Music in French and Spanish

Fun with French book coverMy love of languages began when I was a child; probably around the time I was in grade school, and we learned “Are You Sleeping?” in English, French, and German. My interest in French only deepened when I found this book, Fun with French, at the public library. I checked it out so many times I’m surprised they didn’t gift it to me when I graduated. My dad spoke Spanish fluently, but I studied Latin and French in high school and when I went to college, ended up getting a degree in French. Even though many years have gone by, my interest in languages has never waned. I’ve taken conversational Spanish classes specific to work in the library, and quite a while ago, even took a Russian class at the community college, just for the fun of it. While my French and Spanish skills have greatly diminished due to lack of use, it is when I hear music in those languages that I seem to recall the most. Words and phrases come back to me, dancing through my mind along with whatever melody accompanies them.

And that’s why I wanted to highlight a few albums in French and Spanish today. While the sound of music is universal, it’s the words that can teach us so much – even another language. Take some time to listen to these albums. Share them with your students, your family, and your friends. 

Au Zoo album coverThe first album up is Au Zoo (At the Zoo) – French Learning Songs from Whistlefritz. Whistlefritz provides immersive learning environments in French and Spanish. Au Zoo is their newest French-language album. Packed with 17 songs, each running 2-3 minutes, this isn’t your old-fashioned, didactic, computer-generated learning tool. Instead, it features melodies set to a variety of musical genres (folk, reggae, merengue, blues, and more) with engaging lyrics that are performed at a pace that makes the words easy to follow. The songs cover a wide variety of topics including holidays, animals, grammar, food, and more. Lyrics and translations for all of the songs are available for free on the Whistlefritz website.

 

Healthy Me and Saludable Soy album covers

Next up are debut albums from the California-based duo Anna-Maria Violich-Olivier and Natalia Barnal, better known as Aguacate Music Kids. After meeting in 2015 when Natalia brought her child to Anna-Maria’s Music Together class, the two created a musical partnership. Combining their skills as bilingual teachers and musicians, they set out to create songs that encouraged healthy habits. Out of that effort, the companion albums, Healthy Me and Saludable Soy were born. Each album is comprised of the same 13 original songs, tackling topics such as washing hands, brushing teeth, good nutrition, movement, social-emotional skills and the importance of drinking water. Whether performing in English or Spanish, Aguacate Music Kids combine lovely music and entertaining, yet educational lyrics, that children and their caregivers will enjoy.

Creciendo album coverLast, but certainly not least, on today’s playlist is the first full-length Spanish language album from Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz CatsCreciendo is pure love and joy from beginning to end as it takes listeners inside the theme of a child growing and learning. Kalantari brings her unique blend of jazz, swing, and Latin rhythms to each of the 10 songs. The album kicks off with the energy-filled “Bienvenidos” and keeps that energy up throughout. Kalantari’s rich voice is at the center of the music on each track, but no more so than on “Tu Luz” where her lyrics delightfully converse with a clarinet, and “La Luciérnaga” where she is backed by lush instrumentation. For a sneak preview, take a listen to “Bienvenidos,” which also features Nathalia and Flor Bromley.

Song Spotlight – “I’m Marvelous” performed by Strawbitty Yops

It’s hard to believe that June is almost over. Which means that Pride month is quickly coming to an end. However, just because the officially designated month is coming to a close doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep celebrating one another. In fact, we should honor one another at all times because we, as a collective, are what make life so wonderful.

To celebrate the joy and love of this last week of Pride month, today’s spotlight is turning to the latest single from Strawbitty Yops. Known for their unique sound, amazing harmonies, and universal themes of love, acceptance, and embracing your uniqueness. their latest track, “I’m Marvelous” expands upon those themes, creating an engaging dance anthem. This runway-style song, featuring the musical talents of Iwalani Music and Dean Jones, encourages everyone – queer, trans, nonbinary, you, me – to flaunt our individual style. For me, that style is librarian chic, or in everyday terms, a cardigan. But that’s ok because, I’m marvelous, and so are you, and Strawbitty Yops is here to make sure that we never forget it!

In case you missed them, check out the newest song from Carrie Ferguson, “The Many I Am,”  and Rainbow Seekers, the latest album from Ants on a Log,

Video Spotlight – “The Many I Am” Performed by Carrie Ferguson

To continue our Pride Month celebration, today I’m shining a spotlight on the brand new video from Carrie Ferguson. According to Ferguson, their latest single, “The Many I Am,” featuring Pamela Means and Kamerin, is “a love letter to the LGBTQIA+ community; a gender queer dance party anthem featuring a giant horn section and gorgeous harmonies; a celebration of gender diversity and inclusive community; a call for unity; and a joyful declaration of hope and resilience.” The video for “The Many I Am” is all that and so much more. Featuring a group of non-binary and trans dancers, the choreography perfectly captures the essence of the music matching each note with moves both simple and electric. The already powerful chorus (We are kings and we are queens/we are neither plus both and/Where are the words/For the many I am?) is lifted even higher by the power of the accompanying choreography. The joy that each dancer exudes draws viewers in making them wish that they too could be part of this awesome dance party.   

Album Spotlight – Rainbow Seekers performed by Ants on a Log

Happy Pride Month! I am very excited to kick-off this June with the newest album from the Philadelphia-based trio Ants on a LogRainbow Seekers is a collection of eight original tracks that uplift queer youth through the power of engaging, inclusive, celebratory songs. Things kick off with “Rainbow Seekers,” which is not just the album’s title track, but also a song from the group’s musical of the same name. The album then dives into several empowering messages of self-expression. “River’s Coming Over,” which features performers Evan Greer and Fureigh, is a song about nonbinary friends playing together doing things that they find fun – making a rainbow unicorn cake, having a tea party with Wolverine or Wonder Woman being the captain of the football team. This is followed by “Terry the Nonbinary Canary” (which is just clamoring to be made into a picture book) and “My Suspenders” which encourages kids to dress in ways that bring them joy. The Alphabet Rockers join Ants on a Log for “The History of Blue and Pink,” and updated versions of “Some Girls Have Short Hair” which talks about the various kinds of hairstyles anyone can have, and “They’re My Best Friend” which was the first song on national radio with all nonbinary pronouns and now includes harmonies by Carrie Ferguson and Lavender Blues are also included. Some of the album’s quieter moments come during the lullaby “Moppa” which includes some of the many names that children may call their nonbinary parents and features the beautiful vocals of Strawbitty Yops and Lindz Amer. Be a Rainbow Seeker and listen to this shiny, shimmery celebration of and for queer families (and all families) not just during Pride Month, but all year through! Rainbow Seekers is now available on your favorite streaming platforms.

Album Spotlight – “Levity Beet and the Aotearoa All Stars”

As New Zealand Music Month wraps up, I’d like to turn our attention to the southern hemisphere and the latest outing from Levity Beet. Levity Beet and the Aotearoa All Stars, the first album from Levity’s new label “Wildbeet Records,” is chock full of New Zealand notables and features collaborations with 12 different writers/performers/producers from New Zealand’s rich family music industry. Special guests include familiar names like Itty Bitty Beats, Music with Michal, and Claudia Robin Gunn as well as names that might be new to American audiences such as Suzy Cato, Craig Smith, fleaBITE, Kath Bee, Judy Cranston, Chris Sanders, Mr. Roberelli, MLO, and Loopy Tunes. 

When Levity Beet and the collaborators met to write the 12 tracks on this album, they used the broad concept of things that they remembered really loving as children. With that idea as their guide they created a collection of songs that emphasize play, imagination, silliness, and unbridled joy. Many of the tunes feature interactive elements such the made for storytime track “Funny Little Bunny,” “Jump,” the perfect summer song, and “One Baby Burger Cook” a jump roping chant. Additional songs like “Let’s Build This Home” encourages playing pretend and “Silly Sausage” is, well, just plain silly. Levity Beet and the Aotearoa All Stars hits all the right notes and will have listeners seeking out more music from everyone featured. Adorable animated lyric videos are available on Levity Beet’s YouTube channel.

 

Song Spotlight – “Thank You Teacher” performed by Again Again feat. Mista Cookie Jar

It’s that time of year again. The countdown to the last day of school is on – for the students and the teachers. Parents are looking for goodbye gifts for their children to give to their favorite teachers (everyone needs another mug, right?) and kids are making special cards filled with precious sentiments. To celebrate the gift that is teachers, consider sharing this wonderful new song of gratitude from the dynamic duo Again Again featuring the hip hop stylings of Mista Cookie Jar. Take a listen here.

Album Spotlight – Why Do We Sing performed by Sam Tsui and Casey Breves

Why Do We Sing album cover

If you’re not already one of the 3M+ subscribers of Sam Tsui on YouTube, you will be after listening to this album! Why Do We Sing? is the debut family music album of Tsui and his partner in life and in music, Casey Breves. Billed as the official soundtrack to the book of the same name, Why Do We Sing? has been in non-stop rotation at my house. The duo’s incredible vocals and lyrics, combined with top-notch production value leaves you feeling like you are listening to a Broadway cast recording or soundtrack to the latest hit children’s film. From the first notes of the title track, you know you’re in for a real treat.

Each of the ten songs on this album serves to answer the question – why do we sing? And the answers woven throughout are that we sing to express joy, happiness, and love, and to find confidence and strength in ourselves. We sing alone, and we sing together. Singing shares stories and cultures and shapes our lives. Several of the songs in the collection give off musical theater vibes like the operatic “BIG VOICE” and the swinging holiday showstopper “Carol the Caribou.” The cumulative track “The Greatest Ever Campfire Song” has a catchy chorus that makes it impossible to resist singing along. Organically incorporated into the tracklist are songs featuring musical styles from around the world. From the K-Pop inspired “Showtime” which features the ultimate dance battle for kids and their parents, to “Suniye” a nod to Bollywood that spotlights the vocals of Vidya Vox, and the mariachi stylings of “Las Tres Notas” with special guest Anthony Gonzalez, Tsui and Breves skillfully pay homage to the various cultures while telling stories that entertain and engage. The quietest moments on the album come from the beautiful “The Language of Lullabies” which includes an astounding 50 languages to express the vocabulary of bedtime. 

The picture book Why Do We Sing? is written by Tsui and Breves with illustrations by Tsui. All of the ways that the album answers the question why do we sing (and more!) are depicted in the words and the pictures of the story. As with the soundtrack, the digital illustrations reflect a diverse array of characters and cultures. The pacing of the story and the color palette – steeped in blues and purples with pops of pastels, make Why Do We Sing? a versatile book that can be read with great gusto and excitement during storytime, or a little slower and quieter just before bed.

Why Do We Sing? the soundtrack and the book, are not to be missed!

Video Spotlight – “Calamansi Twist”

  Little Miss Ann is a Chicago-based musician who has been writing and performing family music for nearly twenty years. During that time, she has highlighted various facets of her Filipino heritage, including foods like the wondrous purple yam known as the ube. With her most recent single “Calamansi Twist,” Little Miss Ann and fellow Filipino-American family musicians Mista Cookie Jar and Ronnie Boy Kids, introduce listeners to the calamansi fruit.  The video, a brightly colored, psychedelic dance party is one part ska, two parts pop and 100% fun.  “Calamansi Twist” is the perfect addition to  Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month celebrations and warm weather get togethers. Get up, get down, and calmansi twist all around!

 

Video Premiere – “D is for Dancing” performed by Brady Rymer & the Little Band That Could

My co-worker told me today that at her son’s grade school they are “doing the alphabet” for the end of the school year. New to that lingo, she explained to me that they are counting down to the last day of school by featuring a different letter of the alphabet each day. As luck would have it, their letter for today, just like ours, is the letter “D.”  Wyatt and his classmates are celebrating with three dance breaks throughout the school day.

In our case, we are celebrating with “D is for Dancing,” the newest video from Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could. With this new tune, the band has given us the perfect song for a sock hop or dance party.  Set to a retro rock ‘n’ roll melody, “D is for Dancing” is the grooviest music-themed alphabet song of the year. Filled with brightly colored graphics, dancing letters and a joy-filled performance from Rymer, “D is for Dancing” is a delight that will brighten your day, and leave you singing and dancing along.

Video Spotlight – “The Science of Pancakes” performed by Wendy & DB

Most people would agree that there are three types of meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There also is a unique group of people who believe that there is a fourth, very special kind of meal – breakfast-for-dinner. I was raised in a house that was definitely part of that last group of people. Growing up, we had a homecooked dinner Sunday-Wednesday nights, Thursday night was leftovers and Friday was often breakfast-for dinner. When Friday evening rolled around, my mom would get out her griddle and make dunky eggs, bacon, and that delicious breakfasty staple, pancakes. 

In their latest animated video, “The Science of Pancakes,” Wendy & DB celebrate all the yummy, fluffy goodness that is pancakes. The bluesy tune begins with Wendy singing, “The science of pancakes starts with love” then being joined by a chorus of children who add, “yummy, yummy, eat ’em up” throughout. The song goes on to describe the physical act of making pancakes, and the kinds of pancakes that folks like to eat, before going into the actual science behind this popular food. Make sure you have the fixings on hand before watching this video because once it’s over you’ll be craving a delicious stack of pancakes!

 

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