Tag Archives: CDs for kids

Break the habit

Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem perform May 5 at the MIM in Phoenix

I’m rocking a nasty headache these days, deep in the throws of caffeine withdrawal suffered during periodic flirtations with the coffee-free lifestyle. There wasn’t much spring in my step this morning, until I popped a new CD into my laptop and gave a listen to “Ranky Tanky” by Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem. Despite living in the “i-everything” age, I’ve no intention of breaking my CD (or album) habit.

The CD opens with Yusaf Islam’s “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out.” Back in the day, we knew him as Cat Stevens. The first few notes had a real Jason Mraz vibe, but soon the foursome’s original stylings and unique arrangements came through. I was waking up, and ready to dance. And why not? I was alone with my kitchen, and dishes needed washing. No harm in having a little fun along the way.

Finding a CD fit for family consumption is harder than it seems, but this baby brings the perfect balance in song selection, musical arrangement and vocal performance. Its 17 tunes include the likes of “Tennessee Wig Walk,” “Morningtown Ride” and “Wildflowers.” Several, including “Kind Kangaroo” and “Bear to the Left,” feature animal themes. My personal favorite is a sweet, slower piece about a pony named “Tinny.”

“Ranky Tanky” took me back to preschool parenting days — when my three kids, now in college, loved throwing sheets over tables to make forts or building cities out of giant boxes in the back yard. Parents eager to help their children break high-tech habits have a friend in “Ranky Tanky.” Its sing-along stylings will get your kids off the couch and into movement. Don’t be surprised if they start foraging for materials to make their own musical instruments. They’ll be eager to recreate the diversity of sounds on this CD, so let them run with it.

While listening to “Ranky Tanky,” I pictured all the ways my children might have enjoyed it years ago. Grabbing purple markers to draw their own monsters after listening to “Purple People Eater.” Running out to tend the garden after hearing “Wildflowers.” Grabbing the books “Hats of Sale” off the shelf after enjoying “Where Did You Get That Hat?”

Kids hear plenty of noise that passes for music nowadays, but “Ranky Tanky” is the real thing. It’s fun to pick out various instruments as you’re listening, even pretending to play right along. Air guitar is so yesterday. Air veggie baster is where it’s at. Turns out the daisy mayhem foursome plays more than a dozen instruments on “Ranky Tanky” — from fiddle and ukelele to kazoo, jawharp and baloon kalimba. Four “extra super extra musicians play clarinet, trombone, trumpet, tuba, resonator banjo and mandolin.

Daisy mayhem (they like the lower case vibe) is a lovely ensemble of four vocalists and musicians  — Rani Arbo, Andrew Kinsey, Scott Kessel and Anand Nayak — who’ll be performing May 5 at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. It’s hard to imagine a better venue, since the MIM is home to an “Experience Gallery” where folks can try their hand at playing instruments from around the globe.

You could break a lot of bad habits listening to “Ranky Tanky.” Too much couch time. Too much caffeine. Too much computer time. Too much remote control time. But go ahead and Häagen Dazs it every now and again. Just be sure you’re dancing while you do it.

– Lynn

Coming up: Playwright profiles, Before there was the Web

J is for Jersey — and Juneau

“Alaskan Fiddling Poet” Ken Waldman, who’ll be performing at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix next weekend, does plenty of traveling as a sort of modern day troubador.

I’ll bet Waldman didn’t expect to be in New Jersey late last week – but he was a stowaway of sorts as I traveled to the East Coast with one of my daughters.

When I went to rev up my laptop, I discovered Waldman’s bright green “D is for Dog Team” CD inside.

I’d listened to several of his CDs, and read two of his books, just a few weeks before. He was kind enough to send them my way so I could get a feel for his work before he hits the Valley with his family-friendly blend of music, poetry and storytelling.

One book, a memoir titled “Are You Famous?,” is a detailed read standing in sharp contrast to the mini-memoirs I write in many of my posts. Perhaps he’s not ready to accept rumors of readers’ shortening attention spans. Or maybe he just gives people more credit than most.

Waldman’s “D is for Denali” — featuring Alaskan acrostics from A to Z — is more my style. There’s “A is for Avalanche,” “I is for Iditarod,” “R is for Reindeer” and more.

It reminds me of the years I spent living in Anchorage — and my mom’s brother Bob, who lived with his family in Juneau.

Its development was “made possible in part through a grant from the New Jersey-based Puffin Foundation” — an organization dedicated to “continuing the dialogue between art and the lives of ordinary people.”

The name of the non-profit caught my eye because my daughter Jennifer, who’ll turn 20 this week, was quite the puffin fan during childhood.

Animals are a common subject in Waldman’s works. The “D is for Dog Team” CD includes “Stubborn Old Mule,” “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground,” “Duck River” and several other selections.

Another offering — a pair of CDs titled “All Originals, All Traditionals” — features one CD with 28 instrumentals and another with fiddle tunes and poems.

When you open the packaging, you see a poem titled “Suffering Democracy” — one of my favorite little gems from Waldman’s world.

Head to the Musical Instrument Museum this Friday (April 29) at 4pm for “Experience the Music: Ken Waldman and Poetry and Storytelling for Kids.” The event, designed for kids ages 4-8 (with a parent), is just $15/child.

Waldman also performs a series of three free events at the MIM on Saturday, April 30. Other MIM activities that weekend include “Listen to the World” — a celebration of the museums’s first anniversary, complete with music, dance and workshops.

If “M is for Moose Pass” — then “MIM” is for music, imagination and memories. It’s unlikely you’ll see a moose around these parts. But thanks to the MIM — music exhibits, performance and education are always available right here in Arizona.

Now if only I could get New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen to pay a visit to the MIM…

– Lynn

Note: Waldman is currently a featured poet on the website for “49 Writers,” an Alaskan non-profit supporting writers and their work. Click here to learn more.

Coming up: Costume shop treasures

Stories & songs with Bill Harley

Maybe you didn’t make it to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix for the recent celebration of John Lennon’s 70th birthday.

Bill Harley brings family-friendly story and song to the MIM in Phoenix on Sunday (Photo: Tom Thurston)

No worries. Sunday will be another fabulous day at the MIM as Grammy Award winner Bill Harley brings his family-friendly fare to the MIM Music Theater.

I spoke recently with the prolific singer/songwriter, storyteller, author and playwright — and his team was kind enough to send me review copies of his latest CD (“The Best Candy in the Whole World”) and soon-to-be-published paperback (“Between Home and School.”)

Harley is the father of two grown sons and currently lives with his wife Debbie near Providence, Rhode Island. He grew up in Indianapolis and Connecticut.

Two of Harley’s “Best Candy” stories are originals — while others are adapted from the British Isles, Africa and Appalachia. While you’re at the MIM for Harley’s concert, take some time to experience musical instruments from these (and other) regions.

"Best Candy" from Bill Harley is a decadent dessert for those with a sweet tooth for storytelling

I asked Harley whether storytelling seems a dying art. “It can’t really die,” shared Harley, “because it’s what people do.” Storytelling, says Harley, is what makes people human.

While talking about the family-friendly nature of his show, Harley noted that “songs and stories always go hand in hand culturally.” But what exactly is a story?

Story is “saying what happens before and imagining what happens after,” reflects Harley. “History is the winner telling the story.”

“My job,” says Harley, “is to watch, listen and pay attention” — adding that artists help others take a second look, to notice things they might otherwise miss.

So what are we missing as parents today? Many would say it’s family together time. Or ways to connect and communicate with our kids. Which is why a shared experience of story and song might be just the ticket this weekend.

Bill Harley's "Between Home and School" is an ode to the fine art of communicating

“I’ve done my job,” says Harley, “if I give kids and parents a common language.” Harley loves seeing parents and children in the audience elbowing each other during his show with a “Yup, that’s us” grin.

We focus too often, observes Harley, on what we think kids need to learn in order to grow up. It’s no less important, he says, to honor children’s emotional lives.

Harley describes his work as more descriptive than prescriptive — hoping concertgoers will leave considering not simply what they know, but what they feel.

–Lynn

Note: Harley performs this Sunday at 2:30pm at the MIM Music Theater. Visit www.themim.org or call 480-478-6000 to learn more about this concert and others in the MIM 2010-2011 Concert & Film Season.

Coming up: Reflections on NPR, “Glee” and GQ magazine