This week in class: THE GUIANAS

All Around This World map of South America featuring the Guianas

This week in our online class for little kids we meet The Guianas, three countries in South America — Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana — with fascinating histories and fantabulous music. Historians of South America often group these three extremely diverse countries together because they all used to be part of “Guyana,” a small stretch of land on South America’s northeastern coast that Spanish, French, Dutch and British all tried to control for centuries.  Now the three countries are separate, though not all entirely free from their European “friends” — Guyana is English-speaking and independent (as of 1966), Suriname is Dutch-speaking and independent (as of 1975), while French Guiana is French-speaking and still under French political control. In class we have some sing-along, dance-along fun that inspires us to want to visit all three. 

An ancient Mayan melody

We end our week in Mexico with a  sing-along that takes us back a thousand years. “Mayan Peace Song,” is a melody from the Mayan Empire, which dominated the land we now know as Mexico a millennium ago, seeding a civilization that inspires (and intrigues) us for its powerful rule and its mysterious fall.

We laugh, we cry, we sing Mexican Rancheras

Chavela Vargas will make you weep. (I think that’s good.)

This week in All Around This World, as we focus on Mexico, we meet music that’s fantastically fun. In some of our classes though, we pause the frivolity to listen to a recording “La llorona” performed by Chavela Vargas, iconic singer of rancheras, Mexican rural folk songs, who has surely seen difficult days. Rancheras won’t all tear your heart out like the one in this video, but jeez…. Learn more about Vargas at Chavela Vargas Official.


We start our Meixcan adventure with rock star band called “Kinky.”

You would think we would start our dive into the music of Mexico with the nation’s so many extraordinary musical traditions — son jarocho! mariachis! — but no…let’s rock. The Mexican rock band, Kinky, rose to international fame with the song we hear in this video — Mas! (More more more more!). We at All Around This World love traditional songs that tell the tale of a nation’s soulful past, but definitely appreciate that the counties we visit are living, breathing and, like Mexico, clearly ROCKING.

This week in class: MEXICO

All Around This World map of Latin America featuring Mexico

This week in our online class we travel north to Mexico where we’ll strive to place the nation’s extraordinary cultural heritage within the context its profound ancient history. But don’t worry…we also croon like mariachis, dance like parrots, meet a stubborn bull and sing a Mayan song of peace.

Escaping to Belize to devote ourselves to the drum

We’ll let the Lebeha Drummers drum us out of our week with the Garifuna….

In case this morning you woke up thinking, “I desperately need to escape my humdrum life, run away to Honduras or Belize and learn Garifuna drumming,” be assured that the Lebeha Drummers will gladly welcome youto their drumming center on the Caribbean coast. If you’re not leaving today at least you can take your kids to an All Around This World music class and drum drum along to “Our Story May Be Sad.”

Umalali making glorious Garifuna music

Make it happen, Umalali…!

One of the most inspiring concerts I’ve seen in recent years was a stunning show by Umalali: The Garifuna Women’s Project as part of Crossroads Music – Philadelphia at Calvary Center for Culture and Community. The ensemble is the result of a collaboration between  Belizean musician and producer, Ivan Duran, who spent over a decade collecting Garifuna women’s songs and stories, and Garifuna female performers who bring hundreds of years of Garifuna history onto stage when they perform. Asumming you’re not going to be in Belize or Honduras any time soon…if Umalali is so kind to play a concert near you, BE THERE.

We meet Andy Palacio and The Garifuna Collective

We start our week of Garifuna music with the best of the best — Andy Palacio.

This week in class we introduce ourselves to the Garifuna people of Central America, specifically of Belize and Honduras. The Garifuna are a distinct Afro-Caribbean group that originated in 1635 when a boat carrying African slaves shipwrecked off of the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. The survivors integrated into the Carib population and developed their own West African/Caribbean language and culture. Within two centuries the Garifuna had settled in several locations along the Central American coastline yet, unlike many cultures, maintained their own communities and never fully integrated into the Spanish-influenced mainstream. In this video meet the deeply-missed Andy Palacio of The Garifuna Collective, whose “Watina” helped bring Garifuna music to the international stage.

This week in class: HONDURAS

All Around This World map of Latin America featuring Honduras

This week in our online class for kids we travel to Honduras, where, about 1500 years ago the land was the site of a major Mayan kingdom known as Xukpi (Copán).  The Mayan population declined by about the year 900, but there were still non-Mayan inhabitants around when Columbus and other Spaniards landed in the early 16th century. In 1537 the warrior Lempira unified two hundred Native American tribes in an effort to expel the Spanish and made a strong stand at the fortress of Cerquín.  The Spanish captain invited Lempira to a peace conference, ordered a marksman to shoot him and then, after he fell to his end from the high cliffs, chased his warriors away.

Not good.

In our class we’ll tell a much more pleasant tale as we meet the Garifuna people learn about their unique history. As we do we will shake our bottoms while dancing the Punta. Our dancing will be technically embarrassing yet unrelentingly awesome.