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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We Immerse Ourselves in ‘Imene Tuki

‘Imene tuki are a heavenly hybrid, songs that infuse Church hymns with cascading multi-part harmonies and elements of pre-colonization chants that capture the musical spirit of the Cook Islands. We introduce kids in our online classes we do so with enthusiasm, humor and, if we can manage, confident Polynesian flair.

Many Kinds of ‘Imene

Cook Islanders express their culture exuberantly, especially when they sing ‘imene, a genre of music that not only covers contemporary songs, like Cook islands string bands, but also traditional music, like ‘imene reo metua — songs that Protestant missionaries brought to the islands in the 1800s — and Ute, celebratory songs that are essential to Cook Islanders’ social gatherings. Tomorrow we’ll meet one more kind of ‘imene: “‘Imene tuki!”

Taking Action in the Cook Islands

The music of the Cook Islands is rhythmic, harmonious and lively. Drumming forms the foundation of traditional music and dance from the Cook Islands, for example, in “action songs” in which drumming sets the tempos and ukuleles and guitars play the melody. Many of the popular drums in Polynesia such as the Pate and the Tokere may have originated in the Cook Islands, though they arrived in French Polynesia in the early 1900s and have since become identified with Tahiti.

Kia Orana Day

Yesterday we began a wonderous week of wanderings in the Cook Islands. Let’s start by celebrating Cook Islands culture. In other words, Happy Kia Orana Day!

Though each of the Cook Islands has its own unique shades of culture, a common strain running among them is a social organization based on chiefs, families (clan) and a lack of individuality as opposed to integration with the village or family group. The chiefdom primarily passed along the male bloodline, while land rights passed down the mother’s line. Among other duties such as leading the village in war, chiefs were responsible for the all-important sharing of food and giving of gifts; the greatest chiefs threw the best parties. Www.ck also suggests Cook Islands society has a Greek-style “heroic” strain, meaning that in the islands a man would acquire power by developing a reputation of having accomplished admirable deeds.

A Hundred Square Miles of Land in 700,000 Square Miles of Ocean

All Around This World -- Cook Islands
This week in our online class we visit the Cook Islands, a group of fifteen Polynesian volcanic islands and atolls — 93 square miles of land spread widely over 690,000 square miles of ocean. According to the history page of www.ck, “Cook Islanders are true Polynesians, the finest seafarers of the vast Pacific, voyagers on frail canoes who felt at home on the ocean and who traveled across its huge wastes in search of new lands and new beginnings.” The first record of these “true Polynesians” appearing on the Cook Islands came from about the years 600 to 800 A.D. when settlers are believed to have migrated from other Polynesian islands such as Tahiti, Samoa and Tonga.

The islands, which exist as a self-governing democracy, even as they are considered to be “in free association” with New Zealand., exist two distinct groups. The Southern Cook Islands, which include the most populous island, Rarotonga. Actually the largest population of Cook Islanders is not in Rarotonga, or anywhere in the islands themselves, but in New Zealand. In 2006 about 14,000 people lived on Rarotonga. In 2006, 58,000 in New Zealand self-identified as being of Cook Island descent.


Tahiti’s Terrific Toa’Ura

We end our week enjoying Tahitian music and dance with by meeting Toa’Ura (“Red Warriors,”) a multifaceted Tahitian ensemble that fuses traditional Polynesian percussion and melodies with contemporary Western instruments and song structures. To get a sense of how this works -–and it works very well — you can watch many Toa’Ura videos on YouTube, such as in this video from a live performance, dancers and all. Cheers!

All Around This World’s Tour Photos ARE IN

All Around This World in Schrobenhausen Germany 2019All Around This World on tour at SIVO in the Netherlands, 2019All Around This World summer tour 2019 in Tulln AustriaAll Around This World on summer tour 2019All Around This World on summer tour 2019, on Rugen Island in Germany

We’re back! If you are following All Around This World on Instagram (@allaroundthisworld) or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/allaroundthisworld) you know that my family and I were on a musical mission this summer, traveling to many countries in Europe over the course of about two months, both to give our kids the chance to meet a different part of the world and to foster international harmony by singing international songs. Over the course of the All Around This World/Sand Family summer tour 2019 we performed in a wide variety of venues, from an afterschool program in Bavaria to a delightful variety show at a town fair in northwestern Italy, from a bistro at the mouth of a cave near Trieste to a pedestrian street in a lovely town along Austria’s Danube, from a number of backyard and farmyard parties (with special thanks to Hamburg and BlissBeach) to the family activity area of the SIVO Cultural Dance and Music Festival in a “museum village” in the Netherlands. Most fascinating, and particularly eye-opening for the kids, were the concerts we played at facilities for families of refugees and asylum seekers in several countries like Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. At those shows we met families in almost every stage of the asylum/migration process and learned so much about the different ways European countries are relating to immigration — as one would imagine, vastly different from the U.S.

While we were abroad I took a few photos — um, about 10,000. There are a few ways to see the best: The 2019 summer tour page on the All Around This World website takes you through the tour and includes embedded videos of us performing. And here’s a Google photos slide show that has all of those pictures and more.

While the tour took a lot of energy and we are all very happy to be home, the adventure was also invigorating. We were all so inspired by the intensity of kindness extended to us time and again by so many people in so many places. Reminded us that there is still much good in the world. Professionally, the experiences I had singing with kids who spoke any number of languages and were engaged in any number of stages of the ground-shifting process of migrating from one part of the globe to another reinforced my belief that music beats the heck out of Esperanto as the universal language. While I’m humbled by the depth, breadth and essential effect of the work so many people we met in Europe are doing to better the world, I return with even more confidence in my mission to spread international understanding through shared joy as I do, and a renewed commitment to do more.

With joy,


Our Enthusiasically Unimpressive Ote’a

Yesterday in our online class we met Tahitian ote’as, energetic Polynesian dances that often tell a story. Tahitian dancers who know what they’re doing are incredibly impressive. When I try Tahitian dancing, I’m incredibly not. When we dance the Tahitian ote’a with tiny kids we start at the very beginning, with the most basic hip-shaking and circular moves. It’s not quality dancing, but we’re all in. Trying Tahitian dancing gets us moving, we hope in the right direction. So let’s go!

Ote’as for Everyone

Traditional French Polynesian music works hand in hand with dance to tell a story. The Polynesian percussion vocabulary uses multiple flexible phrases, each of which has a distinct name (Napoko, Toma, second Toma, Pahae, second Pahae, Paea, Puara-Ta, Takoto, Mati, Bora Bora, etc.) to construct the narrative that provides context for the dance. In class we’re going to some of these phrases to develop the narrative of a hip-shaking, grass-skirt-wearing Tahitian dance called an “ote’a.”

The Tahitian ote’a is not a Hawaiian hula; it’s much faster and, purposefully, not nearly as graceful. Music used for ote’as is vocal-free–only drums (to’eres, pahu, etc.) are allowed. Some ote’as are for men only, some for women only, some for all to dance together. For their dances men often choose narrative themes such as sailing or battles. Women often sing of nature or create images from their home lives. In either case, the theme of the ote’a should inform all the moves in the dance.

Tahitian Himene Tarava

When Christian missionaries arrived in French Polynesia several centuries ago, most considered the music as primitive and too seductive in nature; colonial authorities regularly banned much Polynesian music, replacing it with hymns and other forms of “more appropriate” songs. French Polynesians took quickly to Christian music, called “himene” (hymns), and by the early 20th century several types of himene had developed. For example, “himene tarava” features a large choir — up to 80 singers — composed of men and women who sing in complicated multi-part, multi-tone harmonies. According to National Geographic’s writing on the music of Tahiti, “this form of singing…is distinguished by a unique drop in pitch at the end of the phrases, which is a characteristic formed by several different voices; it is also accompanied by steady grunting of staccato, nonsensical syllables.”