The Veena – An Instrument Fit For A Goddess!

indian-goddess-veenaAlthough it may look a bit like a sitar, the Indian veena (or vina) is a unique instrument that dates back at least to 1,500 BCE and has its own distinctive place in Hindustani as well as the Carnatic style South Indian music. A person who plays the veena is known as a vainika.

Mentioned throughout ancient texts such as Bhagavata, the veena is often seen being held by Saraswati, the Hindu patron Goddess of learning and the arts. The Goddess is usually depicted seated on a swan and playing the instrument. In addition to Saraswati, Lord Shiva is also depicted as playing or holding a veena in a form known as a Vinadhara,” meaning “bearer of the vina.”

veena

The modern veena (seen above) has quite a few variations as it evolved throughout various regions and playing styles. Generally, a modern veena is a beautifully constructed plucked stringed instrument that is about four feet in length. It has 7 strings, can be fretted or fretless and has a gourd-like resonator, like the sitar. The vainika plays while seated cross-legged and the instrument is tilted slightly away from the player. The veena can be used to play both classical Indian music or contemporary musical songs or themes.

In addition to the modern veena, there is also an ancient veena which is related to the Burmese harp. Arched harps; like the ancient veena, appeared in the artwork of ancient Egypt and India and were also found widely throughout Southeastern Asia and East Africa.

Links and Resources

SRUTI India Music and Dance Society (Philadelphia, PA USA)

http://www.sruti.org/

Dhvani – India Performing Arts Society of Central Ohio (USA)

https://www.dhvaniohio.org/music/music-south-india/

Instruments of India – Kids Mini-Course

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Instruments-of-India-Mini-Course-2682389

Sitar Poster And Coloring Page

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Instruments-From-India-The-Sitar-904627

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What Is Your State Song?

usa-flag-map

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.

state-songs-iconDo you know your state song? Visit this link to find out:

http://pdmusic.org/statesongs.html

Related Posts

National Instruments From Countries Around The World

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/whats-the-national-instrument-of-bhutan-find-it-here/

The Irish Music Daily – All Things Irish From A Musical Point-Of-View

Irish Music Daily iconAlthough 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:

Irish Performers Choose Their Favorite Songs For St. Patrick’s Day
http://www.irishmusicdaily.com/st-patricks-day

Who’s Who and Who’s New in Playing and Interpreting Irish Music Around The World
http://www.irishmusicdaily.com/video-showcase

Top Irish Musicians And Instrumentalists
http://www.irishmusicdaily.com/irelands-top-instrumentalists

Links and Related Resources

IRISH MUSIC DAILY – Home Page
http://www.irishmusicdaily.com/

playing on bodhran at a traditional session

MYO Bodhran and Tipper tutorial: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Irish-Drum-Make-and-Play-Your-Own-Bodhran-and-Tipper-2410657

Whistle a Merry Tune – With A Tin Whistle
http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/early-learning-with-music/whistle-a-merry-tune-with-a-tin-whistle/

Morris Dancing Bells For Kids
http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/early-learning-with-music/easy-morris-dancing-bells-for-children/

Easy Introduction to 10 Irish Instruments
https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/an-easy-introduction-to-irish-instruments/

Irish Videos on Multicultural Kids Music Vids  
http://multikidsmusicvids.com/?cat=512

What’s the National Instrument of Bhutan? Find It Here!

ukulele color imageThe 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.

charango full color imageCan 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:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_instruments_%28music%29

Links and Resources

Vuvuzela – South Africa
MYO Vuvuzela Stadium Horn
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Vuvuzela-Make-Play-Your-Own-South-African-Stadium-Horn-1242716

Balalaika-Ill-ColoredBalalaika – Russia
Balaika Poster and Coloring Page
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Balalaika-Mini-Poster-and-Coloring-Page-917136

Wooden Spoons – Russia
https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/playing-the-spoonsin-russia/

Cajón  – Peru
Hear, Color or Craft One At:
http://www.dariamusic.com/cajon.php

Ukulele – Hawaii
Poster and Coloring Page
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Ukulele-A-Stringed-Instrument-from-Hawaii-Mini-Poster-and-Coloring-Page-1095283

Charango – Peru
Poster and Coloring Page
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Charango-An-Instrument-from-South-America-Mini-Poster-and-Coloring-Page-613417

Sistrum posterSistrum – Egypt
Color or Craft One At:
http://www.dariamusic.com/crafts.php

Didgeridoo – Australia
Hear, Color or Craft One At:
http://www.dariamusic.com/didgeridoo.php

“Weeping”- An Anti-Apartheid Song Written By South African Songwriter, Dan Heymann

sowetoWe’ve just reviewed the new Bala Brothers cd on Warner Brothers records which showcases two of the most widely known anti-apartheid anthems.  Our last post shared the background of the song: “Something Inside So Strong”.  Here’s more about singer-songwriter, Dan Heymann and his powerful song: “Weeping” which appears on that same cd, but has also been covered by a host of artists both in South Africa and around the world.

Although it’s hard to find a great deal of information on the author of this song, we do know that Dan Heymann is a South African citizen who spoke out against apartheid and recorded a 1987 version of his song, “Weeping” with his band, Bright Blue.  That original version played on the radio in South Africa and included a refrain from the “illegal” anthem of the African National Congress.  Checking out Dan’s webpages, you can see he was actively involved with many artists, including Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Vusi Mahlasela, many of whom risked life and limb to express their desires for freedom and equality.  In 1999, readers of the South African Rock Encyclopedia voted “Weeping” the “All-time favorite South African Song”.

You can see two video versions of the song below.  The first is by popular American artist, Josh Groban, performing live on the David Letterman show.  The other is from Dan Heymann’s band, Bright Blue.


2008 – Josh Groban’s Performance of “Weeping” on the David Letterman Show

Bright Blue’s Version of “Weeping”

Lyrics – Weeping
Written by Dan Heymann/Copyright Bright Blue)

I knew a man who lived in fear 
It was huge, it was angry, it was drawing near


Behind his house, a secret place 
Was the shadow of the demon he could never face 


He built a wall of steel and flame and men with guns, to keep it tame 


Then standing back, he made it plain 


That the nightmare would never ever rise again


But the fear and the fire and the guns remain

It doesn’t matter now 


It’s over anyhow 


He tells the world that it’s sleeping 


But as the night came round 
I heard its lonely sound


It wasn’t roaring, it was weeping

And then one day the neighbors came


They were curious to know about the smoke and flame


They stood around outside the wall 


But of course there was nothing to be heard at all 


“My friends,” he said, “We’ve reached our goal 


The threat is under firm control 


As long as peace and order reign 
I’ll be damned if I can see a reason to explain”

What Does The Lyrics Mean?  

Although it’s easy to grasp the concept behind the song, the author explains the symbolism behind the lyrics in his own words:

“I’ve been asked many times about the symbolism in the Weeping lyrics, so maybe I should say something here. The man referred to in the Weeping lyrics is the late P. W. Botha, one of the last white leaders of South Africa before the end of the Apartheid regime; The demon he could never face (in the Weeping lyrics) refers to the aspirations of the oppressed majority, while the Weeping lyrics also refer to the neighbors, literally the journalists from other countries who were monitoring the situation in South Africa.”

Check out Dan’s webpages, resources and other songs which can be found at the links below.  He is an incredible writer with a wealth of talent as well as powerful songs and valuable cultural resources.

Resources

Dan Heymann’s Webpage for “Weeping”
http://www.weeping.info/index.html

Dan Heymann’s “Compressed History of Apartheid”
http://www.weeping.info/anti-apartheid-movement.html

Background of the Song: Something Inside So Strong

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/something-inside-so-strong-a-powerful-anti-apartheid-song-and-much-more/

The Bala Brothers – New CD release on Warner Brothers Records
https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/do-you-know-the-bala-brothers/

Do You Know The Bala Brothers?

bala long shotAlthough the Bala Brothers – Loyiso, Zwai and Phelo – are household words in South Africa, they’re not so familiar to American audiences. Until now.  This month, a new Warner Brothers CD release, a PBS documentary and a DVD will certainly bring this superbly talented trio of brothers into the US spotlight.  A US tour is scheduled for May 2015.

Who are the Brothers Bala? Here are the basics. Born into a poor household in the Kwa-Nobuhle township of apartheid South Africa, the family household was filled with music. Everyone in the family sang and the children’s parents met while participating in church choirs. The boys’ grandfather was a choral composer who saw the talent in the children and even asked Zwai to help with musical arrangements. By age ten, Zwai had his own choir and his stunningly beautiful voice won him a place in the then-segregated Drakensberg Boys Choir.

Although it was extremely difficult to be the first young black man in a high profile, all-white choir, Zwai, persisted and eventually made way not only for his 2 brothers but for a host of other talented singers to follow after him. Eventually, two of the brothers would form a group and then recruit the third. Finally in 2013, this beloved group would wow an audience of 55,000 when they performed a powerful concert tribute to Nelson Mandela in December of that year.

How can audiences in the USA experience the Bala Brothers? Their powerful music and personal saga is chronicled by the PBS special and the DVD (links below), but you can also purchase their latest cd which is a live recording of many of their most popular songs including “Circle of Life” (from Elton John’s score for The Lion King), Paul Simon’s “Under African Skies”, “Masibuyelane” (A love song in the Xhosa language) and the album’s centerpiece – a powerful anti-apartheid anthem entitled, “Something Inside So Strong”.

This short video is a great introduction to the latest release plus the powerful story of this majestic trio. Below, you can also see a full length video of “Something Inside So Strong” sung with the famous (now integrated) Drakensberg Boys Choir.

Links and Resources

Official Bala Brothers Website  http://www.BalaBrothers.com  

Purchase Links – Amazon, Itunes and Spotify

http://www.balabrothers.com/newalbum/

CD:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00S1QQ8TW

DVD/Blu-ray:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00S2T3U1M

Amazing and Unique Drums of New Guinea

Standing Slit Drums

If you’re near the Los Angeles area, you’ll have a rare chance to see some of the world’s most fascinating Pacific Island drums on display as part of an exhibit on the art and culture of Papua, New Guinea. Currently at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California (USA) is an exhibit entitled: Spirits and Headhunters, Art of the Pacific Islands that shares impressive cultural artifacts including many that reflect the music and dance of this region.

So what’s so different about drums from New Guinea?

The first thing you might notice is the Huge New Guinea slit drumimpressive size of the slit drums featured in this exhibit. In fact, the two large slit drums on display (pictured right and below, left) are each the size and shape of a large canoe! Hollowed out partially inside, both slit drums are struck with beaters, put on a type of cart and moved from place to place while being played. The smaller drum (below) was created and decorated with the motif of Colorful New Guinea Slit druma crocodile, who is considered to be an ancestor spirit in the Sepik region. In this area, the drum is played near a river and it is sometimes considered that drum itself is a spirit and that it’s tones reflect the voice of the ancestors or the divine.

In addition to the “horizontal” slit drums, there are also several large standing wood sculptures that resemble 10 – 15 foot totem poles (pictured above left).  Remarkably, these are also slit drums and are played with beaters as well, often used as methods of communication between tribes or groups of people.

New Guinea (Bowers) drumsOf course, there are also the more traditional looking drums like those seen here as well as an example of a finger-drum which which would have had a lizard skin “head” from the Massim culture of the Milne Bay province of Papua, New Guinea.  All in all, this relatively small exhibit is an amazingly deep journey into the musical, spiritual and artistic life of this important world culture.

For complete information on this exhibit, check out the museum website here: http://www.bowers.org/index.php/exhibitions/current-exhibitions/150-spirits-and-headhunters-art-of-the-pacific-islands

New E-Book Explores Musical Instruments With Hispanic Roots

HHM-coverHow did you celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?

Officially Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 – October 15th each year and if you’re wondering about the unusual dates, check out the post below from the official US government site.  But any time of year is good for exploring the wide diversity of cultures that share a Hispanic heritage by starting with the instruments that create their signature sounds and popular music.  From Afro-Cuban bongo drums to Andean panpipes, from guitars that trace their roots back to Spain to new world guiros, making musical crafts is a great, hands-on way of exploring these rich cultural heritages.

We’ve just released this new E-book what explores the background of 10 musical instruments, offers crafts projects and also 5 black and white coloring pages for kids.  Check out the link below from TeachersPayTeachers or get a copy free – until October 31st on DARIA’s world music for kids website.  Make sure you scroll down, as this E-book give-away is the last item on the page, here:

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

Resources And Links

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage – Musical Craft And Coloring E-Book – FromTeachersPayTeachers
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Celebrate-Hispanic-Heritage-Musical-Craft-And-Coloring-E-Book-1427919

Background and History of Hispanic Heritage Month
https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2013/09/08/2013-national-hispanic-heritage-month-is-september-15-october-15th/

The National Anthem of Russia

russian anthemOne major cultural highlight of the closing ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was a large group of children singing Russia’s moving National anthem.  Formally known as “The State Anthem of the Russian Federation”, this powerful patriotic song was adapted from the National Anthem of the Soviet Union, composed by Alexander Alexandrov with original lyrics by Sergey Mikhalkov and Gabriel El-Registan.

The history of national anthems in Russia is a bit complex.  Before 1944, Russia and all other member states of the Soviet Union considered the song “The Internationale” as the national anthem of the USSR.  At that point, the USSR saw a need for a national song that spoke more about the Soviet experience and the National Anthem of the Soviet Union was adopted.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia adopted a new instrumental piece of music as their national anthem.  It was composed by Mikhail Glinka and titled “Patrioticheskaya Pesnya”.  When that melody failed to inspire and no perfect set of lyrics could be found, Vladimir Putin reinstated the old Soviet anthem and sponsored a contest for updated lyrics.  This new anthem, in its current form, became official in 2000 and you can read the lyrics below in Russian, transliterated Russian and an English translation.

The music is powerful and moving and you can hear two choral versions of the song here:

Lyrics In Russian

Россия – священная наша держава,
Россия – любимая наша страна.
Могучая воля, великая слава –
Твоё достоянье на все времена!

  • Chorus:
  • Славься, Отечество наше свободное,
  • Братских народов союз вековой,
  • Предками данная мудрость народная!
  • Славься, страна! Мы гордимся тобой!

От южных морей до полярного края
Раскинулись наши леса и поля.
Одна ты на свете! Одна ты такая –
Хранимая Богом родная земля!

Широкий простор для мечты и для жизни
Грядущие нам открывают года.
Нам силу даёт наша верность Отчизне.
Так было, так есть и так будет всегда!

——————————————

Lyrics –  Russian (Transliterated)

Rossiya – svyashchennaya nasha derzhava,
Rossiya – lyubimaya nasha strana.
Moguchaya volya, velikaya slava –
Tvoio dostoyanye na vse vremena!

Chorus:

Slav’sya, Otechestvo nashe svobodnoye,
Bratskih narodov soyuz vekovoi,
Predkami dannaya mudrost’ narodnaya!
Slav’sya, strana! My gordimsya toboi!

Ot yuzhnyh morei do polyarnogo kraya
Raskinulis’ nashi lesa i polya.
Odna ty na svete! Odna ty takaya –
Khranimaya Bogom rodnaya zemlya!

Shirokii prostor dlya mechty i dlya zhizni.
Gryadushchiye nam otkryvayut goda.
Nam silu daiot nasha vernost’ Otchizne.
Tak bylo, tak yest’ i tak budet vsegda!

—————————-

Lyrics –  English Translation

Russia – our sacred homeland,
Russia – our beloved country.
A mighty will, great glory –
These are your heritage for all time!

Chorus:

Be glorious, our free Motherland,
Age-old union of fraternal peoples,
Ancestor-given wisdom of the people!
Be glorious, our country! We are proud of you!

From the southern seas to the polar lands
Spread are our forests and fields.
You are unique in the world, one of a kind –
This native land protected by God!

Wide spaces for dreams and for living
Are opened for us by the coming years
Our loyalty to the Motherland gives us strength.
Thus it was, thus it is and thus it always will be!

The Ukulele – 4 Strings and Jumping Fleas!

The sound of the tiny but mighty ukulele plays a big role in the folk music and dance of Hawaii.  But, did you know that it was originally modeled after a Portuguese instrument called the machete, brought to the islands in the 1800’s?  From there is evolved into the ukelele we recognize now, with a guitar-shaped body and 4 nylon or gut strings.

An Unusual Name

How did the ukulele (or oo-koo-le-le) get it’s name?  Some people translate the name from the Hawaiian to mean “jumping flea” and say that it describes the “fidgety” movements of the musician’s hands when the instrument is being played.   Others translate it a bit differently.  One of the last Hawaiian queens, Queen Lili’uoklani, said the name stood for “the gift that came here” by combining the Hawaiian words: uku (gift or reward) and lele (to come).

A Family of Instruments

Like many stringed instruments, there are several different types of ukuleles that vary in size and tone.  Most commonly, you can find these four different types: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. The instrument pictured here is a smaller-sized soprano ukulele.

Traditional Ukulele Songs

Here’s a short video that shows two ukulele players talking about how they began playing their instruments and performing a duet of a traditional Hawaiian song called “Noho Paipai” as part of a Hawaiian music festival.

Color A Ukulele

You can find a ukulele coloring page on DARIA’s world music for kids site at:

http://www.dariamusic.com

You can also find a full color uke poster plus coloring page at her TeachersPayTeachers store (.99) here:

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Ukelele-A-Stringed-Instrument-from-Hawaii-Mini-Poster-and-Coloring-Page-1095283