Jay Sand teaching an All Around This World class

All Around This World is a unique, interactive global music and world cultures program for children 0-9 years old that encourages children and their families to explore the world by enjoying global music, rhythms and movement. Jay Sand, guitarist and children’s music teacher, world traveler and dad of three girls developed All Around This World with his girls as a way to introduce them to the countries he’s already visited and the many more he plans to visit with them. Through CDs, concerts and workshops, dynamic online classes, engaging homeschool and classroom lessons, “musical maps” and participatory parent-child music-making Jay hopes to make the world a bit smaller one song at a time.

All Around This World is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of All Around This World must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Donate here.

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From Spain to Sweden, Greenland to Greece

All Around This World Western Europe "Everywhere Map"

Welcome! This the first day of the first week of the next amazing season of All Around This World’s online class. Today we start our journey Western Europe and the Nordic Countries, a region of the world that has the distinction of being home to the most popular music-makers of all time, from the almost super-human classical composers Beethoven, Bach and Mozart to the (arguably?) equally brilliant Lennon and McCartney. From Spain to Sweden, Greenland to Greece — yes, we’ll talk about why Greece counts for us as “West” —  we will clap our hands, stomp our feet and have one heckuva good time. Let’s go!

Whooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Tree fall down!

We start to wind down our Caribbean season with one of our favorite songs from the season — an Anguillag folk song that’s also a cautionary tale. “Tree Fall Down,” hints at the Caribbean proverb, “Big tree fall down, goat bite he leaf”,” which means “When a great man falls, he is no longer feared and respected.” True, true and true. Here are the lyrics of our version: Molly climb up the mango tree, Oh tree fall down, Molly climb up the mango tree, Oh tree fall down, So high up in the mango tree, Oh tree fall down, Too high up in the mango tree

Whooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Tree fall down!”

The Spirits Meet the Saints in Cuba

One of the most fascinating “fusions” in the Caribbean is the fusion of West African religion and Catholicism, which is what you’ll find in Cuban Santeria. A small part of the Cuban population practices Santeria, which has its roots in Yoruban/Nigerian religion, and is often analogized to African/Haitian/American voudon (“voodoo”). In Santeria there are many spirits (orishas) with whom one must communicate in many ways, most famously through intricate rituals involving animal sacrifice. The culture of those who practice Santeria in Cuba started with Yoruba/Nigerian slaves several hundred years ago and morphed over generations into something uniquely Cuban.

Bo Bo Bo Calinda

Yesterday we met the Trinidadian stick-fighting sport of Calinda. One of the songs we sing in our Caribbean season of songs, the Trinidadiaan folk song Bo Calinda, may possibly refer to this martial art, which, much like Brazilian capoeira, is always performed with musical accompaniment. It also could be a song about a beautiful girl — or a girl with a “beautiful mouth” — in Spanish, “boca linda.” Whatever the subject of the song, when we sing it in class we do the hokey pokey.

A Sticky Situation in Trinidad

When we visited Trinidad in class we somehow got stuck. Calinda is a martial art, cultural dance and accompanying form of percussive music that arose in the early 18th century among Africans enslaved in Trinidad and Tobago. In the competition, fighters/dancers challenge each other with long sticks while community members chant and cheer them on. Though inspired by actual fighting techniques in the African Congo, today one will most likely encounter Calinda as a joyfully musical sporting event, full of acrobatic dancing and trance-like chants, during Trinidad & Tobago’s brilliant Carnival.

Limbo Lower Now

This week we’re looking back on our last three months of Caribbean music and culture, catching some of what we couldn’t bear to miss. For example, LIMBO originated in Trinidad in the 1950s and quickly became the world’s favorite gimmicky party dance. Dancers move around the room to Afro-Caribbean rhythms, leaning one by one in turn backward beneath a horizontal pole without touching it or the ground. The stick moves lower and lower until only one dancer who hasn’t touched it or the floor remains. But there’s more to the Limbo than just a fun game to play at the roller rink right before “all skate.” Says Wikipedia, “Consistent with certain African beliefs, the dance reflects the whole cycle of life….The dancers move under a pole that is gradually lowered from chest level, and they emerge on the other side, as their heads clear the pole, as in the triumph of life over death…This dance is also used as a funeral dance and may be related to the African legba or legua dance.” (Note: Very few funerals in the United States feature a limbo.)

Celebrating Caribbean music in all its glory

All Around This World Caribbean "Everywhere Map"

For the last three months we’ve had so much fun celebrating Caribbean music in all its multicultural glory. As we hopped from island to island we dug deep into the region’s complicated past, one that has struggle and sadness at its core, but which was always aware that the story need not end there. The resilience of Caribbean peoples resonates in every cha cha cha, kompas and clever calypso, in reggae’s hope for justice and change, in soca’s celebratory soul. We emerge from the Caribbean with a love of life, sung with eyes open by those who have survived. Looking forward to next season!

Rikki Jal’s Charismatic Chutney

Indian indentured servants who came to Trinidad from 1845 to 1917 brought their music with them and eventually fused it with island music to form a genre called chutney. Traditional chutney music added Indian instruments like the dholak and the harmonium to Caribbean songs, as well as a religious sensibility and, often, vocals in Hindi.  Today chutney has blended with soca to form “chutney soca,” which has become popular international dance music. In this video chutney soca star Rikki Jal gives us a taste.