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

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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Mother_Language_Day

Multicultural Kid Bloggers – IMLD Activities
https://www.facebook.com/internationalmotherlanguagecelebration

A Child’s Life In The Andes from TPT
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/A-Childs-Life-In-The-Andes-E-Book-Plus-Music-CD-639838

Cancioncitas De Los Andes – From Itunes
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/cancioncitas-los-andes-little/id602798167

Bell Stones, Soapstones and Fish Pipes – Early Instruments of Indigenous California Cultures

soapstone flutes and whistlesAlthough there’s no formal written history of early indigenous cultures in the region of Southern California, a variety of resources give us a glimpse into the music and ceremonial life of these various tribes. While visiting the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, I was allowed to photograph and share a few of the beautiful music-related artifacts from their vast collection that reflect the early life of Native American tribes in this region.

Ringing Rocks or Bell Stones

Ringing Rock - side viewSimilar to Chumash culture, which originated north of the museum’s Santa Ana location, the pre-1600 AD tribes of this area also discovered, used and revered “ringing rocks” or bell stones. Pictured here (left) is a huge bell stone identified with Tongva/Agaemen(Gabrieliño/Juaneño) cultures with several man-made areas which were probably used for striking particular notes or for grinding medicinal plants. Most often, these large boulders were positioned on top of other rocks to give them more resonance and were “played” by tapping with smaller stones in different areas. Each area that is struck produces a slightly different tone.

soapstone whistlesSoapstone Instruments And A Fish “Pipe”

Also attributed to the early “Channel Island” peoples were an abundance of soapstone whistles and flutes of various shapes and sizes. Found throughout this area, soapstone (also known as steatite or soaprock) is a softer rock related to shist that has been used as a medium for carving in many cultures for thousands of years.

Displayed among the musical instruments is also this large and beautiful soapstone pipe (below) that was excavated from a location in Malibu. Shaped like a fish, fish pipeit could have been used as a sacred pipe or as a musical instrument. It’s design and decoration share many similarities with the more northern Chumash people’s ceremonial items.

Gifted artisans and basket-weavers, it may be hard to know exactly what the music and dance from this time and place were. However, these important and beautiful items can help us piece together many valuable details of these meaningful and important cultures. To learn more about Chumash music or to see how stones and rocks are used as musical instruments, check out the related posts below.

Resources And Related Links

bowers basketsBowers Museum, 2002 Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706 (714) 567-3600

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

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/cocoon-rattles-bears-claws-and-bullroarers-instruments-from-chumash-culture/

Playing River Rocks As An Instrument – Hawaiian `ili`ile

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/playing-river-rocks-as-an-instrument-hawaiian-iliile/

We Are Happy – A Song Of the Abayudya of Uganda

JJ Keki UgandaWe’re so pleased to have a guest post here from a musician who had truly traveled the world to share music. Take a moment to meet Jay Sand and learn about the “We Are Happy” song he uses to open his wonderful concerts that shares world traditions with the children.

I’m Jay Sand, a music teacher from Philadelphia and founder of All Around This World (http://www.allaroundthisworld.com), a global music and world cultures program for little kids. In 1999, long before I discovered my passion for multicultural music, my backpack, my camera, my guitar and I ventured to Africa where I visited, photographed and sang songs with members of several communities of Africans who practice Judaism–from Tunisia to Ethiopia, Ghana to Zimbabwe. My goal at the time was to document the multicultural reality of the Jewish people and share images, music and stories from my travels with an American Jewish community that seemed reluctant to accept Jews that were not Western and, especially, not white.

The African Jews who welcomed me most fully on my first voyage were the Abayudya of Uganda, a group of about 1,000 Bagandans who live scattered among several villages near the eastern Ugandan city of Mbale. “Abayudaya” means “the people of Judah.” In 1919 a prominent Ugandan leader, Semei Kakungulu, completed his process of religious exploration by committing to following Jewish laws and practices as described in the Old Testament and declaring himself and his several hundred followers to be Jews. For the next 75 years the Abayudaya had very little contact with others who practices Judaism, save for some meetings with visiting European-descended Jews who informally shared information about observances and holidays. The community didn’t wait for Jewish travelers to tell them how to practice. They built their own customs based on Jewish books visitors brought them and wrote their own Jewish music using lyrics from Bibles Christian missionaries had translated into local languages. In the mid 1990s community members decided to reach out, sending their young “Rabbi,” Gershom Sizoumu to Nairobi, Kenya to connect with the wider world.

In Nairobi Gershom connected with a friend of mine who sent me a cassette of the Abayudaya’s unique African-Jewish music. It was melodic, joyful and so inviting that I began to formulate a scheme to visit Uganda that I finally realized in 1999. The highlight of my time with the Abayudaya was getting to sing with Gershom and other members of the community. Over the next several years I traveled around the United States making multimedia presentations about African Jews at museums, universities and for community groups. The audiences responded most enthusiastically, and were most accepting of the non-traditional Jews I had visited, when I taught them African-Jewish music.

“We Are Happy” is one of two songs the Abayudaya sing to greet important visitors. Rabbi Gershom and his brother JJ Keki wrote the two songs and led the community in singing them for me during my first visit. When I founded All Around This World in 2009 and realized every children’s music class must — must! — have a hello song, I couldn’t have been more pleased when Gershom and JJ gave me permission to blend their two songs into one and sing that song with my students. Since then I have sung my version of “We Are Happy” at the beginning of every class, each time changing the language of our greeting to match that week’s featured country. In my classes I’ve taken “We Are Happy” to well over a hundred countries and taught it to thousands of children and their grownups. Every time my students sing “We Are Happy,” while my tiny, enthusiastic students are thinking about how much fun they’re going to have learning about the world music class, I think of Gershom, JJ, and their tiny, enthusiastic community that appreciates the mind-opening power of a song.

Listen to the “We Are Happy” original on YouTube:

Listen to the merengue version of “We Are Happy” found on the All Around This World: Latin America CD:
http://allaroundthisworld.bandcamp.com/track/we-are-happy-hello-hola-merengue

Meet the Abayudaya:
http://www.bechollashon.org/projects/abayudaya/abayudaya.php

Lyrics of “We Are Happy” on All Around This World: Latin America:
Ooh, bop bop bop! Ooh, bop bop bop.
We are happy, we are happy on this day.

Hola everybody! (“Hello” in Spanish),
Bom dia everybody! (“Good morning” in Portuguese),
Buiti binafi everybody! (“Good morning” in Garifuna),
Imaynallam everybody! (“How are things going?” in Quechua)
 

 

 

Pictured at the top left of this post is JJ Keki, composer of one of the two greeting songs Jay blended to create his own version of “We Are Happy.”

Instruments From Ancient Mexico – The Conch Shell Trumpet

conch shell trumpetA conch shell is a beautiful thing.

But who would guess that cultures all around the world would not only admire it’s beauty but also figure out that – with a few minor modifications – it becomes a completely functional, natural trumpet!  Among others, there are conch trumpets heard in music from the South Pacific, Tibet, Korea and pre-Incan cultures.  Archeological finds and older documents also place it in Aztec culture and ceremonies as well.  Here’s a bit more about the Aztec conch shell trumpet.

aztec conch trumpetPictured here is a musician called a “quiquizoani” playing the conch shell.  The name is in the Nahuatl Indigenous language of Mexico and this specific image can be found on page 23 of the Aztec Codex “Magliabecchi”, currently preserved and archived at the University of Utah in the United States.

One of the best sites for information on Aztec instruments, including great pictures from archeological sites and historical references is Mexicolore.com (see resources below).  Their research shows that there were 7 different types of conch shells and that the largest was called the ‘quiquiztli’.  As you might imagine, the shell trumpet was highly symbolic and associated with the breath of life as well as the rhythms of the sea.  Similarly, it was associated with the call to prayer, marking time during the day and during the night, the moon, fertility and Ehécatl – the Aztec God of the Wind.

Research also shows that conch shell trumpets were used by the Aztec military in a manner similar to modern day bugles.

Conch Shells in The USA

Closer to home, conch shells are part of a unique contest in the Florida Keys.  Although the tradition of blowing the conch trumpet dates back over 200 years, it was originally used mainly for maritime signaling. Recently, however, the contest is a lot more colorful with contestants that vary in age from 3 – 83 and even perform with unique outfits, hula hoops and other novelty approaches.

Want to find out more about this modern conch contest?  Check out the link below for some amazing variations on this ancient musical theme

What Does A Conch Trumpet Sound Like?

Check out this short video where a young buy demonstrates how to cut the conch shell and how to practice getting the trumpet sound.

http://multikidsmusicvids.com/?p=1002

Resources

MexicoLore’s Conch Shell Page
http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/music/conch-trumpet

Florida Keys Newsroom – Info On The Annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest
http://media.fla-keys.com/section_display.cfm?section_id=295