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.

How to sing with Jay each week in your home or classroom Support All Around This World on Patreon Enjoy interactive All Around This World lessons in your home or classroom


Bravo for Besh O Drom!

We kick off our week in Hungary with one of our favorite Hungarian bands. Besh O Drom is a Budapest-based multifaceted, multi-talented 10 piece “electro-acoustic collective” that draws on traditional music from all over the world — “Transylvanian, Jewish, Afghan, Egyptian, Armenian, Bulgarian, Romanian and Greek,” as they say on their website — to create a rambunctious blend of old and new. The name “Besh O Drom” comes from the Lovari language, meaning, “ride the road.” Or, with a more creative translation, “follow your path, get on with it.”

Merry about Magyars, Happy about Hungary

All Around This World map of Eastern Europe featuring Hungary
This week in our online class we’re going to Hungary, land of the ancient Magyars who settled in the Carpathian Basin way back in 895 A.D., well before the founding of Germany, France or England. Along the way there were Turks, Austrian Hapsburgs, Russians and more, but through the ages the Hungarian nation endured. This may have something to do with the unique Hungarian language, distinct from the Slavic languages of its neighbors. Being the only ones to speak a language may isolate your nation from potential allies, but it can also unify it in the face of enemies. Today we say a hardy jó napot and embark on a week of Hungarian unity.

Ruslana’s Wild Dance

We end our week in Ukraine with some really “wild dancing.” In 2004 Ruslana, a singer from the Hutsul ethno-cultural group, won the continent’s Eurovision Song Contest while representing Ukraine — a really big deal. Her song, “Wild Dances,” was inspired by the Hutsulka and other Hutsul dances, albeit with non-traditional costumes and quite non-traditional moves. That’s okay. We’re proud of Ukraine. If that means dancing wildly, we dance!

Here comes the Hutsulka

In class this week we dance our version of the Hutsulka, a dance of one of Ukraine’s most distinct minorities. The origin of the Hutsul people is not clear; there are Hutsuls, or people related to the Hutsuls, sprinkled among the Carpathian mountains and in parts of Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic. The “Hutsulka” is a lively dance that embodies the vibrant spirit often ascribed to the Hutsul people. Dancers wear traditional red and white costumes and prance, bounce and spin exuberantly around the dance floor.

Vesno Krasna — Ukraine Loves the Spring

Winter can’t last forever! “Vesno Krasna,” our version of melody found in the song “Vesnianka,” which we met yesterday, is a Ukrainian song to celebrate the well-earned coming of spring. Here are the lyrics of the All Around This World version:

Pretty pretty vesno krasna, we will greet the first of spring
Flowers bloom and grass is growing, hearts so full we have to sing
Bum ba ba ba
Pretty pretty vesno krasna, we will greet the first of spring
We have braved a bitter winter, we can conquer anything
Bum ba ba ba

Vesnianka — We Will Greet the First of Spring

We first heard the Ukrainian song “Vesnianka” on a Smithsonian Folkways album by the Kobzari Ukrainian Folk Ensemble, a group of musicians in their teens and twenties that formed in Nebraska in 1972 to celebrate traditional Ukrainian music. In this video watch Ukraine’s Kalyna State Ensemble dance to this springtime song. At about four minutes into the video melody of our version of the song, “Vesno Krasna” will float by. We’ll sing “Vesno Krasna” tomorrow.

Ukrainian Roma Singing in the Street

Beyond a robust minority of Russians, who compose approximately 20% of the population, Ukraine boasts a diversity of people, cultures and music that may be surprising to those who equate the nation with its rapidly modernizing, increasingly European capital of Kiev. For example Ukraine is home to a variety of mountain-dwelling ethnic groups, such as the Boikians, Lemkians and Hutsuls (who we’ll meet later this week). There is also a small but active population of Romani, such as the members of the band in this video.


Keeping the Kobzars Alive

The primary musical figure of Ukraine has always been the “kobzar,” the itinerant musician who has traditionally played “bandura” (zither) and spread folk music and poetry. Kobzars were such an important part of Ukraine’s national identity at the beginning of the Soviet period that Stalin invited the nation’s kobzars to a conference, arrested them and…worse. The Soviets replaced independent, multicultural Ukrainian music with sterile, state-sponsored orchestras and effectively prohibited musical expression.

After the Soviet Union collapsed a new crop of kobzars rose to revive Ukrainian folk traditions, though with the ascendance of modern music like rock, pop and hip hop, true kobzars are few and far between. Want to meet kobzars? Enjoy this short documentary tribute to “the last kobzar,” Ostap Kindrachuk.

Ukraine, Russia, and a Cheat

All Around This World Eastern Europe map featuring Ukraine

This week in our online class for kids we venture to Ukraine, an inspiring Eastern European nation that has endured centuries of complicated territorial shifts — ruled at points by Lithuania, the Ottoman Empire, Poland, Austria-Hungry and, most prominently throughout the 20th century, Russia. Ukraine endured devastating famine and forced “Russification” under Joseph Stalin’s rule. After becoming independent from the USSR in 1991 Ukraine went back and forth between aligning more closely with Russia and then, after the “Orange Revolution,” with the West. The country continues its tempestuous relationship with Russia, in particular in a tense conflict over the Crimean peninsula.

As you’ll note in the map above, we cheated. Rather than committing to disputed Crimea matching the color of Ukraine or Russia, we cropped the map to avoid making a choice. Tricky! Elsewhere on the All Around This World site you’ll see our map of Eastern Europe with Crimea colored a mix of green and yellow.

Polka Flash Mob

Nowadays you can find a place to dance the Czech/Polish dance known as Polka in most large cities around the Western world, and not just in traditional Polish beer halls. There many kinds of Polka in the U.S.: Polish-American, Slovenian-American, Czech-American, Mexican-American and the Papago Pima, a German/Arizonan/Native American polka in sometimes called “the chicken scratch.” Polka may not be quite as popular in Asia, but don’t tell that to the enthusiastic Japanese dancers from this video’s Polka Flash Mob.