Conch Trumpets, Flutes and Turquoise Beads, Treasured Items of An Ancient Culture

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-54-44-amDid you know that there was a civilization as advanced as the Mayas discovered in the desert of the Southwestern United States?

A recent article published in Nature Communications, reveals a great deal about this advanced culture that flourished in the area now identified as New Mexico. Matrilineal in nature, one of the most complete digs of this Chacoan culture is a burial chamber – called Room 33 – that consists of elite women rulers and their most treasured items. Not surprisingly, among these items are special pottery, ritual objects, turquoise beads and musical instruments. Although the site is probably hundreds of miles from an ocean, screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-58-10-amRoom 33 includes a conch shell trumpet with a turquoise mouthpiece as well as several different flutes. Clearly music was an integral part of the most valued aspects of this society.

Want to learn more? Below are links to the complete article about the dig in Nature Communications as well as a blog post identifying all the objects in Room 33. Interestingly enough, conch shell trumpets are found throughout the world in a variety of diverse locations.  Below we’ve included links on posts we’ve done so far about conch shell trumpets in Japan, Mexico, Hawaii and Polynesian Cultures.

Links and Resources

Complete Article on the Archeological Dig in Nature Communications http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14115

What’s in Room 33? https://gamblershouse.wordpress.com/2009/09/19/room-33/

Conch Shell Trumpets From Samurai Times In Japan https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/horagai-a-conch-shell-trumpet-from-samurai-times/

The Conch Shell Trumpet in Ancient Mexico https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/instruments-from-ancient-mexico-the-conch-shell-trumpet/

The Conch Shell Trumpet As Part of Hawaiian and Polynesian Culture https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/the-ultimate-make-your-own-hawaiian-instruments-book/

Advertisements

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

Rocking Icelandic Music – From Inside A Volcano

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/.

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

Horagai – A Conch Shell Trumpet From Samurai Times

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.

Links and Resources

Instruments From Ancient Mexico – The Conch Shell Trumpet
https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/instruments-from-ancient-mexico-the-conch-shell-trumpet/

Wikipedia’s Horagai Page
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horagai

Learning to play the Yamabushi Conch-Shell Trumpet (Horagai)
http://multikidsmusicvids.com/?p=1466

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

You Can Help Preserve and Share Indonesian Children’s Music

Screen shot 2015-04-14 at 6.26.25 PMAlthough we don’t generally cover news about crowd-sourced projects, this one is so different and so special, we wanted to share it here and encourage you to participate.

The project is an Indonesian children’s music CD and book set, a compilation of  best-known songs along with a book filled with beautiful notes and illustrations.  The songs are easy to sing and have gorgeous, memorable melodies.  Feel free to go to this direct link for project and funding details or watch the video below.  In addition, we’ll have the story behind this project in our next post, so please stay tuned and consider donating $10.00 for all the songs on the cd, $20.00 for the songs plus the physical book or even more to help this wonderful folklore project become a reality.

Indiegogo Page for Indonesian Children’s Music CD And Book Set

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/indonesian-children-s-music-cd-book-set

Meet the Creators and Musicians From This Project

Something Inside So Strong: A Powerful Anti-Apartheid Song and Much More

prideIn May of 2015, the enormously talented South African vocal group – the Bala Brothers – will be touring the United States. Undoubtedly a part of each performance will be a song that brought down the house in South Africa, especially at such events as the concert tribute to Nelson Mandela in December 2013, attended by a crowd of over 55,000 fans. The song is called: Something Inside So Strong.

Written by British Singer-songwriter Labi Siffre, the song reached # 4 on the UK music charts and since has been covered by artists as diverse at Kenny Rogers, Eddie Vedder (from Pearl Jam), Pop Idol contestants, Irish folksingers and Odetta. The song won the Ivor Novello Award for “Best Song Musically and Lyrically” and has been used in tributes to Rosa Parks, Amnesty International campaigns and as part of Alice Walker’s film against female genital mutilation: “Warrior Marks”.  It’s become a landmark anthem for human rights and dignity both is South Africa and around the world.

When songwriter Labi Siffre was asked about writing “Something Inside So Strong”, he shared the story of how it was inspired by a 1984 TV documentary on apartheid in South Africa that showed soldiers openly firing on black civilians in the street. In 2014, he also discussed how the song reflected his experiences growing up as a gay child and man in England.  Clearly the song makes a strong statement about standing up for not only for basic human rights, but also for respect, tolerance and dignity as well.

Something Inside So Strong, Performance by Lira

Here’s a moving rendition of the song performed by South African artist, Lira (Lerato Molapo). An eight time South African Music Award-winner, Lira is from the Daveyton township in Johannesburg’s East Rand. She speaks and sings in four languages and her name translates to “love” in the Sesotho language.

Lyrics

The higher you build your barriers, the taller I become
The farther you take my rights away, the faster I will run
You can deny me, you can decide to turn your face away
No matter ’cause there’s…

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Though you’re doin’ me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone, oh no
There’s something inside so strong
Something inside so strong

The more you refuse to hear my voice, the louder I will sing
You hide behind walls of Jericho, you’re lies will come tumbling
Deny my place and time,  you squander wealth that’s mine

My light will shine so brightly it will blind you
Because there’s…

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Though you’re doin’ me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone, oh no
There’s something inside so strong
Something inside so strong

Brothers and sisters, when they insist we’re just not good enough.

Well, we know better, just look ’em in the eyes and say.

“Were gonna do it anyway, were gonna do it anyway… Were gonna do it anyway”

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Though you’re doin’ me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone, oh no
There’s something inside so strong
Something inside so strong

Links And Resources

Do You Know The Bala Brothers?

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/do-you-know-the-bala-brothers/

The South African Vuvuzela

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/vuvuzelas-the-horn-that-is-loved-and-hated-all-over-the-world/

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