by Ben Guerechit
A few weeks back, I stumbled upon a surprising album that eventually led to a fairly new and emerging territory in music. Like Alice and the rabbit hole, I found myself falling deeper and deeper into the world of what some are calling “kindie” rock.
The most recent release from jazz/funk trio Medeski, Martin & Wood is called Let’s Go Everywhere, and it’s a new addition to a fresh approach in children’s music. The New York City based group has been putting out improvised soul-based jazz music since their inception in 1992, but this is their first attempt at capturing the musical minds of 4-8 year-olds. Thing is, Let’s Go Everywhere is not just appealing to the young-un’s. Although lyrics about trains, pat-a-cake and disgruntled dirty pirates taking debate with bath time are clearly aimed at the little ones, the syncopated rhythms, funky bass lines and the sultry sounds of a Hammond B-3 still find their way into the adult soul. Even beside that, the beat driven hip-hop-like rhyming from children (“Pat A Cake”) and the concerned shouts of tikes repeating “Where’s The Music!” during the groove breaks same titled tune are simply adorable.
Dancing at MMW’s in-store performance at Borders, Columbus Circle, NYC 1/9/08
Because I’m 26 years old without kids of my own, it’s reasonable to understand why this music has been out of my earshot. It’s been some 20 odd years since something like this has really got me going. Back then, my attention was almost solely focused on the output of the one and only Raffi. In fact, the easily accessible output of Egyptian born Canadian folk singer, Raffi Cavoukian is what turned most kids who grew up during the 12 year span from 1975-1987 on to idea of fun and original music. “Apples and Bananas” always seems to come up when talking to people about musical discovery as a child. Plus “Walk, Walk, Walk” is just too eerily similar to the old blues number “Walking Blues” to ignore. Independent record label Rounder has released the bulk Raffi’s output — 17 full albums in total.
That brings back to the term “kindie” rock. Obviously taking its name from the combination of “kids” and “indie,” the classification includes anything within the realm of children’s music released by independent labels. An article from Salon.com takes a pretty good attempt at defining the new-ish genre through the eyes of a Raffi contemporary, ex-Del Fuegos frontman Dan Zanes as well as Laurie Berkner, the leading lady of the kid’s music scene. Both have built healthy careers and their own individual labels from folksy kid’s tunes. Zane’s Festival Five Records and Berkner’s Two Tomatoes are both testaments to the success of the thriving scene.
Dan Zanes – All Around the Kitchen
Zanes and Berkner are not the only artists out there using their songsmith abilities to forge a new path for kid’s music. While the article also points to Jack Johnson’s soundtrack Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George and They Might Be Giants’ Here Come the ABC’s, deeper digging leads to Justin Robert’s Meltdown and Brady Rymer’s Every Day is a Birthday. Also available are compilations from Nettwerk Records’s For The Kids series, of which there are three volumes now available collecting a variety of artists, ranging from Tom Waits to Of Montreal. For the twang-favoring families, Bloodshot Records is committed to regularly releasing kid-friendly fare, like The Bottle Let Me Down: Songs for Bumpy Wagon Rides, which features alt-country stalwarts like The Meat Purveyors, Alejandro Escovedo, and Robbie Fulks, as well as the folky “supergroup” of Jon Langford, Kelly Hogan, Sally Timms, and Devil in a Woodpile, who collectively perform as Wee Hairy Beasties.
Wee Hairy Beasties – The Toenail Moon
Some folks like to think of this music as a first step into discovering music with substance. Check out Yosi Levi’s site dedicated to helping kids conquer what he calls Cod Liver Oil Music, or to start them really young there is always the Rockabye Baby! series, which presents the music of Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Bjork and The Ramones , The Pixies and other alternative rock staples swaddled in an instrumental format described as “delicate sounds of the glockenspiel, vibraphone, and other instruments will lull your little one into a sweet slumber.”
And what about the television front? Well, it seems as though Yo Gabba Gabba!, created by Christian Jacobs of The Aquabats (aka MC Bat Commander) has a handle on becoming the greatest thing since Sesame Street. Recently renewed for a second season in 2008, the Nick Jr. hosted series has presented a kiddie stage to electro rocker’s Cornelius, Low, Rahzel, Shiny Toy Guns and others. One of the regular features on the show gives love to beat box master Biz Markie. Check out his “Beat of the Day”:
“Kindie” rock is giving a completely new meaning to Cheryl Waters Kids over here at KEXP. There is a whole new world of indie music out there, filled with blogs and charts. Given the amount of name dropping done in this article, it’s quite clear what the new generation of indie families will be listening to for a while. Take it from MMW on “The Train Song” and ride your train so far and wide, because there’s choo choo coming down the tracks and its chock full of groovy kids tunes.
MMW – The Train Song, Borders, Columbus Circle, NYC 1/9/08