries consider music so important that they actually designate a national instrument.  Not so in Paraguay, where it’s beautiful and distinctive harp and harp music are considered national treasures and are loved throughout the region and the world.

Although there are many harps found in Europe, South America and across the globe, the Paraguayan harp is distinctively light, weighing only about 8 to 10 pounds. Tuned to a diatonic scale, the Paraguayan harp can have 32, 36, 38, 40, 42 or 46 strings and stands about 4 ½ to 5 feet tall.

But why talk about a Paraguayan harp, when you can listen to one?  Here are four videos our favorite Paraguayan harp songs along with a bit of description and explanation.

400 Harps Play The Song “Pajaro Campana”

A classic of Paraguayan folk music, here you see 400 harps (yes, really 400 harps!) perform this beloved song.  What is a pajaro campana?  Literally a “bell bird”, most people agree that it’s the name for a bird heard around the capital city of Asunción whose call sounds like a bell.

This mega-concert for harps was held at the “Plaza Uruguaya” on July 15, 2012 to mark the 475th anniversary of the capital city of Asunción, Paraguay.

Pajaro Campana  (The Bell Bird) Performed By Mariano y Ernesto

Here’s a second version of the same song.  This time, you can hear two harps playing together in the form of a duet.

Harpist, Celso Duarte Plays The Song “Iguana “

Videotaped at a family concert in Carnegie Hall  Dec 11, 2012, you can hear the distinctive voice of the Paraguayan harp as well as an ensemble of folk musicians playing shekere, quijada, upright bass and even dancing on a wooden box!

Moliendo Café Performed By Nicolas Carter on Paraguyan Harp

Moliendo Café means “grinding coffee” in English. The song was written by composer, Hugo Blanco and has a beautiful and haunting melody.  Performed here as an instrumental by harpist, Nicolas Carter, lyrics to the song are below the video clip.

Moliendo Café By Hugo Blanco

Cuando la tarde languidece

Renacen las sombras

Y en su quietud los cafetales

Parecen decir

Esa triste canción de amor

De la vieja molienda

Que en el letargo de la noche

Se deja sentir.

(bis)

Una pena de amor, una tristeza

Lleva el sambo Manuel en su amargura

Pasa incansable la noche

Moliendo café.

Cuando la tarde languidece

Renacen las sombras

Y en su quietud los cafetales

Parecen decir

Esa triste canción de amor

De la vieja molienda

Que en el letargo de la noche

Se deja sentir.

Una pena de amor, una tristeza

Lleva el sambo Manuel en su amargura

Pasa incansable la noche

Moliendo café.

Cuando la tarde languidece

Renacen las sombras

Y en su quietud los cafetales

Parecen decir

Esa triste canción de amor

De la vieja molienda

Que en el letargo de la noche

Se deja sentir.

Que en el letargo de la noche

Se deja sentir.

———

Main Photo – Photo Credit By Aij (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Learn a Chinese New Year Song!

Chinese New year ImageIn 2014, January 31st marks the first day of the Chinese New Year and we welcome in the year of the horse.

The Chinese New Year is a feast for all the senses! It brings delicious foods, parades, firecrackers, red envelopes and family gatherings.  And, of course, the popular song: Gong Xi Gong Xi.

Lyrics to this song are simple and easy to learn.  Here is a version in pinyin and English as well as two video versions to help you sing or share this song with children at this exciting time of year.

Gong Xi Gong Xi

Měi tiáo dà jiē xiǎo xiàng (Every big street little alley)

Měi gè rén de zuǐ lǐ (In everyone’s mouth)

Jiàn miàn dì yī jù huà (The first sentence (we) say when (we) see each other)

Jiù shì gong xǐ gong xǐ (Must be” “Congratulations! Congratulations!”)

Gōng xǐ, gong xǐ, gong xǐ nǐ ya, (Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations to you!)

Gong xǐ, gong xǐ, gong xǐ nǐ (Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations to you!)

Videos

Ni Hao Kai Lan Gong Xi Gong Xi

 

African Roots of the Banjo

Most people associate the banjo with bluegrass music or with the culture of the rural South of the United States.  But if you dig a bit deeper, it appears that the banjo has African roots.  In fact, most scholars and music historians trace the banjo back to amazing, creative “banjo ancestors” found in various regions of Africa.

If you’d like to learn more about the cross-cultural travels of the banjo, check out the resources below.

           

NPR Reconsiders The Roots of The Banjo

In a short podcast, NPR’s Greg Allen tells to story of Gambian musician, Laemouahuma Daniel Jatta and his banjo-like akonting.  The akonting has three strings, a long neck as a fretboard and a main sounding area made from a gourd stretched with goatskin.  Jatta, who learned the instrument from his father, belong to the Jola people and the similarities of this instrument to modern American banjos are explored in this short audio podcast with great photos and a striking Youtube video.

The Banjo’s Roots Reconsidered

http://www.npr.org/2011/08/23/139880625/the-banjos-roots-reconsidered

Bela Fleck’s Throw Down Your Heart

Acclaimed US banjo player, Bela Fleck was so intrigued with the banjo’s roots that he took a trip to Africa to make his own comparisons.  The result was a documentary called “Throw Down Your Heart” which follows Bela’s journey and offers interviews with African master musicians as well as plenty of jam sessions between instruments.  The short excerpt below gives you a taste of this cross-cultural banjo experience.

African “Banjo” Music and Bluegrass

Want to compare African “banjo” music and bluegrass?  Here’s Banjo Bloggers list of top 10 songs that can illustrate bluegrass banjo music.  Checking out these tunes can show you some striking similarities and differences between the musical styles of both continents.

http://banjoblogger.com/?p=125

 

It’s A Caxixi!

caxixis 4 lying downCaxixi (pronounced ka-shee-shee) rattles are beautifully woven, small, hand percussion instruments that can be found in Africa and South America.  These simple rattles have a flat piece on the bottom originally made from a dried gourd.  Modern caxixis can have plastic or metal bottoms as well.  The rest of the rattle is a woven “basket” that holds small items which create the sound when it is shaken. The basket area is made of pliable fiber and can be one color or beautiful patterns of colors woven together.  Some caxixis have two baskets attached to one handle.

Although this instrument may look quite simple, a caxixi rattle can make a wide variety of sounds.  You can shake the contents against the softer side of the woven rattle for one sound or against the harder bottom part for another tone.  Skilled percussionists can create some really intricate rhythms with caxixis and they are often used by singers in West Africa when performing with a drum group.  In Brazil, the caxixi is often seen creating the percussion sound for a unique stringed instrument called a birembau.

On modern jazz recordings, you can frequently hear the caxixi played by Brazilian percussionist, vocalist and berimbau player, Naná Vasconcelos.

Make Your Own Caxixi

If you are up for some serious crafting, a Brazilian site called Soul Capoeira shows you how to make real caxixis from fiber and gourds at the post below.  If you’d like to try an easier version from recycled materials – a great project for kids – check out the post from Tiny Tapping Toes, below.

During the month of August 2013, you can win a caxixi rattle in an easy Rafflecopter contest here:

http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

Links

Soul Capoeira’s Make Your Own Caxixi Post – From Reeds or Rattan and Gourd Shells

http://soulcapoeira.org/music/how-to-make-a-caxixi/

Make Your Own Caxixi From Recycled Materials

http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/uncategorized/make-your-own-woven-caxixi-rattle/