If you live in the USA, you probably know that your state has a state bird, a state flag and a state flower. But did you know it has a state song as well?
You could probably guess that “Carry Me Back To Old Virginia” written in 1878 by James Allen Bland was the state song of Virginia. But would you expect Yankee Doodle to be the state song of Connecticut? Or Swanee (Way Down Upon The Swanee River) by Stephen Foster to be the Florida state anthem?
Then there are some states, like Tennessee, that are so musically inclined they have multiple tunes as official and unofficial anthems. Tennessee has the Tennessee Waltz, Rocky Top, plus 4 other noteworthy songs associated with their state.
Do you know your state song? Visit this link to find out:
There’s a new band from Iceland that’s recently been getting a lot of well-deserved attention. Mixing their own original rock-oriented music with traditional Icelandic songs, this group of 4 friends from the town of Mosfellsbaer; near Reykjavik, is taking the world by storm. And shaking the foundations of the Earth. By performing inside a volcano. Yes, you read that right. Their last video took about 26 hours to shoot and was filmed inside the Prihnukagigur volcano, which thankfully has not erupted in the last 4,000 years.
You can see the video shot of the song “Way Down We Go” here.
And if that song sounds familar, there’s a good reason. Its been used widely in television programs such as HBO’s The Leftovers, NBC’s Game of Silence, Fox’s Empire as well as for FIFA 2016. But the song that’s most caught our ear is their haunting cover of an Icelandic ballad titled ‘Vor í vaglaskógi’. Says band leader, Julius: “It’s a love story between a couple. What’s beautiful about it is really how it describes a moment. This spring night that they’re having in this forest. And how they describe the nature and everything that’s going around on this beautiful spring or summer night. I think that really lead people to start listening to our other songs and discovering the band itself.”
You can hear Kaleos studio version of that song along with a video montage of Icelandic images, here:
Is Kaleo a multicultural phenomenon? Although from Icelandic roots, they chose a name that means “the sound” in Hawaiian and have relocated to Austin, Texas in the United States to prepare for recording more music and touring. Members of the group include bandleader, Julius Son, David Antonsson (drums), Daniel Kristjansson (bass) and Rubin Pollock (guitar). For more information on the band plus schedules for upcoming shows, check out the official Kaleo website at http://www.officialkaleo.com/.
Although St. Patrick’s Day is a time when the world’s attention is drawn to all things Irish, there’s a resource-rich online site called The Irish Music Daily that’s dedicated to sharing and promoting Irish music year-round. The Irish Daily shares lyrics and chords for popular Irish songs as well as news and articles about Irish musical figures both older and upcoming. Recent posts cover popular musical sensations such as U2, Enya, Celtic Thunder and beloved Irish flutist, James Galway. Aside from block-buster talent, there’s also a great section called “Showcase” that spotlights amazing new talents and interpreters of Irish music from countries all over the world.
Even if you’re already a fan or devotee of Irish music, this site provides you with so much information, you’ll want to bookmark it and return often. Here are some of our favorite links from that site:
A while ago we did a post about conch shell trumpets that date back to ancient Aztec times. While researching Asian-Pacific Instruments, we found similar shell trumpets in Tibet, Korea, the Pacific Islands and Japan. Here’s more about the Japanese version of this unique instrument.
Although shell trumpets can be found in various locations around the world, the Japanese versions – Horagai (法螺貝) or jinkai (陣貝) are a bit unusual. They consist, not only of the large conch shell but also of a wooden or bronze mouthpiece that allows the instrument to make a series of sounds, as opposed to only one loud blast or note. Most closely connected with Buddhist monks such as the Yamabushi Warrior monks in Japan, each group or school would learn to play the instrument in different ways and to produce different melodies.
Historical records show that horagai was used in various Buddhist rituals that date back at least a thousand years or so. These shell trumpets can also be seen in present day Japan in religious ceremonies such as the omizutori (water drawing), which is part of the of the Shuni-e rites at the Tōdai-ji in Nara. When used by the Yamabushi (Ascetic warrior monks of the Shugendo sect) the instrument would both accompany the chanting of sutras or prayers as well as to signal their presence or movements throughout the mountain region where they lived. Because the temperatures in these high mountains could easily drop below zero, it is said that the wooden or bronze mouthpiece was added so that the trumpeter’s lips would not freeze to the shell in the extreme cold.
When used in Samurai times, the jinkai, or “war shell”, would play different combinations of notes to signal troops to attack, withdraw or change battle plans. It was sometimes used to confuse the enemy who might misread the number of troops attacking or what the various battle signals might be. As you might guess, an experienced trumpeter; called a kai yaku (貝役), woudl have to be an adept musician and would be valued greatly by the Japanese fuedal lords or Samurai for their talents.
To learn more about different shell trumpet traditions or to hear a beginner horagai player learning the instrument, check out the links and resources below.
The internet has some really handy compilation sites. We’ve recently discovered a Wikipedia page that shares the national instruments from a variety of diverse countries of the world.
What’s a national instrument? It can be an instrument discovered or played in a country, like the South African vuvuzela horn. It can also be a musical instrument that holds cultural and symbolic importance for a state, a nation, culture or a particular race or ethnicity of people. Included in this list are distinctive drums, percussion instruments, stringed instruments and more, each one representing the unique character of the country and culture it’s identified with.
Think of the balalaika of Russia Or the ukulele of Hawaii. And if you take a moment to check out this list, you’ll notice that each instrument has a clickable link to a more detailed page with additional description, pictures and musical information. In short, this is an amazing place to begin any study or exploration of world music and world music instruments.
Can a country have more then one “national instrument”? Yes, you’ll notice that several countries have multiple instruments listed as their national instruments. For instance, Peru has both the Afro-Peruvian cajón (box drum) and the Andean charango, a stringed instrument made from the shell of an armadillo.
So what is the national instrument of Bhutan? It’s a long-necked, seven-stringed lute called the drayen. To find out more, you’ll just have to check out the link, here:
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.
Pictured 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.
As long as there have been wars, there have been sad songs about war – and losing children or loved ones to the devastation of war. However, with the recent protests in Maiden, Ukraine, this old song has taken on a new life, mourning the loss of those killed while unarmed at the recent protests.
“Plyve Kacha” or “Plyve Kacha Po Tysyni” translates literally to “the duckling swims”, but the lyrics are a dialogue between a mother and a son going off to war, according to the BBC’s Irena Taranyuk. She translates two of the most moving lines of the song this way:
“My dear mother, what will happen to me if I die in a foreign land?”
“Well, my dearest, you will be buried by other people.”
Dozens of people were killed by snipers in Maidan on February 18th and 20th, 2014 and were buried and mourned in a mass funeral on February 21st, with this song being used to memorialize their lives.
You can see images of those lost in that conflict in this video along with a version of this poignant song. Lyrics to the song appear below (in Ukrainian).
“Plyve Kacha” (Lyrics in Ukranian)
Plyve kacha po Tysyni, Oy, plyve kacha po Tysyni. Mamko moya, ne lay meni, Mamko moya, ne lay meni.
Zalayesh my v zlu hodynu, Oy, zalayesh my v zlu hodynu. Sam ne znayu, de pohynu, Sam ne znayu, de pohynu.
Pohynu ya v chuzim krayu, Pohynu ya v chuzim krayu. Chto z my bude braty yamu? Chto z my bude braty yamu?
Vyberut mi chuzi lyude, Oy vyberut mi chuzi lyude, Cy ne zal ty, mamko, bude? Oy, cy ne zal ty, mamko, bude?
Oy yak z meni, synku, ne zal? Yak ze meni, synku, ne zal? Ty na moyim sercyu lezav, Ty na moyim sercyu lezav.
Plyve kacha po Tysyni, Oy, plyve kacha po Tysyni. Mamko moya, ne lay meni, Mamko moya, ne lay meni.
Few 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.
This article was written by Chelsea from Veritable Treasure, who is running a series of posts to introduce the country of Papua New Guinea to children in an effort to raise funds for a teacher training in Papua New Guinea she has organized for September 2013. We will be randomly selecting two fundraiser participants to receive a copy of Beautiful Rainbow World a beautiful CD which you can find details about at the end of the post! Be sure to donate before the deadline of 18 June!
Papua New Guinea is a rich country with beautiful wildlife, natural resources, food, and culture. In this post I will share a few highlights about music in this vast country.
Traditional celebrations called a “sing-sing” include singing, dancing plus food and gift-giving. Flutes, drums, and other percussion instruments are most often used. Many times a “leader” establishes a song and then the song has many rounds where other singers add in harmonies and layers, as in a round.
In recent years there have been quite a few Cultural Festivals established in regions around the country, such as the one featured below, where numerous tribal dance, costumes, music, and artifacts are on display.
As for current popular music, you will hear a lot of reggae influence and songs using the “offbeats.” In this music video “Kiri-O” you will see a lot of typical Port Moresby (the largest city in PNG) scenes:
• Red mouths from chewing Betle Nut. Betel nut has a mild stimulant effect and is chewed to relieve stress and reduce hunger. It can be found on most street corners.
• People wearing bilums (woven bags) around their necks. Worn by men and women alike, bilums come in many shapes, styles, and sizes and can be worn around the neck, on the shoulder, across the neck over the shoulder, or on the forehead so the bilum falls on the back.
• Cars going around roundabouts on the street. There are only a few red lights in the whole city of Port Moresby due to common breaks in electricity.
• Laundry hanging up to dry. Most laundry is washed by hand and dried in the sun.
• Walking on the streets. Most people use walking to get around; very few have cars.
• Children wearing the PNG flag. The PNG flag is a great source of pride and can be seen on many clothes and personal items (umbrellas, bags, etc) that locals use.
• You will also notice the lyrics are a mix of English and Tok Pisin (Pidgin) which is quite common.
To check out the other posts which will give you some more background about the Papua New Guinea (including pictures of children!), go to this page to find the series.
Music is a great way to discover and learn about world cultures. Just released is a new cd and E-book designed to not only share the music from the Andes, but to provide an interactive way for kids to learn about the culture that created it. Officially released on April 2nd, the cd is titled: Cancioncitas De Los Andes/Little Songs of the Andes and the E-Book is called: A Child’s Life In the Andes. Both have been created by multicultural children’s artist, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) who has won a variety of awards for her unique approach to sharing world music in various formats with young audiences.
What does music from the Andes sound like? Most people recognize the sound of zampoñas (panpipes) and traditional Andean flutes called quenas. The cd also features authentic instruments such as the bombo drum, rainsticks, chapcha rattles (made from the toenails of goats) and a delicate little instrument originally made from the shell of an armadillo called a charango. Included on the Cancioncitas cd is also the most widely recognized song from the Andes: “El Condor Pasa”.
Aside from exploring the music and musical instruments of the Andes, A Child’s Life In the Andes also covers the geography of the area, daily life, animals, foods and languages spoken in this region. Most children are surprised to learn that guinea pigs are often kept for food in some areas and that the condor – the inspiration for “El Condor Pasa” – can have a wingspan of up to 10 feet! Aside from rich photographs, detailed content, fun facts and coloring pages the book also shares activities perfect for classroom or homeschool play and learning. There are directions for Make-Your-Own panpipes and rainsticks as a well as one other “Corrido De Cuy” activity.
Although most people might expect the songs to be in Spanish, the majority of tracks on the cd are in the native language of Quechua that dates back to the Incan empire. Says DARIA:” I was honored to spend several of my teenage years in rural Peru and fell in love with the Quechua language and culture”. Although Spanish is widely spoken as the dominant language throughout the Andes, great efforts have been made recently preserve and protect this valuable and beautiful indigenous language and resources like this are key to raising awareness. Appearing with DARIA on this cd are three other musicians from South America who actively work to preserve, promote and perform Andean music.
Available as a cd from Itunes and Amazon mp3, the book and cd package can be purchased from the Teachers Pay Teachers site as well as from DARIA’s Little Village store. In addition to the complete book that is available for purchase, many of the activities and coloring pages are available as free resources on DARIA’s Parent’s Choice Award-winning website as listed below.
Cancioncitas De Los Andes / Little Songs Of The Andes – On Itunes