A heavy topic of conversation lately on facebook music teacher groups and in several pieces of literature on teaching music: How to teach authentic music and be sensitive about it being culturally appropriate.
I posted about this before and I think we all need to be thoughtful and thorough in using music in our classrooms that is culturally relevant and appropriate. Be thoughtful in the music chosen, and thorough in researching (yes, that dreaded word) the origins and cultural context of the piece prior to using it. Yes, there are songs in "The Textbooks" that have incorrect *gasp* translations and have been "whitewashed" and "washed out" so the true cultural meanings are no longer there. There are also some pieces in textbooks and other resources that are taken out of context or we now realize are culturally insensitive. Yes, my students love the song, "Jump Jim Joe", too... but I need to re-create that song with different lyrics and alter the melody enough so it is no longer a song that is culturally offensive.
Here are a couple Native American songs that are not used in sacred ceremonies and are culturally appropriate and great for your young singers!
Navajo Happy SongI first learned this from a fellow music blogger and eventually traced the song back to the original collector. The music for this is included below, and available in my book, Hands to Hands. You can check out the video of this song on this previous post. The children love it and it is so easy and has a lovely melody. My kiddos usually learn all of this in a class period and looks very effective for performance with 3 rows of students; row in front sitting criss cross, 2nd row kneeling, last row standing or bent over slightly.
Wee Hee Nah
From Songs For Teaching; http://www.songsforteaching.com/native-american-music/weeheenah.php, used with permission.
From Songs For Teaching, “This is a children's "duck-catching" game, possibly of Lakota origin. The lyrics are vocables, vocal sounds without specific meanings that can be translated”. Game adapted by David Heitler-Klevans
Two players, "duck catchers", face each other and create an arch with hands reaching overhead and palms touching.
All others, "ducks", stand in a circle facing clockwise, walk and sing moving under the bridge.
At end of song all say "HEY"! Players making arch drop hands trapping a "duck".
This "duck" replaces one of the "duck catchers" and play continues with each caught “duck" taking the place of a "duck catcher" at each turn.
Players stand in a circle with one player in the center. At end of song, player in center acts out an animal then chooses another player to guess animal name. Game begins again with new player in center.