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October 17, 2011

New Music: Songs from the Baobab

World music—a term no one really likes but no one has come up with a fully utilitarian replacement for, either—has always been a big part of children's music, going at least as far back as Pete Seeger's interpretations of folk songs from foreign lands. Today it's pretty much its own subgenre; Putumayo alone puts out several excellent world music (or world-music inspired) albums a year.

But I've never heard anything quite like the lovely Songs from the Baobab, a new book-CD combo from The Secret Mountain. It features 29 tracks of lullabyes and nursery rhymes in 11 different languages from Central and West Africa, sung by adults and children and played on indigenous instruments. The lullabyes, some essentially chants, are hypnotically soothing, perfect for lulling newborns and infants to sleep (as some have presumably done for generations). The more upbeat tracks, meanwhile, tend to be irresistible attention-grabbers, whose lyrics (translated for us in the accompanying book, which also features gorgeous illustrations by Elodie Nouhen, themed to the songs) are funny and moving and often profound.

Many parents will want to know more about these songs, and that informations is provided in the book—nation and language of origin, and in many cases interesting facts about the genesis of the songs themselves. Kids, meanwhile—and this is one of those albums that will appeal to a particularly broad age range of them, literally from newborns on up—will just love listening to them.

[Images courtesy of The Secret Mountain]

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