First day back at Language School
Both my schools wanted to delay the start of music lessons until Week 4 of term – this week. Today I was at Language School and I had a great day – I was reminded of how much love teaching there!
The school is divided into three classes, with 13 children in each – lower primary, middle primary, and upper primary.
With the Lower Primary class, we had a hit on our hands with the song Mobakomeenofway. (I have not idea if this is how you write the words, but that is how they are pronounced!) It is a call-and-response song, with a chorus that we all sing together. The rough translation is:
Teacher – “Hey everyone, do you want to come out and play?” (Oh wenne makolay, mobakomeenofway)
Everyone – “yeah, yeah, we want to come and play!” (Yeah, yeah, mobakomeenofway)
The chorus repeats mobakomeenofway four times. It’s a catchy tune, and I’ve added quite vigorous actions to it. I’ll try and record it next week so that I can add a sound file here. It is a winner of a song for that age group.
With Middle Primary, we are going to be exploring songs from their countries. I started things off with a Somali song (roughly a quarter of each class is Somali this term). It is the song that my friend Duncan Foster collected and transcribed from students and parents in another Melbourne school, Heybaad Waxaad. It is apparently quite a well-known song, lots of the Somali students recognise it.
I’ve chosen this song for several reasons:
- It’s a fun and catchy song and I love singing it
- It gives the Somali children a little bit of additional ‘status’ or pride in themselves and their culture, within the classroom. This was something the class teacher commented on today. She felt that it gave them confidence… there are also sometimes problems with other children rejecting or isolating the African children, and their teacher felt that celebrating a song from Africa was an important way of demonstrating that there is no tolerance at the school for that kind of exclusion.
- It acted as a useful demonstration of the kind of song they could introduce as being from their country. It let me say, this is a song from Somalia. Who can remember a song that they learned in their country?
This suggestion led to two children (two Somali boys, as it happened) demonstrating clapping games and chants from their country, which they taught all of us. We’ll continue to gather clapping games and other children’s songs next week. I think they left our music lesson on a high.
In Upper Primary, we did some work with instruments. I passed various hand percussion around the circle one at a time, asking the students to demonstrate a sound or rhythm on it – either a rhythm they already knew, or one they improvised on the spot. One boy played a rhythm that reminded me of the opening riff of Dicholo by Ayub Ogada (which I first heard on the soundtrack to the film The Constant Gardener). We developed a four-bar phrase based on his riff, and played in on a range of different instruments, building some different sounds and techniques into the playing. We then finished the lesson by listening to Dicholo, and their eyes widened as they heard the opening riff and recognised its similarity to their own.
Something interesting – the students tend to giggle as soon as the vocals start – I think they hear all unfamiliar languages as sounding quite silly or funny. They all collapsed into giggles and started to roll around on the floor. Well, it was the end of the lesson – they were probably also tired. They only giggle like this the first and second time they hear the vocals. They usually calm down by the third time.