Wednesday, October 6, 2010

In review--Play time! (Native American music for children)

Randall Paskemin
Good Night Sweet Dreams to You, I Love You
Native American Lullabies and Songs for Children
Canyon Records

Navajo Songs for Children
Canyon Records

Plains Cree Indian and a loving father of several children, Randall Paskemin brings us a collection of gentle songs which can be sung to children at bedtime or anytime. Sung in a round dance style with the calm pulse of the mother earth heartbeat drum, Paskemin sings mainly in English and has provided lyrics to the songs on his album Good Night Sweet Dreams to You, I Love You.

While these songs feel sweet and simple enough for a young child to grasp and even sing along, I believe that the tranquility presented in each song could also assist adults in relaxing after a challenging day. Use these songs as de-stressors for the entire family (provided you don’t have teens that rebel against the idea). Therapists of all stripes could also apply this love-felt music to healing the inner child. While the songs provide sweet and loving lyrics, they won’t cause a gag reflex in adults who prefer not to listen to children’s music.

And studies mentioned in books such as Daniel Levitan’s This is Your Brain on Music suggests that children need simple music that they can follow. And the music created for children, when done right helps the brain to develop and provides an outlet for music appreciation. When adults feel overwhelmed with stress, our nervous systems also respond to gentle, slower tempo simple songs. So pull this CD out, and relax with your child as you put her or him to bed.

Already a NAMMY nominee at the age of 17, Talibah Begaye performs for the little ones on her recording Navajo Songs for Children, though she sings most of her lyrics in the Dinè dialect with a few English phrases peppered throughout. Right now I hear her singing about a superhero. She accompanies herself on a frame drum set the heartbeat of our Earth Mother and her chants have a trancelike feel to them, with phrases repeated in a mantra fashion.

Running at 49 minutes, the music here probably wouldn’t work well for bedtime music. But perhaps, your child would enjoy waking up to these up tempo songs. The Prayer Song and Walk in Beauty teach children how to appreciate their Creator and the natural world, and these songs could also provide a wonderful way to start or end the day. I imagine that this recording would be educational for both Native and non-native children. Nothing like delving into ethnic cultures at a young age.

As Talibah shows respect to her elders and the young ones too, she shares her Navajo traditions. With so much talent, I wonder what this young woman will have achieved by the time she reaches my age. When I turned 17 the only accomplishment I could boast was graduating from high school, and this young woman has already been nominated for a prestigious Native American Music Award. Someone special must have sung some fabulous songs to her when she was a child.

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