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.”


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)

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

Instruments of India – Kids Mini-Course

Sitar Poster And Coloring Page

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

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

Who’s Who and Who’s New in Playing and Interpreting Irish Music Around The World

Top Irish Musicians And Instrumentalists

Links and Related Resources


playing on bodhran at a traditional session

MYO Bodhran and Tipper tutorial:

Whistle a Merry Tune – With A Tin Whistle

Morris Dancing Bells For Kids

Easy Introduction to 10 Irish Instruments

Irish Videos on Multicultural Kids Music Vids

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

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.


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?

The South African Vuvuzela

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  

Purchase Links – Amazon, Itunes and Spotify



Learn Some Basic Quechua Through Song For International Mother Language Day (IMLD)

yaw yaw girlDid you know that there is a special day earmarked for worldwide celebration and promotion of diverse languages and multiculturalism?  International Mother Language Day was created by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and is held annually on February 21st.  Made official in 2008 by the United Nations General Assembly, the chosen date marks an event in 1952 when students were shot and killed in present-day Bangladesh while demonstrating for the recognition of their national language, Bangla. Currently gathering momentum around the world, IMLD is the subject of many world-wide activities as well as a variety of great features from Multicultural Kid Bloggers whose posts can be found here at the special Facebook Page below.

Using Music To Encourage Language

Along with being a great way to celebrate world cultures, IMLD is an excellent opportunity to focus on world languages and to use music and the arts as a way to encourage diversity and multiculturalism, especially with young children. Although learning a new language can seem difficult at first, using music and games is a great way to connect with new sounds, words and phrases. In the process of singing or simple music activities or games, kids (or people of any age) begin to make sense of phrases and words and can build their competency and enjoyment of speaking another language.

Would you like to learn a bit of Quechua – the language used by the Incan Empire of South America? Here’s a little song or rhyme popular in Peru:

What Does The Song Say?

Essentially this is an “I’m gonna tell on you” song. Here’s what the words you’re hearing mean.

“Yaw”, means “Hey!”
“Puka” is the color red and a pollera or polleracha (little pollera) is a traditional skirt.

So the first phrase is
“Hey, girl in the little red skirt”.

The next verse asks “What are you doing?”, in Quechua “Imata ruwanki?”

It also talks about a corn field – and the word “sara” means corn.
The song then says “I am going to tell your mom and your dad” and you can easily hear the words “Mamayki” (your mom) and Taitayki (your dad).

Although it takes more then one song or game to learn a new language, it’s a great start and a fun way to build bridges between cultures – especially in languages like Quechua that may be in danger of being left behind or lost.

CAncioncitas Book Cover smallE-Book and CD About Quechua Culture

Want to learn more about the Quechua culture? Check out the E-book and companion CD below. And if you are a classroom or homeschooler with limited budgets, please contact us as we would be happy to get you a free copy for your use. To get a free copy, e-mail dariamusic at yahoo dot com and put “Free E-book” in the subject line.

Wishing everyone a happy International Mother Language Day!

Resources And Links

Wikipedia’s International Mother Language Day entry

Multicultural Kid Bloggers – IMLD Activities

A Child’s Life In The Andes from TPT

Cancioncitas De Los Andes – From Itunes

Cocoon Rattles, Bear’s Claws and Bullroarers – Instruments From Chumash Culture

Ojai museumWhile visiting the foothills of Southern California, I came across a small museum with a presentation of musical instruments from the area’s indigenous Chumash culture. Several of the traditional instruments were very familiar and can be seen in most tribes across the country. Other, however, were were truly unique and beautiful.  Here are the seven musical instruments presented on display at the Ojai Valley Museum.

For more information, check out the book on Chumash culture below or visit the museum’s online site, here:

cocoon rattleCocoon Rattle

This truly unusual rattle used for ceremonial purposes is made from the cocoon of the Ceanothus Silk Moth (Hyalophora euryalus) and each cocoon is filled with pebbles. The cocoons are then attached to short lengths of reed which are bound together with fiber.

Bear Claw Rattle

Chumash turtle and clamshell rattleThe bear claw rattle (seen at the bottom middle section of this picture) was used as part of mourning ceremonies by the Chumash. In this rattle, each claw is strung on a piece of thread or fiber and the fibers are bunched together to make the instrument. Museum notes say that bears teeth can be used in this rattle as well.

Clamshell Rattle

A sturdy clamshell is filled with small noise-makers; such as small pebbles, then mounted on a stick for this decorative rattle (lower right of display).

Shell Rattle

clam shell belt rattleIn this traditional rattle holes are drilled in each shell and they are woven together with fiber.

Double Turtle Shell Rattle

double turtle rattleTurtle shells are used across the USA as part of Native American ceremonial rattles.  Frequently mounted on a stick, turtle shells are also used when tied in bundles and attached to the legs of dancers as part of the Cherokee stomp dance. The Chumash turtle shell rattle here uses two shells mounted on a stick along with beautiful ornamentation.
Frame Drum

Chumash frame drumAlmost every Native American tribe uses some form of the frame drum as part of their music and ceremony. The 2-sided, animal skin frame drum on display here measured about 14 – 16” in diameter and was accompanied by a traditional beater.


Chumash bullroarer +A bullroarer is a small piece of wood attached to a piece of string and swung around a large circle. The wooden piece is carved in such way that it creates a buzzing, droning or whirring noise when spun. You can see the Chumash bullroarer in the left half of this picture among other artifacts. It is carved on the edges  and decorated with paint and three “X”s.

To learn more about bullroarers in general, check out the post below which also includes a DIY kids bull roarer activity.

Make Your Own Bullroarer – A Kid’s Activity

California’s Chumash Indians
Published by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Education Center
Available on Amazon, here:

“El Son de la Negra” – The Second National Anthem of Mexico

Mexican flagThis classic song from mariachi repertoire is so popular it is sometimes called the “second national anthem of Mexico.”  Composed by Blas Galindo in the late 1800’s, this song from Jalisco, Mexico has many versions and variations but is loved and appreciated everywhere as an important part of Mexican folk culture.

What Does The Song Mean?

Since there are numerous variations in the lyrics, it’s hard to tell for certain what the song means.  Clearly, it’s a sad song about lost or separated lovers.  Here’s one popular version of the lyrics in Spanish.

“El Son de la Negra”

Negrita de mis pesares,
hojas de papel volando.
Negrita de mis pesares,
hojas de papel volando.

A todos diles que sí
pero no les digas cuándo.
Así me dijiste a mí;
Por eso vivo penando.

¿Cuándo me traes a mi negra?
Que la quiero ver aquí
con su rebozo de seda
Que le traje de Tepic?

In the lyrics, the singer is asking about the woman that brings him sorrow.  He says that she has told everyone “yes” but will not tell him “when”.  That she has told him “yes” and because of that, he is suffering.

The last verse asks : “When will you bring my “negra”?  I would like to see her here.  In her silk shawl.  That I brought from Tepic (the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of Nayarit).

Who Is “La Negra”?

The title and the use of the word “negra” in this song actually created a stir about a year ago on an English-speaking t.v. channel in the USA.  A mariachi group was asked not to play this song because they felt the title used a derogatory term for a black woman (negra).  However, most Latin American Spanish speakers recognize the words “negro/negra” as an affectionate term for a sweetheart, a phrase better translated as “my darling” or “my dear”, not as “black man or woman”.

You can read more about this controversy and see one excellent explanation/translation of the lyrics here:

Mariachi Music For Kids

We’re big fans of the website – KID WORLD CITIZEN that recently published an introduction to mariachi music and Mexican culture for kids. You can read more about that here:

Ballet Folklorico del Mexico Performs “El Son de la Negra”

Last but not least, here’s the Ballet Folklorico Mexico’s verison of “El Son de la Negra”.

2013 National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 – October 15th!

National Hispanic Heritage Month was created in the USA under President Lyndon Johnson as a way to recognize contributions of Latin-American and Hispanic peoples to our country’s heritage.  In Washington D.C., it is celebrated by a series of presentations, exhibits and activities but a variety of free resources are available at the government site that are used widely across the country and throughout the year.

The starting date for this month (September 15th) is a bit unusual and many people wonder why it begins in the middle of a month.  The dates of September 15th to October 15th were chosen because they reflects a time period when eight Latin American countries declared their independence.  Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Niceragua declared their independence on September 15th.  September 16th, 18th and the 21st  mark the dates when Mexico, Chile, and Belize did so as well.

Participating in this month of education and celebration are the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

For a complete listing of resources, events and activities, including a section on teaching Hispanic heritage, visit the official website at the link below.  For a series of musical crafts and activities that originate in Hispanic culture as well as two musical instrument give-aways, visit DARIA’s world music for children site below.

Official Site – Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Music, Musical Instruments and Crafts