“Gong Xi! Gong Xi!” – The Excitement of Chinese New Year

In 2014, Chinese New Year celebrations begin on January 31st and we welcome in the Year of the Horse.  We’re republished this popular post by writer and teacher, Amanda “Miss Panda” Hsiung-Blodgett, who shares her New Year experiences, memories, photos and songs with us. 

“Gong Xi!  Gong Xi!” – The Excitement of Chinese New Year

The fragrance of Mom’s special stew and the “Ten Vegetarian Delights” fills the kitchen just before Chinese New Year arrives. That’s the first memory that floods into my mind each time someone asks me about the Chinese New Year celebration. In my opinion it’s the best of all Chinese festivals and has been my favorite since I was a little girl.

Growing up with Chinese New Year
Links of sausage, strips of bacon, and cured fish hung to dry on bamboo rods (back then the equivalent of clothes lines in the West) in almost every yard. We would run around with friends from one yard to another to check out how soon these goodies would be ready to eat. The smell of all the cured meat was another one of the indicators to me that Chinese New Year was just around the corner. Vendors with all kinds of Chinese New Year decorations, such as large gold-nugget-shaped candy containers, cut-paper artwork, and spring scrolls with lucky words are everywhere in the open market and in the stores. For a small fee professional calligraphers will even write your spring scrolls for you with their big Chinese calligraphy brushes. Big and small rolls of firecrackers are being sold and traditional Chinese New Year music fills the air of the open market as you walk through the crowd.

The Fifteen Days of the Chinese New Year Celebration:

Preparations kick off – The preparations for Chinese New Year start on the 23rd day of the last month on the Chinese lunar calendar. On this day, the tradition is to send the “kitchen god” (the protector of the family and the most important of Chinese domestic gods in Chinese mythology) back to the sky to report to the Jade Emperor (the supreme ruler of all heaven and earth) about how the family has been doing the whole year. The portrait of the kitchen god is posted on the wall in the kitchen. Families might spread melted sweets on the mouth of the kitchen god’s picture so that he would go and say only sweet and good things about the family.

Out with the Old and In with the New – The next few days see a major cleaning of the house. All clutter should be removed, the house dusted from ceiling to floor and the bedding in each room thoroughly washed. “Chu jiu bu xin” (remove the old and decorate the new) is the concept behind this major clean up. We are also welcoming the new year by posting lucky, red paper spring scrolls on the front door. Phrases or words like “xin nian kaui le” (Happy New Year); “gong xi fa cai” (congratulations and prosperity) and “ fu” (good fortune) and “chun” (spring) can be been seen on doors everywhere.

The Chinese New Year’s Eve Family Feast – Chinese New Year’s eve dinner marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year celebration. This is a family reunion feast bringing together grandparents, or even great grandparents, down to newborn babies. It is a celebration of the togetherness of the family. It is very important to have the Chinese New Year’s eve dinner with the family. People make every effort to be back in their hometown as soon as the festival holidays begin. For those who cannot make it for the dinner because of work or being overseas, parents will prepare a seat and set up everything for him or her to represent the reunion of every member of the family.

My mother always prepares ten dishes for the New Year Eve’s dinner and every dish is a special treat. Fish is a must-have dish. The word for fish in Mandarin Chinese is “yu” and it has the same sound as the Chinese word for “remaining” or “surplus.“ We never finish the fish dish because we want to save one big piece of the fish to symbolize a surplus of wealth and all things good in the new year. The Chinese New Year saying that goes with this practice is “nian nian you yu” – “every year (we) have leftover/surplus (wealth).”

Red Envelopes – Hong bao – 紅包
After the family meal, it is time to say lucky words to grandparents and parents and it is time for the Red Envelope. In my family we use the traditional Chinese style, we kneel down in front of Mom and Dad, and bow to say auspicious phrases like:
Xīn nián kuài lè     新年快樂        Happy New Year
Shēn tǐ jiàn kāng    身體健康         Good health
Wàn shì rú yì         萬事如意         May everything go as you wish
Gong xǐ fā cái         恭喜發財         Congratulations and prosperity
Then Mom and Dad give each of us a red envelope with cash in it. Instead of spending the cash right away the tradition is to put the red envelope under your pillow and so that it will keep you young and healthy. When the children are grown up and independent then it becomes their turn to give red envelopes to their parents. I remember how proud I was when I gave my parents red envelopes when I first started working.

Taboos
For the first few days of the new year, some families do not use knives or scissors in order to lessen the risk for cuts and accidents, which would signify bad luck for the year. Some families do not sweep the floor to avoid symbolically sweeping away their wealth. If something is broken like a glass or a bowl you will hear people immediately say “sui sui ping an”, which means every year is safe and peaceful.  Why?  It is a play on words, as the Chinese word for “broken” has the same sound of the word “year”. The rule of the thumb during this time is to say good and sweet things in order to bring on a good and sweet year.

Firecracker Fun
On the New Year’s Eve families stay up late to enjoy family time and catch up with the visiting brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The most exciting time of the evening for me was when we set off firecrackers. There are all kinds of firecrackers, some spin, some fly, some hop, some shoot high and some have beautiful showers of sparks with a huge explosion at the end. We play hard and stay up past midnight. The tradition of staying up late on New Year’s Eve is good luck and is said to give parents long life!  At midnight we set off the long strings of firecrackers to welcome in the new year!

The 15th day of the Chinese New Year – Lantern Festival
Lantern festival marks the completion and the end of the Chinese New Year celebration.  On this day, children carry lanterns around in the park or in the neighborhood. When I was a little girl my brother and other neighborhood boys would help me make a lantern out of a tin milk can. We used nail and hammer to poke holes on the bottom of the tin can and then placed a candle inside. An iron wire will be attached to the top to make a handle and then a wooden stick will be attached to the wire to carry the lantern. The older boys would use bamboo sticks to make torches. As soon as it got dark, you would see the torches and lanterns everywhere. Now, we don’t see torches or tin lanterns anymore. Instead, you see beautifully designed paper lanterns with battery-operated lights for children. It is always a fascinating scene when you walk in the park and see hundreds of children carrying their flashing lanterns around.

Music
Music is an important part of the Chinese New Year just like Christmas carols are an important part of that celebration in the West. We hear traditional New Year’s tunes on the radio, on TV, on the street, in the stores and in the markets. The one you will hear over and over again is the “Gong Xi, Gong Xi” song. It is a fun and easy one. Below is a short version of it for you in pinyin along with the English translation. You can listen to it here. I hope you enjoy it.

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!)

Celebrating away from “home”
Now I am far and away from Taiwan where I grew up. What I always do when the Chinese New Year is approaching is call my Mom and ask her what she is doing She tells me she is preparing the “Ten Vegetarian Delights” and that she has started the stew. I tell her that I can smell it already. She chuckles and replies “How is that possible?” Then my Dad takes over and tells me it indeed smells incredible and that he will mail the dish to me by international express carrier to ensure its freshness. We all end up laughing about the idea and sharing the great memories we have for the festival. This is what I love the most about the Chinese New Year – the celebration of the family!

Happy Chinese New Year!  Have a fantastic year of the snake!

About The Author – Amanda “Miss Panda” Hsiung-Blodgett (whose Chinese last name literally means “bear”) is the mother of two young bilingual children and the author of the “Let’s Learn Mandarin Chinese with Miss Panda!” audio CD, a Chinese learning series for young children. She homeschools her children in Mandarin Chinese and is a native Mandarin Chinese speaker who is passionate about teaching and learning – and having fun while doing both!  For more information about “Miss Panda” visit her at on the web at misspandachinese.com, and on Facebook and Twitter.

The “I Have A Dream” Song Shares MLK’s Message With Kids

MLK is one of my heroes.

Not only did he do the right thing.  But he did the right thing, under the toughest of circumstances and in the right way.  He overcame hatred with the transforming power of love.  He stared down ignorance with  understanding.   And he fought not only for a portion of the population, but for well-being of the entire world, demonstrating his concept of the beloved community.  To me, that’s incredibly inspirational.

But how do you share these huge ideas and big concepts with little ears and young listeners?  As a musician, I felt moved to write a song and try to put some of these concepts into the lyrics.   I hoped the song would be a singable way to talk about MLK’s dream as well as a good place to start conversations about these big ideas and what they might mean to our classrooms, families and communities as we move into a new era.

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the landmark “I Have A Dream Speech”,  we’ve offered the song as a free download as well as coloring pages that share powerful quotes from many of MLK’s inspirational speeches.

We hope that people use and enjoy these resources as they not only look back at this historic event – but dare to look forward and continue to dream!

The direct link to the download is:  http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php.

You can also find DARIA’s free MLK coloring pages at TeachersPayTeachers site here:

Coloring Page With One Quote For Younger Children

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/MLK-Rainbow-Coloring-Page-for-Younger-Children-475121

Coloring Page With Many Quotes For Older Children

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/MLK-Rainbow-And-Popular-Quotes-Coloring-Page-for-Older-Children-475123

For more information, visit my site or contact me at daria at makemusicwithme dot com.  I’d love to hear from you!

I  HAVE A DREAM

Words and music by  Daria A. Marmaluk-Hajioannou

There’s a man I think you’ve heard of

His name is Martin Luther King

He wanted a world of peace and love

He said “I have a dream”

Chorus:  I have a dream, I have a dream

I’ve been to the mountaintop and I’ve seen…And, I have a dream

 

He said: “I know that this is possible

I know that this can be

If each one can learn to live with love

Then we can all be free”

 

If you share this vision

You know it’s not a difficult thing

We can build a world of peace and love

And we can all be queens and “kings”

 

 

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/

Vuvuzelas – The Horn That Is Loved (And Hated) All Over The World!

Although this horn originated in South Africa, it seems to have found it’s way all over the planet – especially where soccer fans want to cheer on their team.   One South African fan claims he fabricated the original vuvuzela from a metal bicycle horn, but since that time you can see many different versions made from a variety of materials, including some pretty creative homemade horns such as some of the ones seen here.

We’re grateful to the Media Club South Africa for sharing these many images of how different cultures have adopted, altered or welcomed this unique instrument into their world.

Above: A vuvuzela playing a duet with a Slovakian wind instrument called the fujara.

Above left:  A homemade vuvuzela decorated in team colors played by a child in São José dos 
Campos, Brazil.

Above right: A dad and daughter in Seoul, South Korea watch their team at the 2010 Fifa World Cup match.

Below left: Even Spiderman loves the vuvuzela! Photo from Berlin, Germany, 2010 Fifa World Cup 
quarterfinals.

Below right:  A soccer fan from Uruguay plays his homemade version of a vuvuzela as his team beats Ghana in the 2010 Fifa World Cup 
match.

——————–

During June 2013, you can win a vuvuzela on DARIA’s monthly song page here:

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

You can also find easy directions to make your own from recycled materials here:

http://www.dariamusic.com/docs/Vuvuzela.pdf

What is a Vuvuzela?

The vuvuzela has been called the most annoying or irritating instrument in the world.  Originating in South Africa, this loud collapsible horn became popular at soccer matches – especially the World Cup 2010 – and has since spread to countries all over the globe

Although it’s roots are not certain, many historians believe it was inspired by the horn of a kudu (antelope) and early versions were used to call villagers to community gatherings.  The word “vuvuzela” is a bit of a mystery.  Some people trace it to a Zulu phrase meaning “to make a vuvu sound”.  However one South African soccer fan named Freddie “Saddam” Maake feels he invented this unique creation by fabricating one from an aluminum bicycle horn and he identifies the word vuvuzela as coming from Zulu words meaning “welcome”, “unite” and “celebration.” Another group, the Nazareth Baptist Church in South Africa, has evidence that the vuvuzela was used as part of their worship before it became universally popular in the soccer stadiums.

So why do people love or hate this horn?  Well, first of all, it’s loud.  In fact, some sporting events and other venues and locations  have banned the horns.  Experts agree that being too close to one played at full volume for an extended period of time can cause noise-induced hearing loss.  Secondly, they only make one note and can drone on, although some serious players claim they can get a variation in sound by playing the vuvuzela like a didgeridoo.

Can you make your own version of a vuvuzela that won’t be as loud as it’s soccer match cousins?  Yes!  Check out the pdf below to find a craft activity that uses recycled materials to make your own homemade version. http://www.dariamusic.com/docs/Vuvuzela.pdf

Want to hear one?  Check out Vuvuzela Radio at the link below where you can hear a vuvuzela proudly proclaiming it’s one note,  24/7!

http://www.vuvuzela.fm/

Photo Credits:  Image of a boy playing vuvuzela and a South African Stadium worker playing a vuvuzela in the World Cup stadium in South Africa (above) are courtesy of MediaClubSouthAfrica.com.  This outstanding website shares a wealth of information about all aspects of South African life, arts, history, travel and tourism and can be found at:

http://www.mediaclubsouthafrica.com

Chapchas – A Rattle Made From The Toenails of Goats!

Chapchas are a truly unique rattle that originated in the Andes of South America.  Made from the discarded hooves of goats or sheep strung onto a bracelet, this instrument is heard in much of the folk music of Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador and other countries of this region.

How are chapchas made?  After the hooves are clipped and boiled to sterilize them, a needle is inserted into the upper part of the nails making a small hole.  The hooves are then strung or sewn onto a colorful piece of fabric and each one of the dried hooves rattles against the others creating the sound of the instrument.

Why do Andean people use these unusual items as part of their musical instruments?  The answer is simple.  If you visit some of the remote villages in the high Andes, you’ll see that there are a minimum number of plants, no trees and few other materials that can be used to create instruments.  Essentially everything is used, recycled or reused as part of lifestyle in the high mountains.  And that includes the toenails of goats!

Although all cultures in the world make music, learning about unique instruments like the chapchas can be a great way to explore world cultures through music.  You can hear chapchas as part of DARIA’s latest album of songs from the Andes and you can also color an image of this unique rattle at the link below.

Resources And Links

Free Chapchas Coloring Page from Teachers Pay Teachers:

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Color-The-Chapchas-An-Instrument-from-The-Andes-650050

Cancioncitas De Los Andes / Little Songs Of The Andes On Itunes

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/cancioncitas-los-andes-little/id602798167

Cancioncitas De Los Andes / Little Songs Of The Andes on Amazon mp3

http://amzn.com/B00BG9ABEE

You can buy fair trade chapchas from Bolivia in DARIA’s Little Village Store:

http://dariasvillagestore.storenvy.com/products/178859-goat-toe-nail-rattle-chapchas

New CD and E-Book Share Music From The Andes In An Interactive Format For Kids

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 charango coloring page(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

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/cancioncitas-los-andes-little/id602798167

Cancioncitas De Los Andes / Little Songs Of The Andes on Amazon mp3

http://amzn.com/B00BG9ABEE

A CHILD’S LIFE IN THE ANDES (E-book and CD) From TPT 

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/A-Childs-Life-In-The-Andes-E-Book-Plus-Music-CD

A CHILD’S LIFE IN THE ANDES (E-book and CD) from Daria’s Little Village Store:

http://dariasvillagestore.storenvy.com/products/1298006-cancioncitas-de-los-andes-cd-and-e-book-combo

DARIA’s World Music For Children’s Craft and Activity Page:

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

Make Your Own Rainstick

cactus rainstick 1AHave you ever heard a rainstick?  It’s a long, mainly hollow tube that makes a quiet sound when tilted from side to side, very much like running water or gentle rain.

What Makes The Rainstick Sound?

pieces of dried chola cacturOriginally rainsticks were made of natural materials such as the dried lengths of the chola cactus. These long “arms” of dried cacti have small spikes inside so when they are filled with pebbles, seeds or small objects, the contents can’t easily swish back and forth.  Instead, the seeds, pebbles or beads gently fall between the spikes creating the unique sound associated with the rainstick.  You often see these instruments in South America in countries such as Chile or in the American Southwest, where these cacti are plentiful.

two homemade rainsticksMake A Mailing Tube Rainstick

Since most people don’t have dried cacti in their recycling bin, here’s a way you can reuse an old mailing tube or poster container and still make a great-sounding instrument.  If you can’t find one of these at home, ask around.  Chances are good your recycling needs can be met by a neighbor or family friend and you can save one more object from getting into the waste stream!

Creating The Rainstick Effect

To turn a mailing tube into a rainstick, you need to find a way to create an obstruction – something that will block the materials inside from falling at one time.  In bamboo or gourd rainsticks, a series of wooden spikes are used.  Instead of that approach, we’ll create a wire “maze” using a combination of floral wire/jewelry wire (or any lightweight wire) and pipecleaners.

Twisted wire ready to be placed inside the mailing tube

Cut a length of wire about two to three times the length of the tube. If you cover the ends with a bit of tape, it’s easy for a child to help scrunch the wire up giving it many twists and turns in a way that will still fit inside the diameter of the tube.  Then, twist in some pipecleaners cut in half, throughout the length of your tangled wire.  All these things will help catch the contents as they go from side to side to create the pleasing “falling water” effect.

Tune Your Rainstick

The sound of your rainstick will vary greatly depending on what you decide to put into it as well as how much of that item you choose to add.  For a quieter rainstick, use smaller objects such as seed beads, birdseed or tiny pasta such as pastina or acini de pepe.  Slightly louder are objects like rice, dried lentils, small buttons or paper clips.   Even louder are larger dried beans, pebbles, marbles or any large macaroni.

maraca-contentsHere’s a good way of “tuning” your rainstick. Have several bowls of contents nearby.  Close one end of your rainstick and add the contents.  Seal the other end and try the sound.  Dump it back into your bowl and try another.  What sound is most pleasing to you?  Or mix and match contents.  It’s a fun way of experimenting with sound to discover what sounds best to your ear.

Once you’ve decided on the perfect sound for your rainstick, there are lots of creative ways to decorate the outside of the instrument.  You can color with crayons or permanent markers, create stripes from colorful tape, or even decoupage photos or magazine pictures onto the tube. You can paint a coat of glue on the rainstick and slowly wind different colors of yard around it.  You can also cut squares or small pieces of fabric, cover them with a layer of glue and create a quilt or collage effect for a beautiful handmade rainstick.  Feel free to get creative and make something that is truly unique!

Play Your Rainstick

Rainsticks are most often played by simply turning them upside down.  However, you can also hold them horizontally and shake the contents back and forth like a rattle or shake the stick as the contents fall producing some nice variations in ways to play this simple but versatile instrument!

An Instrument from An Armadillo? The Charango!

charango full color image If you were to travel to the Andes mountains of South America you might hear a small stringed instrument called a charango.  At first glance, it looks a bit like a mandolin, but instead of four sets of double strings like the mandolin, the charango has five sets of double strings for a total of ten strings.  And there’s something else that’s different about it.  If you turn over one of the older style charangos, you’ll see that it is made from the shell of a hairy armadillo!

harry-the-armadilloIf that seems like an odd choice for an instrument, it helps to know the background of how this strange and beautiful instrument came to be.  Historians believe that the majority of instruments in the Andes before the Spanish arrived were wind and percussion instruments.  There were an amazing variety of flutes – some several feet long.  There were different sizes and shapes of panpipes as well as rattles and drums that varied from location to location.  When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in the 1500’s, they brought guitars, mandolins and the harp.  Many of the records dating back to that time period share how local musicians adopted and integrated these stringed instruments into their culture with great enthusiasm.   Since wood was scarce; especially at altitudes that soared above the tree line, the hard shell of an armadillo became the sounding “bowl” for their new world version of the old world mandolin.

Screen shot 2013-03-12 at 3.24.17 PMYou can hear the unique sound of the charango on many of the songs on DARIA’s new album – Cancioncitas De Los Andes/Little Songs Of The Andes.  You can also color your own version of a charango as well as other instruments from around the world on the craft and activity page of DARIA’s website as listed below.

Cancioncitas De Los Andes / Little Songs Of The Andes – On Itunes

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/cancioncitas-los-andes-little/id602798167

Cancioncitas De Los Andes / Little Songs Of The Andes on Amazon mp3

http://amzn.com/B00BG9ABEE

DARIA’s World Music For Kids – Craft and Activity Page

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

During the month of March 2013, you can download a free mp3 of the song, El Condor Pasa, at the link below:

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