For many people, Iceland is a dream vacation. It’s a land of geysers, glaciers, volcanoes, thermal lagoons, whales, exotic seabirds and gorgeous scenery. If you’re on your way to the land of ice with your children or if you are simply studying this part of the world, here’s a fun way to explore the music of that culture.
Color A Langspil
One of the traditional instruments of Iceland is a stringed zither called the langspil. Dating back at least to the 1700’s, this instrument was often made of driftwood and played either by plucking it or using a bow, like a fiddle. The resulting sound was haunting and beautiful. You can hear a langspil in this video from an outstanding folk duo from Iceland, Duo Svanni (Júlía Traustadóttir Kondrup and Hildur Wågsjö Heimisdóttir).
Iceland For Kids!
Music is a wonderful place to start any exploration of another country or culture. Below you can find links to fun facts, common phrases in Icelandic, traditional clothing, things to do with children in Iceland and a post about an Icelandic rock music group that actually recorded a video of a song inside a volcano.
Hi! I’m Elizabeth, a mother and music teacher. I’m thrilled to be guest-posting on Tiny Tapping Toes today about Chinese music- I’m excited to connect with you and share some of my ideas!
As a music teacher who grew up among cultures, I am passionate about introducing children to music from cultures other than their home culture. Although it can be intimidating to share a culture with your children that you aren’t that familiar with yourself, it can be such a rewarding learning experience for everyone, and the benefits are incredible! Today I want to share some of my favorite simple ways to introduce the music and culture of China to young children.
I know this is not exactly a traditional way to start, but I usually use a clip or two of 12 Girls Band to first introduce children to Chinese music. This is a great one:
We of course discuss which instruments are traditionally Chinese and which or not- that part is pretty clear- but it is a great way to showcase many of the instruments from China, see how they are played and what they sound like, and also get a taste of what Chinese music is like while still sounding somewhat familiar- this is like the gateway to exploring the traditional music that will sound more foreign and strange to their ears. Plus it is so much fun!I use these recordings as a starting point to jump into a discussion of Chinese instruments, including the erhu, xiao, dizi, pipa, guzheng (duzheng), and yangqin.
After showing one of the “Twelve Girls Band” videos, I usually show them pictures of each instrument, tell them the name of each one, and see if they noticed how each one is played, or what familiar instrument it is most similar to. Then we watch one more video and I have them point out and identify each instrument as we see it. I use that as an introduction to Chinese music as a whole, but in subsequent lessons I will show them short clips of each instrument in a more traditional setting. This one is great for showing short excerpts of lots of different instruments:
I have used a lot of different songs in my classes over the years. There is so much that is included, both historically and geographically, when we talk about “Chinese music”, that it’s honestly hard for me to pick one song! The last few years I have used “Cowboy” (I know, you’re already thinking what? stay with me…). I don’t generally like to teach songs from other cultures with translated lyrics- I think it takes away from giving the students an authentic presentation of the song- so I always try to find songs that have fewer lyrics while still being interesting. This one fits the bill (although, let’s be honest, we are talking about a rather difficult language for English speakers- it will still take some time!) and has some great possibilities for discussions about Chinese history, architecture, and/or geography. You can find the original lyrics, the translation, the notation, and a sung recording on Mama Lisa’s website here.
With any of the songs that I use, I will usually add some simple rhythms on percussion instruments. Here is an example of some of the percussion parts I might add (this one has tambourine, hand drum, and finger cymbals):
Gongs, triangles, and rhythm sticks would also be good choices for adding some quick instrument accompaniment.
One more thing that I like to cover is Beijing (Peking) Opera. I don’t introduce this genre until we are well into our study of Chinese music, because I don’t want students to immediately start laughing or draw back in disgust, but it is such a significant part of Chinese music that I think it is important for students to at least be exposed to it when they study the music of China in general. I usually use a clip from this video to show in class (it is nice because it has the English translation underneath- so it is important to check and make sure the material is appropriate before you show it! I haven’t come across anything that is not, but I haven’t watched the whole thing so please do check beforehand):
I usually introduce the genre by telling students that Beijing opera is one of the most famous forms of Chinese music historically. I also tell them in advance that it is going to sound and look very different from what they are expecting, but that I want them to tell me what they notice after watching. Most students tell me that they notice the performers moving with the instruments, their makeup and costumes are very dramatic, and they sound like they are half-singing and half-speaking. We often end up having a very good conversation about what the definition of music is, because there are usually some students who question whether or not this “counts” as music at all! You can learn more about the genre here and here.
I hope you found some new ideas for exploring Chinese music and culture with your children! Thank you so much to Daria for letting me share my ideas on her site. I’d love to hear from you! If you’d like to stay in touch with me, please head on over to my site, Organized Chaos, where I share resources and thoughts to give parents and teachers the freedom to be creative through purposeful organization and broadened perspectives. You can find more posts on sharing music from other cultures right here. I hope you’ll stop in to say hello!
Music camp? Backyard staycation? Last minute playdate? We’ve created this fun compilation of activity pdf’s from our readers favorite projects for summer musical fun. Not only are all these crafts made from items you already have around the house but they also teach about the cultural background of each instrument – such as Hawaiian pu’ili rhythm sticks or Aboriginal Australian didgeridoos and bilma clapsticks. And everything is so simple that even a grown-up can do it!
Want to win a copy? Jump on in right here! Two lucky winners will get the this fun compilation so they can musically craft their way all around the world this summer.
If you can’t wait to get it, the TPT link is below – and it’s half price during the month of July. Plus there are links to related summer musical fun.
One of my favorite instruments to bring around to schools is a water drum made from a gourd. Kids and adults are often shocked when I pour water into one of the gourds and float the other on top to create the drum. Then they are amazing by the deep, resonant sound. But where did a unique and creative instrument like this come from? Interestingly enough, gourd water drums are found in both African cultures and in the indigenous cultures that inhabit present day Mexico and the Southwestern United States.
We caught up with a talented musician from Los Angeles named Christopher Garcia who not only plays them, but has thoroughly researched their background and shares these traditional instruments with audiences around the world.
And, at the end of this post, you’ll find our DIY water drum craft. Although our plastic water drum doesn’t sound exactly like the real thing, it does produce great drum sounds and is a fun way to encourage sensory play with water and sound.
Christopher Garcia – Teaching About Indigenous Meso American Instruments
Before Spanish Conquistadors arrived in present day Mexico and the Southwestern US, indigenous cultures such as the Yaqui were flourishing with rich music and cultural lives. Many of these indigenous groups trace their history to the civilizations of the Mayan and Aztec peoples. Beautiful and unusual instruments used in their music include the water drum, singing stones, unique flutes and a marimba made of turtle shells. Christopher details many of these unique instruments at his website below, but here you can see him playing the gourd water drum and the gourd water drum plus the turtle shell marimba and singing stones.
Turtle Shells, Singing Stones And a Wooden Drum
Make Your Own Version Of A Gourd Water Drum
We’ve done a whole post on taking various sized rounded plastic containers, floating them on the surface of the water and getting some of the same tones you’d hear on gourd water drums. You can get creative and try it yourself in a bucket, kiddie pool or basin of water, or check out that full post at the link below.
If you lived in ancient times or tribal days – what would you use to make music? You’d probably look around you for sticks, stones, bones or even seed pods that fell from trees! These would make excellent percussion and if you’re lucky enough to live in a tropical region, there are several trees that actually grow very cool seed pod rattles such as the pacay shaker seen on the colorful Peruvian cloth above. You can learn more about seed pod trees here or in the more detailed links below.
The Pacay “Ice Cream” Tree
Isn’t that a cool name for a tree? The tall and lovely pacay tree got this name because the soft white pulp between the seeds in the seed pods is delicious and a favorite among kids dating back to the Incan times in South America. In fact, the earliest story of this seed pod comes from when the Spanish invaded South America and the last Inca gave a basket of pacay seed pods to Pizzaro as a gift. Now grown as shade trees near coffee plantations in Peru, this giant 60 foot tree is also found throughout Central America and the beans (seeds) are eaten as well. In Mexico, the beans inside the seed pods are roasted and served on the streets as a snack!
The Flame or Flamboyant Tree
Although the seed pods to this tree appear similar to the pacay shakers, the trees they come from are really different. The flamboyant tree is native to Africa but found throughout tropical regions around the world. In some locations, such as Puerto Rico, it’s a beloved and iconic image seem in everything from photos to folk art!
The tree itself is ornamental, smaller in size, has fern-like leaves and bright, beautiful red flowers so it’s easy to see how it got it’s name. Although the seeds here are not edible, the seed pods still make nice natural percussion instruments to use as shakers.
How Do You Make A Seed Pod Shaker?
That’s a trick question – you don’t! They work as rattles directly from the tree. Well, when dried, of course. If you’re in an area where these trees grow you’ll probably find seed pods that have fallen and are hard, dry and brown in color. At that point, pick them up and shake them and they are instant rattles!
Will each seed pod sound the same? Try several and see for yourselves!
How Do You Play One?
Although this is a really basic and simple instrument, there are several ways to get different sounds from a seed pod rattle. Try any of these:
Rattle it back and forth or up and down.
Rattle it slowly then build up a crescendo.
Hold it in one hand and tap it against the other.
March or dance while shaking it, letting the beat become part of your movement or music!
You probably know that different countries have different languages. And diverse cultures have different holidays and foods. But did you know that almost all countries in the world have a national instrument?
What’s A National Instrument?
What is 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 or a particular race or ethnicity of people. Some are drums, some are stringed instruments, some are percussion instruments but all hold a special significance to the citizens of that country and represents the unique character of the people it is identified with.
For instance, think about a balalaika from Russia or the ukulele from Hawaii. Can a country have more then one national instrument? Yes, several countries have multiple instruments listed as their national instruments. For instance, Greece has an ancient national instrument – the lyre, and also a modern one, the bouzouki. Peru has both the Afro-Peruvian cajón (box drum) and the Andean charango, a stringed instrument made from the shell of an armadillo.
Discovering Cultures Through Music
Instruments are a really fun starting point for discovering and learning about world cultures. Perhaps you have relatives or ancestors from another culture. Music is a great starting point for sharing that culture with your kids. Perhaps you’ll travel to another country, here’s a fun way to find out more about what you’ll see and hear in advance. Likewise, if you’re simply exploring the world from the comfort of your couch, finding out about national instruments is a great way to discover the many wonders of the musical world.
Below is a link to the Wikipedia compilation page of national instruments. This is a great source because each countries entry has a clickable link to learn more. Also below are links to free coloring pages and to one kids E-book where you can color your way around the world with unique musical instruments like the sitar from India or goat toe-nail rattles from Bolivia.
What’s your country’s national instrument? Did you already know it? I’d love to hear from you about this!
Anyone who has experienced “down home” American folk music has probably heard a musician play the spoons. If you haven’t – then you’re in for a treat and check out the post below titled: “It’s So Easy to Play The Spoons!”
But, did you know that playing spoons as percussion is a part of traditional Russian folk music as well? Although the sound of the clicking and clacking of the spoons is similar, the Russian technique of playing adds a few really neat twists that put it in a league of it’s own!
Russian Spoons or Lozhki
Known as lozhki (Ло́жки), Russian musical spoons most often are the beautifully carved and decorated wooden spoons famous in that part of the world. Where American spoon players usually use two silver spoons in one hand, Russian players typically play three or more and use both hands. They can also put extra spoons in pockets or on their clothes and use them as extra percussion surfaces.
If you watch this video of a folk orchestra featuring a spoon player, you’ll see some pretty amazing hand (and foot) work!
Music is such a wonderful way to promote learning languages and bilingualism. If you’re celebrating Earth Day, here’s a fun way of combining caring for our planet with expanding your language skills in Spanish.
The song is based on my earth Day anthem heard all over the world, and if you haven’t heard it yet, check out the official video below (in English) and hear it yourself. We’re working on Spanish and other language video versions now. now!
Tenemos Todo El Mundo En Nuestras Manos
(New version of lyrics in English) Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou (Spanish translation) Cecelia Fencer
Tenemos todo el mundo en nuestras manos. (chorus – sung four times)
Debemos reciclar, ahora que podemos.
Reducir, reusar y reciclar
Reducir y reciclar ahora que podemos.
Tenemos al mundo en nuestras manos.
Tenemos plantas y animales en nuestra tierra,
plantas y animales en nuestra tierra.
Tenemos plantas y animales en nuestra tierra.
Tenemos al mundo en nuestras manos.
Tomemonos de las manos, como hermanos.
Tomemonos de las manos como hermanos.
Tomemonos de las manos como hermanos,
tenemos al mundo en nuestras manos
Encuentra tus sueños y haz lo que puedas,
ten tus anhelos y lucha por ellos.
Encuentra tus sueños y haz lo que puedas,
tenemos al mundo en nuestras manos.
Tenemos todo el mundo en nuestras manos. (chorus – sung four times)
Did you now that March is Music In Our Schoolsmonth? What a great way to focus on how music enriches the lives of all students, young and old!
I’m part of a group of music educators that want parents, teachers and everyone to find lots of fun and creative ways to share music with kids. This year, our theme is “31 days of rhythm” so I wanted to share a bit about how pow-wow drumming.
What’s A Pow-Wow Drum?
If you’ve ever been to a Native American gathering, the pow-wow drum is at the center of the event. At most pow-wows you’ll see a group of either men or women gathered around a big drum and everyone is playing and singing at the same time. They are all playing in unison, meaning the goal is to strike the drum together. And when a great drum group is playing, it sounds like thunder and shows the power of what people can do when they work (or play) cooperatively!
Make Your Own Pow-Wow Drum
Actual pow-wow drums are beautiful and many are very special and sacred. But I’ve done a post that explores the first pow-wow drum and you can easily make that at home. You can find it here as well as check out the sound of a traditional drum group playing and singing: http://www.dariamusic.com/drum.php
Every child can find a place around the fabric drum, holding the drum with one hand and their beater in the other. Then, they strike the drum together – at the same time. At first, a teacher or adult may want to tap out a beat to any familiar song and encourage the children to play along, hitting the drum at exactly the same time. Once the kids get the idea, the leader can also ask the children to listen carefully and do what she/he does. While playing the same song, she/he can play softer and they should tap softer. He/she can play harder or a bit faster or slower and the drum group should do the same.
In Native cultures, drumming is just one way of teaching cooperation and listening skills as well.
To practice drumming together, you might wish to try a simple song I used while teaching music and English in the Middle East. The students wanted to learn the days of the week in English so they drummed to the following little song. Whoever was leading set the pace and played the rhythm as they sang. When they finished, they pointed to someone who had listened and played well to be the next leader.
(one beat) Sunday, (one beat) Monday, (one beat) Tuesday, (one beat) Wednesday, (one beat) Thursday, (one beat) Friday and (three beats) SAT-UR-DAY (beaters must stop and raised in the air).