This past year was another amazing one for children’s music. Whether you like the more traditional kids music, jazz, rock, folk, EDM, pop, world music or the blues, there was something for every family. To be considered for the 60th GRAMMY awards, albums had to be released between October 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017. Below are the five albums that are nominated for Best Children’s Album (click on the blue titles to see my reviews). The GRAMMY awards will be announced on Sunday, January 28.
Brighter Side performed by Gustafer Yellowgold
Feel What U Feel performed by Lisa Loeb
Lemonade performed by Justin Roberts
Rise Shine #Woke performed by Alphabet Rockers
Songs of Peace & Love for Kids & Parents Around the World performed by Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Latin GRAMMY winner Mister G brings his unique blend of musical genres, languages, and education to The Mitzvah Bus. Originally released in 2015, this high energy, Jewish-themed celebration is definitely worth a second (or if you’re like me, a first!) look.
Mister G’s trademark clever lyrics are evident from the very first song, “Challah-lalala” and continue through a menu of delicious foods in the songs “Latkes for Breakfast” and “Matzah on my Mind.” The education continues with the funk-filled “Flood’s Gonna Come,” a retelling of the story of Noah and the Ark, “Purim Party Song” and the ska-inspired “Hanukkah,” which delve into the history and traditions of the holidays. The title song, “Mitzvah Bus” tells a tale of good deeds and helping others while “Bevakasha” places emphasis on the power of the word “please.”
One of Mister G’s unique strengths is his ability to weave different languages together into a seamless, beautiful song. On The Mitzvah Bus, he combines not two, but three languages (in this case English, Spanish, and Hebrew) into lyrics that tell of a dance-party filled with friends in “Hola Shalom” and the glorious wonders of nature in the beautiful “Naturaleza.” In Mister G’s hands, the flow from language to language is seamless making each song a lyrical masterpiece.
Surrounded by a group of talented musicians, Mister G and his acoustic guitar breathe an unusual blend of funk, jazz, rock and world music into the album. While many of the songs on this album can’t be used in library programming, the songs about food could easily be used in programs about family traditions. The Mitzvah Bus would be a great addition not only to collections where Jewish-themed music is in demand, but also in collections where world music and family traditions are emphasized. In order for us to gain a better understanding of one another, it’s important to learn from each other and The Mitzvah Bus is a great place to start!
It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the time of year when the stores put all of the Thanksgiving items on clearance, the pre-Black Friday sales begin, and local radio stations start playing Christmas music. And all of that before the family has even arrived to enjoy the abundance of deliciousness known as Thanksgiving dinner. So, since all signs point to it being “that time of year,” over the next month I’ll be highlighting several new family albums that celebrate the holidays.
First up is the delightful It’s the Holidays! from Brooklyn-based Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats. This collection of five jazz age inspired originals celebrates the holidays between Halloween and New Year’s. The album kicks things off with the clever “My Mommy is a Mummy” (keep this one in mind for Halloween 2018) and is followed by “Grateful,” a rare song about Thanksgiving. This is a lovely tune about family and food, but also about the importance of putting aside our differences and acknowledging those things in life for which we are grateful. Take a listen.
Just as the seasons transition from fall to winter, so do the songs on this album. “It’s Snowing” gets listeners thinking about how fun it is to get all bundled up to go outside and of all the exciting things children can do in the snow when they get there. This fast-paced song would work great in winter-themed storytimes as kids dance to the various activities described in the song like stomp, jump, run, slide, and climb. “It’s Snowing” also acts as a nice bridge to the final two songs on the album.
The title track, “It’s the Holidays!” is a bouncy celebration of Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and a lovely New Year. The refrain, “It’s the holidays in our community/we celebrate all in unity,” encourages listeners to take the time to honor our differences. Finally, the album is capped off with “That’s a Wrap!” a short (1:37 min.) tune that tells listeners “Let’s wrap up this year and say goodbye” and would be a great addition to any New Year’s Eve programs.
While shorter than the average album, Kalantari, backed by a group of amazing musicians, has created an album that families will listen to again and again. It’s the Holidays! is the perfect start to “the most wonderful time of the year.”