Rocking to a South African beat
South Africa - the Rainbow Nation - full of colour, full of creativity, and full of music!
The 24th of September is Heritage Day in South Africa, a day when we celebrate the different cultures, histories, and beautiful diversity of the people of South Africa. And of course, so much of our heritage is encapsulated in our music. So this week at playgroup, the kids will listen to a a few South African songs, and respond with singing, dancing and playing musical instruments.
Hello in 11 languages
We'll start the lesson with a recap of the song we did last week, where the kids sing hello in South Africa's 11 official languages.
Johnny Clegg: Impi
Zulu war dancing is a significant part of Zulu culture. We were lucky enough to go to Johnny Clegg's farewell concert recently and he explained that the war dances are filled with symbolism in the way the dancers move to the beat of the music, enacting battles. Here's a video from one of Johnny's performances of the Zulu war dance.
Dancing with the kids will not be as symbolic, but I'm sure they'll all enjoy pretending to be Zulu warriors. Get them to spread out with lots of space around them so that they've got enough "kicking room". Here are some ideas for dance moves:
- Introductory chorus (starts with just singing): stand in a squat, looking from left to right
- Verse 1: stretch arm out and then move in a semi-circle, pretend to ride a horse, slide from side to side
- Chorus: kick high into the air, alternating legs; try clapping underneath your leg if you can
- Repeat for Verse 2 and the next Chorus and then fade out the music
Elvis Blue: Die Brug
We first saw Elvis perform Die Brug on an episode of The Voice South Africa, and my son loved it. There's a backing choir, various brass instruments (including a gigantic sousaphone!), and a marching beat that is quite catchy.
In the music video, he's walking through the streets of Joburg, the bustling city in which we live (I was going to say "beautiful", but while Jozi has its own beauty, let's just say it has other more obvious good qualities!).
The kids will play the drums (formula and coffee tins) to this song. We'll also be decorating the drums with a Ndebele-inspired pattern - details of the activity and a free printable are coming soon. For this activity, start off seated and play the drums in the following ways:
- One big bang on the 1-count (remind the kids of the elephant stomping along, from a previous lesson)
- Alternate hands to play 1-2, 1-2 (like the giraffe)
- Alternate hands and double time to play 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4 (like the warthog)
About halfway through the song, get the kids to stand up and hold their drums against their hips with one hand, so that the other hand can drum. The kids can play a regular 1-2 beat, but with just the one hand and then move as follows:
- March on the spot while playing the drum
- March to the left in a circle
- March to the right in a circle
- March four little steps into the middle of the circle and then four little steps back
I feel I must add a word of warning here. My 21 kids were quite excited when we did this activity and it turned out to be quite loud... and a little too chaotic for me... So ideally, I would only do this activity with around 10 kids. But for next time I do drums with my big group, I'm thinking of pairing them up with one drum between two kids, just to reduce the drumming decibels a bit. But I think this could also introduce an opportunity to add in some variations to the drumming rhythms. For example, tell the kids sitting on the outside of the circle that they're number 1s, and those on the inside of the circle that they're number 2s. Then count 1-2, 1-2, and then each child should hit the drum on their number.
South Africa's National Anthem
The kids are familiar with South Africa's National anthem, which starts off with the African hymn Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika and then is followed with an Afrikaans and English section. The anthem is sung in four of South Africa's official languages. We'll sing the anthem together with the guitar as accompaniment - here is a chord chart.
Mango Groove: Special Star
I'd like to introduce an "instrument of the week". This week, I brought a recorder to show the children. In Mango Groove's "Special Star", there is a penny whistle, which is similar to a recorder. There is a picture of different types of recorders below, as well as a video of a musician playing a penny whistle. Play the video for the kids and then chat about what they hear.
Here are some questions you could ask to help your children analyse the sound they're hearing:
- How is the musician making the sound? He is blowing into the penny whistle and the air moving through the penny whistle is making a sound. For older children, you could also point out that the musician covers different holes on the penny whistle to create the different note pitches.
- Is the sound high or low? High.
- Is the musician playing fast or slow? Quite fast.
- Listen out for the notes that are long (legato) and those that are short and sharp (staccato).
- How does the music make you feel?
Play "Special Star" and let the children do their own dancing, whilst giving them some guidance. Point out that the song starts of slowly and with very few instruments, but then later, the rhythm starts to build and more instruments start playing. So the children can start by swaying and dancing slowly, and then dance with sharper, faster movements when the music changes. There's some great opportunities for stamping on the floor as well.
Explore SA's awesome music...
The songs in this lesson are just the tip of a gigantic iceberg of amazing South African music artists in a diverse collection of musical genres. I'd encourage you to browse Apple Music for Mzanzi Hits. Here is just one playlist of South African hits that you could have a look at, and then you could use the Rocking the Playroom Music Appreciation Cards to analyse the song with your kids. But just a warning, not all of the tracks are necessarily appropriate for kids, so you'll need to do a bit of parental control - until I have a bit of time to put together a kid-friendly playlist of South African music.
Looking for more fun musical activities to do with your kids?
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