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Columns | Fall 2016

Music In Bloom

Music and Sounds From Around the World

Music is in bloom as young children take a journey to explore music and sounds from around the world. They build bridges to other cultures and continents through songs, instruments, and musical activities.

Start the musical journey with a “hello song” using different languages from around the world, sung to the tune of “Skip to My Lou.” 

Hello, how are you? Hello how are you? 
Hello how are you? How are you today?  

Hola, ¿cómo está? Hola, ¿cómo está?
Hola, ¿cómo está? ¿Cómo está hoy? 

Bonjour, comment allez-vous? Bonjour, comment allez-vous?
Bonjour, comment allez-vous? Comment allez-vous aujourd’hui?

Nǐ hǎo! Nǐ hǎo ma? Nǐ hǎo! Nǐ hǎo ma?
Nǐ hǎo! Nǐ hǎo ma? Nǐ jīntiān hǎo ma?

Put a stamp in their musical passport as children explore the rhythms of Uganda. Drums and wooden xylophones are two of the most widespread and important instruments in African music. Rattles, shakers, bells, cymbals, rhythm sticks, and scrapers are also found in many regions. Provide young children with a variety of these percussion instruments to use for a common musical practice in African music, “call and response.” Invite the children to explore the different sounds the instruments make. Next, organize all that sound by playing a simple rhythmic pattern, or “call,” for the children to echo. Repeat, using several different rhythmic patterns. After the class is comfortable with the process, invite individual children to play a pattern on their instrument for the group to echo. Depending on the abilities of your class, consider introducing a “response” made from a favorite pattern. Go around the circle, giving every child a chance to play a “call,” and answer with the “response” after each turn.

Provide each child with a drum and ask the children to imagine the animals living in the Ugandan jungle and the sounds they would make if they were walking across a drum. Share pictures of different animals, e.g. monkeys and zebras, and ask them to make the sound of that animal on their drum. Share the following verse leaving space for the children to create the sound the animal might make as s/he moves.

Jungle Groove 
by Maureen Conlin 
© 2016 Maureen Conlin

Cat walks quietly in the night, elephant stomping with his might.
Powerful leopard hunts in the trees, chimpanzee swings in the breeze.
As they walk and as they move, can you hear the jungle groove?
On the drum make the sound, jungle animals all around.
Snake slithers by in the grass, zebra he is moving fast.
Nile crocodile swimming in the sun; monkeys jumping, having fun.
As they walk and as they move, can you hear the jungle groove? 

On to Australia we go, as we add another stamp to our musical passport. The main instruments include percussion sticks of eucalyptus, struck against each other, and the didgeridoo, a long trumpet used mainly to play a single tone drone. Children may use smaller pieces of PVC pipe as their rhythm sticks, and also create their own didgeridoo using longer pieces of PVC pipe. A length of 1.5” PVC pipe approximately two feet long works well. For adults, the PVC pipe should be five to six feet long. The length will determine the pitch of your didgeridoo (longer makes a lower tone). To make a mouthpiece, purchase a female-to-female 1.5” coupler piece and a 1.5” to 1” bushing (a small fitting, which acts as an end piece while reducing the opening). Place the coupling firmly onto the end of the pipe and fit the bushing into the coupling. You now have an assembled didgeridoo. 

Invite the children to decorate their instruments using the painting technique called “dot painting” famous among Aboriginal people of Australia. There are many books about dot painting, and information and images can be easily found on the Internet. Children can use markers or paint dotters to create their own artwork on their didgeridoo. The instrument is played in a seated position. Children hold the end of didgeridoo with their feet and blow into the pipe keeping their lips loose. It may help to tell children to imitate the sound of a horse snorting, or mimic playing the tuba using “raspberry lips.” Play recordings of didgeridoo music for children to play along with.

The continent of Asia is our next stop as we continue our exploration of the universal language of music. There we find the Chinese Pien Chung, a set of metal ceremonial bells of different sizes hung from a stand and struck with a special hammer. Create a Pien Chung for children to play by using everyday items from around the home. Materials might include old keys strung together, a spatula, a pan lid or pot, nuts, bolts, and washers. Position a dowel or cardboard tube between two chairs and tie the dowel ends to the backs of two chairs for stability. Use pipe cleaners or string to hang the items from the dowel. Two metal spoons are used to strike the Pien Chung. Have children explore the sounds of each item and select which sounds are higher or lower. Items being hung on the Pien Chung can be arranged according to size, shape, color or sound.

Let the children take turns striking the Pien Chung with the metal spoons as they tap a steady beat or a rhythm using one or both hands. They can also tap to this verse:

Pien Chung Chant
by Maureen Conlin
© 2016 Maureen Conlin

I can play the Pien Chung (tap, tap, tap), 
I can play the Pien Chung (tap, tap, tap). 
High sounds, low sounds, (tap, tap, tap),
Loud sounds, soft sounds (tap, tap, tap). 
I can play the Pien Chung (tap, tap, tap).

Ping, ping, clang (tap, tap, tap), 
Ring, ring, chang (tap, tap, tap), 
Clink, clink, plink (tap, tap, tap),
Clunk, clunk, jangle (tap, tap, tap),
Clank, clank, clack (tap, tap, tap), as we tap.

I can play the Pien Chung (tap, tap, tap),
When the moon is rising high (tap, tap, tap).
Stars are shining in the sky (tap, tap, tap). 
Twinkling sounds I can hear (tap, tap, tap),
When it’s quiet sleep is near (tap, tap, tap).


Then it’s off on a tour through the continent of Europe, exploring the music of famous European composers. Listen and move to the “Chinese Dance” from Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, and dance with colorful scarves or streamers made from crepe paper.

Rhythm sticks and jingle bells are perfect play along instruments for “Pizzicato Polka” by the Austrian composers Johann Strauss II and Josef Strauss. Let the children choose bells or sticks, and as they listen to the recording, have them decide when bells should be played, when rhythm sticks are played, and when they are played together.

Skate around the floor using ice skates made from paper to “The Skater’s Waltz” by French pianist Emil Waldteufel. Then enjoy playing rhythm sticks to Italian composer Gioachino Rossini’s “The William Tell Overture.”

Now that passports are filled with musical stamps from around the world, it is time to return home. Invite children to “jazz it up” as they march along to Louis Armstrong’s arrangement of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” celebrating music created here in the United States of America. 

Before closing musical passports, sing “The Goodbye Song” using the melody of “Skip to My Lou.”

Goodbye, goodbye to you! Goodbye, goodbye to you!
Goodbye, goodbye to you! Time to sing goodbye!

Continue singing, adding words for “goodbye” in different languages, e.g.:

Adios, goodbye to you! Adios, goodbye to you!
Adios, goodbye to you! Adios, goodbye!

Other options include “arrivederci” (Italian), “zàijiàn” (Chinese), and “au revoir” (French).  

Wishing you all a wonderful journey, a passport filled with stamps, and many bridges crossed through the universal language of music!