In children’s music, something incredible happened as a direct result of the pandemic – collaboration. Sure, artists worked together on occasion before, but never like they do today. “Joy, Spice, Soul” is a perfect example of just one of the amazing collaborations happening right now. On this uplifting track, two-time GRAMMY winner Lucy Kalantari is joined by brand new GRAMMY winner Falu and GRAMMY nominee Fyütch in creating a slice of happiness. In this jazzy, upbeat tune, the basic melody remains constant as each of the performers brings their own style of music (jazz, soul, classical Indian) to the lyrics. When their voices join together, it’s pure magic. As they aptly declare, “We bring different flavors but sing the same song/Brothers and sisters let’s all sing along.” Take a listen below while you dance around the room celebrating the “Joy, Spice, Soul” in life!
Welcome to Kids Rhythm and Rock’s fourth annual Children’s Music Roundup! For those of you new to the blog, each year rather than doing a best of list, instead, I compile a list of my favorite albums.
2021 was an amazing year for children’s music with innumerable new artists making their way into the spotlight while more established acts continued to create incredible music and forged new musical partnerships with those they met along the way. Let’s say hello to 2022 by taking a look back at “the year that was” in children’s music. Don’t see your favorites listed below? Add them in the comments!
Be Mindful, Be Kind
Music to guide our everyday lives.
- A Mind of Your Own performed by The Bright Siders
- Maybe by Next Year performed by Kid Pan Alley
- Frogs and Birds performed by Lindsay Munroe with Raffi
- Yoga Dreamland performed by Putamayo
Fun, fantastic tunes to brighten any day.
- A Colorful World performed by Falu
- You Are Magic performed by Allison Faith Levy
- 28 Days performed by Little Miss Ann
- Make it Happen! performed by Stacey Peasley
- I Am performed by Shine and the Moonbeams
This was always my favorite Jeopardy! category. In this case, it’s a fun way to group the jazziest jazz, the quirkiest tunes, and songs on some popular topics together.
- Seconds performed by Ben Tatar and the Tatar Tots
- It’s for You performed by Flula Borg and Go Banana Go!
- What Kind of World? performed by Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz Cats
- Planetary Promenade performed by Billy Kelly
- From My Head to My Toes performed by Music with Mandy
- Ponderosa Bunchgrass & the Golden Rule performed by The Oot N’ Oots
Regional Superstars You Should Know
It’s easy to forget that our talented local performers aren’t well known all across the country. Here’s some from the past year everyone should give a try.
- All Together Now performed by Esther Crow (New York)
- Music Makes Me Happy performed by Katie Dwyer (New York)
- The Grumpytime Club performed by Carrie Ferguson (Massachusetts)
- Sing Your Song Performed by The Harmonica Pocket (Washington)
- All Together performed by Kathryn the Grape (California)
I dare you to try and sit still while listening to these albums!
- Crayon Kids performed by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
- Ready, Set, Go! performed by Divinity Roxx
- Invisible performed by Father Goose
- Family Tree performed by Fyütch
- Slow Clap performed by Koo Koo Kangaroo
Unique Musical Stylings
There was nothing else quite like these albums this year.
- Young Maestros, Vol. 1 performed by Tracy Bonham (these could be showtunes)
- Black to the Future performed by Pierce Freelon (Afrofuturism)
- Folk for Little Folk, Vol.1 performed by Gordie MacKeeman (award-winning fiddling)
- Okay to Be Different performed by SaulPaul (rap)
- The Beat Bach Symphonies performed by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo (rap with a symphony orchestra)
- The Strawberry Band performed by The Story Pirates (music based on children’s stories)
Visiting with Old Friends
- Let’s Go! performed by Laurie Berkner
- Love Me for Who I Am: The Remix performed by Brady Rymer
- Sharon, Lois & Bram Best of the Best Live performed by Sharon, Lois & Bram
- We’re All Fruit Salad performed by The Wiggles
Wide World of Music
These albums feature music in Spanish, Spanish and English, and music from as far away as New Zealand.
- Activate performed by 123 Andrés
- Pachamama performed by Flor Bromley
- Danilo & Chapis, Vol 1 performed by Danilo & Chapis
- Esperanza performed by Sonia De Los Santos
- Sing Through the Year performed by Claudia Robin Gunn
- A Mi Me Gusta Ser Yo *It’s Ok To Be Me performed by Twinkle Time
With a Little Help From My Friends
2021 was a year of amazing partnerships and collaborations.
- All One Tribe performed by 1 Tribe Collective
- Let It Out! performed by Mil’s Trills
- Let Love Be Your Guide performed by Dan & Claudia Zanes
Full disclosure – Halloween is kind of a big deal at my house. New decorations started arriving in June this year. First it was a couple of blow mold black cats in the living room, then it was black cat pumpkin figures peering from unexpected places (and often getting mistaken for our actual black cat) when the Grandin Road fall catalog appeared in July. As we slowly cruised into autumn, it was a few Halloween goodies from the local grocery store on the kitchen table soon to be followed by bowls and plates and platters as prices were slashed to make room on store shelves for the Christmas decorations. Plans are being made for our annual Halloween costume party with evening discussions often surrounding what the lighting should look like, what theme we should go with throughout the house this time, and what creepy food we should serve. And then there’s the outside decorations. Did I mention that work on the light show began back in January? January!! It’s going to be amazing.
Decorations aren’t the only thing essential to Halloween. So is a good soundtrack. After all these years of celebrating All Hallows Eve, I have a pretty prolific collection of Halloween themed music, but as with any holiday, there is always room for more. So what better way to start off the spookiest of seasons than with a brand new song from Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz Cats? Released last Friday, “Flick of My Wrist” is a fantastically orchestrated tune that allows Kalantari’s rollicking vocals to dance around the lyrics as they describe the exploits of a young witch whose use of her power leads to unexpected results. It would be absolutely ghastly if you dared to leave “Flick of My Wrist” off of your Halloween playlist! Take a listen, and Happy Haunting!
School Library Journal’s (SLJ) “Top 10 Music of 2018” list is out. This year, items that qualified for the list followed the same release date timeline as those for GRAMMY and Fids and Kamily consideration – they had to be released between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018.
The criteria used to compile this list is slightly different as well. Along with the best overall quality, musicality and kid/family appeal of an album, the SLJ reviewers also look at selections from the point of view of librarians and teachers and recommend the best albums of the year to use in programs or the classroom.
This year’s Top 10 is varied enough to have a little something for everyone. Each album pictured below deserves a space in every library collection. Click here for to visit SLJ for brief descriptions of each album. Did your favorites make the list?
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 and more, there was something for every family. To be considered for the 61st GRAMMY awards, albums had to be released between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018. 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, February 10.
The Nation of Imagine performed by Frank & Deane
Welcome to Kids Rhythm and Rock’s first ever Children’s Music Roundup!! Throughout the past year I thought a lot about doing a “10 Best” list, but the music for children this year was so diverse and so dynamic, there was no way I could limit my choices. What I decided to do instead was to make a list of my favorite albums of the year, then break the list up by categories. (If I reviewed an album here, I’ve included the link.) So, without further ado, here is the 2018 Children’s Music Roundup!
Most Amazing Album Covers:
Come for the covers, stay for the fantastic music!
Be Mindful, Be Kind:
Music to guide our everyday lives.
Every Voice performed by Kira Willey
Dog on the Floor performed by Raffi
Oh, to be Little:
Perfect tunes for the preschool crowd.
Sounds of Summer:
Winter may soon be upon many of us, but these albums are good anytime of the year.
Camp Andyland performed by Andy Z
Fireflies performed by Mister G
Who knew science could be so fun?
Giants of Science performed by The Pop Ups
Kidz STEM Songs performed by Dan Crow and Friends
Zoom a Little Zoom: A Ride Through Science performed by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer
Life Through a Special Set of Eyes:
Meet Jamey, his cat and his new puppy as they partake in the joys of summer.
Kitty Cat Under My Wheelchair performed by Steve Pullara and His Cool Beans Band
For Fans of the “Who Was/ Who Is” Series:
What better group of people to learn about than Nobel Laureates?
Legion of Peace performed by Lori Henriques Quintet featuring Joey Alexander
Where in the World…:
Music inspired by cultures from around the world.
Everything’s groovy in this collection.
All the Sounds performed by Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz Cats
We Only Have One Earth:
Celebrate all the creatures, great and small, on this planet we call home.
Back to the Land performed by Hot Peas ‘N Butter
Why Why Why? performed by Ants Ants Ants
Who can resist a bilingual playground?
Happy Land is Tierra Feliz performed by Mi Amigo Hamlet
There are many moms on this list, but the moms below can’t be categorized!
Music for a Cause:
Hold Tight, Shine Bright performed by 25+ children’s artists
This album was created to help keep families together. All proceeds go to RAICES Texas.
And finally –
Just Because They’re Awesome:
Building Blocks performed by Tim Kubart
Family Photo Album performed by Recess Monkey
Hand in Hand performed by Suzi Shelton
Did your favorites make the list?? Let me know in the comments below.
My introduction to Lucy Kalantari’s special brand of family jazz music was her fall 2017 holiday EP It’s the Holidays! and I’m so glad that she’s back with this full length album. This jazz age inspired collection of ten original songs is a real delight. Each song has its own unique identity filled with complex melodies and engaging lyrics, yet they all fit together to make a beautiful whole.
Once again Kalantari is backed by the highly talented Jazz Cats who really get to shine on numbers like “Ain’t No Dog Like Mister,” a tribute to Billie Holiday’s dog Mister which allows for some great clarinet solos as well as the tango accented “Howl to the Moon” which opens with a gorgeous cello solo that leads to vocals backed by a swaying bass beat as it tells the story of a werewolf who longs for the evening when he can dance with his friends.
Songwriting really takes the spotlight when Kalantari skillfully weaves other musical genres into her tunes. The quick paced “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” features an original rap by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo wrapped in a jazz number that emphasizes the importance of understanding your fears and asking listeners “Can you turn that bad into something good?” Another fun blend of musical genres occurs in “Bunny Hop” where the main character in the song gets to know Mr. Opera Man (real life opera singer Adelmo Guidarelli), the next door neighbor, who operatically proclaims, “I love bunnies!” Listeners will quickly find themselves hopping and thumping along to this tune.
While all of these songs are great for family listening, there are also several that would be nice additions to a storytime, program, or classroom lesson. “I Know a Little Fellow” could work to introduce children to musical terms as Kalantari’s talented 5 1/2-year-old son demonstrates on the cello the terms she sings about such as pluck, bow, pizzicato, pianissimo, and fortissimo. “La Cosecha” is a fun bilingual song that would fit nicely into a storytime about gardening or community that introduces listeners to a wide variety of vegetables in both English and Spanish. Finally, “The Peace Song” is a lovely call and response song with a special message.
All the Sounds is a joy from beginning to end. Families will find themselves listening to it again and again.
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.”