Suggest some world music styles for me and my students to explore
June 21, 2009 3:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for striking, rich new fields of world music to explore with kids.

I'll be teaching elementary school music starting in the fall. I'd like to introduce my students to musical traditions from around the world that will catch their ears, preferably styles they can play around with themselves.

An example: Gamelan music. It's dreamlike, circular, exotic sounding and not too hard to reproduce with drums, chimes and idiophones set to a minor pentatonic scale. But I already know about gamelan music!

A counter-example: Bulgarian choral music. Beautiful, but full of tricky harmonies, dissonant to American ears and too demanding for children to play around with themselves.

So what world music styles can I introduce that kids can pick up with delight?
posted by argybarg to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
When I think kids and world music I think of thumb piano/mbira. It's very easy to make some nice sounding noises with one, but there's a long interesting tradition where the words and vocabulary are as interesting as the music and there are a few different styles many of which have storytelling woven in with the musicmaking part.

Here is a YouTube channel with some lessons. Here's a tuning page with some good photographs. This PBS page gives you an idea of some basics for kids.
posted by jessamyn at 3:45 PM on June 21, 2009

Shape note singing
posted by fire&wings at 3:53 PM on June 21, 2009

You could teach them to do the bhangra rhythm, than teach them to dance to it. Looks fun! In fact, I may do it myself.
posted by ctmf at 4:18 PM on June 21, 2009

Didgeridoos are awesome! And they involve lots of spit and making motorboat noises into a tube, which kids might be amused by.
posted by ShadePlant at 4:28 PM on June 21, 2009

How about Caribbean music? I would have loved playing around with a steel drum when I was a kid.

And bonus: when they inevitably discover Bob Marley they'll actually know something about the tradition he came out of.
posted by emmatwofour at 4:35 PM on June 21, 2009

lol I came in this thread to post "gamelan music".

howabout some mongolian throat singing? check youtube for "Kongar-ol Ondar".
posted by Mr_Crazyhorse at 4:41 PM on June 21, 2009

Several years ago some colleagues and I got a bunch of money from the National Geographic Society to create educational curricula for elementary school teachers to teach social studies through music. It was called Mapping the Beat. The sixth grade curriculum is centered around world history and might be more appropriate than material for earlier grade in this case.
posted by billtron at 6:39 PM on June 21, 2009

It's a bit close to home, but apparently ukuleles are kind of easy to play.
posted by unmake at 9:19 PM on June 21, 2009

Capoeira would probably be appealing because of the combination of folk instruments and acrobatics.
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 6:04 AM on June 22, 2009

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