“Keenene” is a Ugandan chant I first heard on W. Moses Serwadda’s collection, Songs and Stories from Uganda. It appears in a story in the collection about how some village children accepted help from an unfamiliar animal named Baluba and he ultimately provided a feast for them, including a voluminous amount of raspberries, which they shared with their neighbors. In class we dispense with the concept of sharing and DEMAND our favorite foods.
Going to Uganda in All Around This World classes gives us the chance to enjoy some of our favorite forms of African music, such as Kadongo Kamu (“one guitar”), a modern genre that finds its inspiration in traditional Ugandan forms. In the video linked here, enjoy the beautiful music of Bernard Kabanda, a Kadongo Kamu pioneer. (Bonus: an overview of Ugandan music.)
The first country we’re going to meet in our African season of online classes for kids is Uganda. While we acknowledge that this East African nation doesn’t always get the best international press, Uganda’s densely fertile land and its diverse yet tightly-woven ethnic groups — not to mention its energetic and melodic music— reveal an optimistic, albeit complex society that aspires to put the past behind it and forge boldly into the future.
We open every All Around This World class, even our online classes, with “We Are Happy,” a greeting song written by Rabbi Gershom Sizomu and JJ Keki of Uganda’s Abayudaya (Jewish) community. (Learn about the Abayudaya here.) This is video I shot of Rabbi Gershom when he was in Philadelphia a few years ago. He kindly visited young children and sang songs from his community. Everyone loved “We Are Happy.”
Tomorrow we start exploring Africa country-by-country. Where do we go first? Coincidentally, Uganda.
All Around This World’s introduction to African instruments doesn’t claim to be comprehensive, but it does claim to be cool. Sure there are drums, like the ubiquitous djembe, but you’ll also find an extraordinary diversity of bells, xylophones, flutes, horns and even, thankfully, THIS. Enjoy!
There are hundreds if not thousands of distinct kinds of African music, and there are more genres being born literally as we speak. African music is extremely local, tied closely to the land and the ancient rhythms of the people who originated each form — like the Tuareg musician, Bambino, in this video — but at the same time there is constant cross-cultural communication, both within geographic regions on the continent and also with African-inspired music like blues, jazz and funk, from the West. All Around This World’s African Genre’s Overview is here.
In class this season we have the pleasure of learning family-friendly songs from all over the awe-inspiring African continent. If you want to dive even deeper definitely check out All Around This World: Africa, a dazzling double CD — 32 studio recordings of songs we sing in our Africa classes, co-produced with musicians from all over Africa. There’s a little bit of everything on it for you and your kids, from Cape Verdean samba to Malagasy salegy, from Algerian rai to South African isicathamiya and more. If you order the physical CD you’ll get an exciting little booklet with lyrics and a map of Africa that shows you where the songs originated. If you want to stream it, one digital CD at a time, I guess that’s fine too.
In All Around This World classes we approach “Africa” geographically, grateful to the natural boundaries for providing some parameters for our multicultural explorations, but beyond that we find our utmost excitement in the continent’s diversity. (Want to learn the countries of Africa? I just found this “African Countries and Capitals” video. Listening to it is kind of driving me crazy, but I can’t look away.) In class we take a tour that begins in the East and proceeds counterclockwise around the continent–North then West, Central then South. What countries will be visiting this season? For an overview look HERE.
Since we’re going to be visiting Africa this season, in all its musical glory, I must remind you all that All Around This World has created a splendiforously unique “musical map” that will introduce you to hundreds of African instruments and genres. The Africa musical map is the work of yours truly and Uruguayan master illustrator Gustavo Wenzel.
We’re here! Africa Africa Africa. For the next three months in our online classes for kids we have both the ultimate pleasure, and the sincere responsibility, of exploring the vast African continent, meeting an extraordinary number of African countries and culture through music. Our class this week introduces us to a few of our soon-to-be favorite songs. Let’s go!