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Sing me a song, play me a tune

Posted by PlayGroundology on August 5, 2008

Imagine a favourite guitar riff, a rolling, cresting percussion wall, a wailing, charging horn section. Now, select from memory the music that was your personal soundtrack to new love. Listen as the lyrics and score take you back and continue to inspire that frisson de folie, that delicious head over heels, gravity-defying tumbling to points unknown.

The sweet, swaying power of music transforms us into feet tapping, waist winding, gyrating rhythm hounds. Our kids, given the opportunity, will just lap up the tunes like there is no tomorrow. Whether it’s classical, country, jazz, funk, blues, R&B, punk, heavy metal, flamenco, rap, rock ‘n roll, or reggae is not really important. What counts is that kids get to listen to a variety of musical genres and develop an appreciation for what moves them to dance, relax, or maybe even play themselves.

Nellie at 9 months is mesmerized by Apple’s iTunes visualizer a pulsating, spiraling, kaleidoscopic on-screen light show that trips to the beat. She can easily watch and listen for 20 minutes seated on my lap. On our return home from Québec it had been 6 weeks since Nellie-Rose had been transfixed in front of the MacBook screen. It had not lost its powerful magic. Nellie immediately flashed a baby bright smile and her dilated eyes became deep resonating universal language pools. When she’s fussing inconsolably this light and sound combo frequently brings her back to a much calmer state

Noah-David got fully grooving, up on his 2 feet and shaking his little butt just after his first birthday. He’d already been moving to the beat – jumping, rocking and turning – for several months in his exersaucer. Independent, free form dance was new and he loved it. His music of choice was Diogal’s Soré a joyous and haunting contribution to worldbeat from Sénégal, West Africa. His musical tastes at this point are limited only by what we choose to play, or by what he tries to play himself. He has his own drum and flutes as well as a toy guitar and enjoys giving impromptu concerts. We had one yesterday in fact – Noah unplugged, guitar and vocals. He announced that his favourite song was Sur le pont d’Avignon which he has adapted quite liberally. Now that young sister Nellie-Rose has mastered the art of clapping, the appreciation quotient has just upped a couple of notches for our performance crazy balladeer.

Music’s influence and imprint at a young age creates an indelible soundscape. 40 plus years down the road I can still hear the bold brass of Herb Alpert’s Tijuana ensemble. I’ll never forget the racy – for a 10-year-old – and suggestive cover of Whipped Cream & Other Delights. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of that luscious model and at a tender age, whipped cream took on a whole new meaning. I loved those tunes and remember asking my Dad to put them on the platter and turn them up. They were from a world far away but with the drop of a needle the MexiCali chart topping pop filled our house with bursting, cascading notes – warm musical showers that brought smiles and a touch of mischief to our eyes.

The other stand outs in my parents’ musical canon spinning on the RCA Victor console were Frank, Bing, Andy Stewart, Englebert Humperdinck, Nana Mouskouri and the ineffable, inimitable Tom Jones. There was more, but this is all I can remember. Tunes like My Way, Release Me, She’s a Lady and Lonely Bull are part of my permanent songbook and continue to release happy memories when I chance to hear them.

I’m a big BMW fan (Bob Marley and the Wailers) and my kids from a young age have all been able to recognize his distinctive storytelling cadence powered by that signature roots, rock, reggae beat. Makyla and Alexa continue to have lots of time for Mr. Natty Dread. Not only do they have a genuine love for his easy skanking tunes, they also recognize the powerful vision of one love, one heart, one humanity at the core of this Rastaman’s chant. Noah knows that dad loves Big Bob and he can well fine skank his own dance moves to the Rastaman Vibration album. As for Nellie-Rose, she’ll pretty much listen to anything at this point as long as it’s flashing on the iTunes visualizer….

Kyla loves techno and has been an ardent fan and faithful attendee at the World Electronic Music Festival since its inception. Toronto’s known as a big techno town but I need to ask Kyla if her love of this music pre-dated her recurring role as Daphne in Queer as Folk. QAF’s Bablyon dance bar was a TV techno paradise – bone rattling music, hot, drenched, sweating bodies and pulsating, syncopated, strafing lights.

Alexa’s first big music crush was either ABBA or The Spice Girls – can’t remember which came first. Her bigger sister was right there with her on both counts. In fact, Kyla went to the recent Toronto Spice concert. The Brit gals were catchy, poppy fun, let yourself go, girl power kind of stuff. I played the tunes as frequently as they did and the music certainly had as much redeeming value as my first musical infatuation – The Archies, a group of invisible musicians fronting for comic book animated cartoon characters. Come to think of it the 2 groups share some kind of cartoonish commonality.

Alexa also has decent 60s and 70s classic rock iTunes collection as well as a fondness for Johnny Cash, Nirvana, The Clash and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. She’s introduced me to The Fratellis, The White Stripes and Wilco. There’s lots more I could pick up from her as I don’t recognize any of the groups she’s listening to currently – Tegan and Sara, Iron and Winz, Islands, Miracle Fortress, Los Campesinos, Against Me and Wolf Parade. A little bit of tunes in the house at a young age lasts a lifetime and I’ve got lots to look forward to with the 2 little ones discovering their musical signatures.

As it turns out even old dogs can learn new tricks. Years ago, Kyla set me up with Napster and much to her regret downloaded the Funkstar Deluxe version of Marley’s Sun is Shining. I must have played it nearly 30 times consecutively that night – I just couldn’t get enough. That over and over repetitive playing of a new, or favourite song is a trait shared by Makyla, Alexa and Noah – maybe something genetic there, or maybe just a common compulsion. In any event I jumped into that digital pool at the deep end as an early adopter and am now virtually all digital, all the time. Many thanks to Alexa also who repeatedly encouraged me to go Mac where it’s all just so much easier.

More recently, Mélanie has taken me on a Québecois musical adventure that is an ever pleasant, never ending source of pleasure. First I was introduced to Daniel Bélanger and his dreamy, other worldy love poems. Rêver Mieux was my rhapsody to Mélanie and M. Spoutnik was the first Québecois musician whose storytime tunes really circulated in my bloodstream. There are many more great artists that I’ve listened to or heard live – Stefie Shock, Richard Desjardins, Isabelle Boulay, Eric Lapointe, Jean LeLoup, Ariane Moffat, Les Cowboys Fringants, Dan Bigras and the list goes on. Mé is a passionate guide who knows her stuff and is proud of the depth, breadth and abundance of talent in the Québecois music scene. Moi, je suis vraiment chanceux de connaître ça et nos enfants aussi. The Rest of Canada is missing so much……

So now we come back to the McCartney show on the Plains just over 2 weeks ago. In the post where I wrote about the show, I didn’t say anything about the 2 other bands that shared the stage and that was a real oversight. Both are from Québec – The Stills anglos out of Montréal and The Pascale Picard Band francos from Québec City recording in English. Both kicked ass warming up the crowd for Sir Paul and gang. Pascale played one of Noah’s favourite tunes that he has christened Tambours but the singer and other fans know as A While. You can take in a brief snippet of that tune on the Plains below.

As Bob said, “forget your troubles and dance, forget your sorrows and dance”.

P.S. 2 important developments yesterday – Nellie-Rose slept through the night for the first time and she has started to crawl – watch out world.


One Response to “Sing me a song, play me a tune”

  1. CD said

    I’m a firm believer in exposing oneself to various styles of music. The younger the person is when exposed, the better. It is the only way to develop a true appreciation for music. As a classical singer it was my exposure to all different types of music that led me to my niche and I still enjoy listening to R&B, C&W, Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Hip-Hop, Ethnic, you name it!

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