Tag Archives: music 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

Thumbs up!

Part of the MIM sanza exhibit

It’s “thumbs up!” at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, where 200 sanzas, better known as thumb pianos, will be exhibited Feb. 25-Oct. 1.

Families who visit the museum’s Target Galley will see sanzas from the MIM’s own collection and a museum in Central Africa. But most hail from a private Belgian collection spotted a year or so ago by a MIM board member and funder during travels abroad.

Manuel Jordán, chief curator and director of collections at MIM, says that in a museum filled with diverse instruments from across the globe, it’s nice to add an experience that “focuses on one specific instrument and all its ramifications” — from how it’s created and built to how it’s played and used in various cultures.

Sanzas are created in different sizes and feature designs ranging from simple to elaborate. “When you see them in person,” reflects Jordán, “it’s almost like each one has a personality.” Like people, they’re all different and unique. “You can’t help but have favorites,” says Jordán — though he’s reticent to pick just one or two. Seems he’s fallen in love with “a good twenty to twenty five of them.”

Sanza featured in an upcoming MIM exhibit

When our children were younger, we often bought sanzas and other small instruments when visiting museum gift shops, and they’re still living in a basket our kids used to haul out for playdates. The thumb pianos were always a hit because they’re so easy to play and carry from place to place.

“There’s a certain simplicity to the instrument,” says Jordán. “You don’t need lessons to play one.” Folks who pay for general admission to the MIM are free to explore the sanza exhibit — plus play various instruments, including sanzas, inside the MIM Experience Gallery.

Jordán recalls seeing his first sanza during a two-year stint in Africa. Three children were carrying the instrument, which had been crafted of wood and branches pulled down from a banana tree. Jordán notes that sanza is “the music that accompanies storytelling in African villages.”

Seems the sanza has plenty of fans — including groups like Genesis and Earth, Wind and Fire. It’s the only musical instrument you’ll hear behind the vocals of Canadian Laura Barrett, according to Jordán. Angolan musician Victor Gama “has experimented with thumb pianos with a futurist tilt.” Jordán notes that many “look like things out of another planet.”

Part of the MIM sanza exhibit

Jordán adds that renowned American banjo player Béla Fleck uses them too, as does Tanzania musician Anania Ngoliga. “Lots of world music uses it,” shares Jordán, along with lots of other percussion instruments.

Because of Africa’s interaction with other parts of the world, says Jordán, you can find the sanza in many cultures. Jordán says folks who find sanzas in the museum’s Africa exhibits will find them in Latin American exhibits too.

Those who wonder how they got there can follow the path of music through history to learn about the slave trade and ways African culture has merged with other cultures over time.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to explore MIM offerings and learn more about the sanza exhibit.

Coming up: Art meets television

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

Cows for a cause

Thousands of boys from Sudan immigrated to the United States during the 1990s — including the “Arizona Lost Boys of Sudan” — who are among the many children orphaned in one of the bloodiest conflicts in recent history.

Sudan might feel a world away, but who can’t imagine what it might be like to be orphaned? And who doesn’t wish there was some way they could help.

This is where the cows come in. They’re ceramic handmade cows crafted by orphaned children, and they’ll be on sale during “The AZ Lost Boys of Sudan 6th Annual Birthday Party” at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.

Birth dates are rarely recorded in Sudan, so aid workers have given many orphans a Jan 1 birthday — which Changing Hands recognizes with an event featuring birthday treats and a cow sale to benefit the AZ Lost Boys and Girls scholarship fund.

If you want more info on the scholarship fund, just visit the AZ Lost Boys Center online at www.azlostboyscenter.org. Of course, they pretty much had me at “ceramic cows.”

Changing Hands Bookstore has all sorts of interesting fare this month — including a Jan 12 panel with psychologists and educators sharing “strategies on how teachers, students and parents can cope with bullying.”

Sesame Street puppeteer Noel MacNeal hits Changing Hands Jan 14, and the “Yallapalooza” — “a literary extravaganza for tween and teen readers featuring more than a dozen ‘YA’ authors — takes place Jan 29.

You can bring little ones clad in pajamas to the Jan 13 “Pajama Storytime for Preschoolers” with children’s specialist Ramie Manch, or awaken your own writing muse with one of Changing Hands’ many writing workshops and poetry roundtables.

Another “Local First Arizona” bookstore — which has stores in Mesa, Phoenix and Tucson — has diverse offerings for literature-lovers of all ages. This Sat, Jan 8, folks can head to Bookmans in Phoenix to learn the art of paper folding from the Arizona Origami Society.

Other Bookman happenings this weekend include an author signing of a new book about the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (Tucson), a “Silly Bandz” trading event (at the Glendale Glitters & Glow Block Party) and an anime club get together (Phoenix).

Later this month, you can enjoy several “Music Hour with Nature!” events, a Harry Potter club gathering, and a performance as part of the “Ear Candy Charity & Chicks with Picks Live Music Series!” (Store locations vary.)

Be sure and check with your local independent booksellers as well — many of whom provide an environment rich for conversation and community building. Your local bookstore is a great place to find fellow readers, writers and thinkers — and to help your children cultivate these skills in a day and age too full of distractions.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Local First Arizona and its members (which include Raising Arizona Kids magazine).

Coming up: The fine art of tolerance, The art of “Sacred Places,” Art adventures: Glendale, Shrek: I’m a Believer