Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ali Farka Toure Brings out Miss B's Inner Ghoul

Miss B seems to be on a bit of a world music kick, at least in terms of the CDs that she's randomly grabbing from the public library. When she sat down to listen to Ali Farka Toure's African/blues album "Savane," she stayed true to form and focused on the booklet before anything else. When the music began, she bounced a bit to the beat, but then got distracted by a coupon with a pumpkin on it from the Sunday paper. She ignored the music and focused all of her attention on the coupons, staring for a long time at a picture of Mr. Clean. When she was done reading coupons, she picked up her Hello Kitty purse and started unloading its contents onto my lap. Out came a plastic scorpion ring, a drawing of Muno from Yo Gabba Gabba, a princess cell phone, a quarter, and a purple fly ring. As track 2 began, Miss B said, "I wanna turn this one off."

A few days later we listened again and Miss B cranked up the volume. She then grabbed her Halloween goodie bag and shook a variety of Halloween toys out of it. After picking up a ghoul, she asked, "This a skeleton, mama?" She continued to play with the monster action figure and then asked for my help putting his coffin back together. We played together for awhile and then she put a witch pez into the coffin. DJ B said, "sleeping in the coffin" and then did a little jig after putting the monster in it. She then brought all of the Halloween toys to the couch and did some imaginary play with a pumpkin pez, saying, "I sleep pumpkin dada...I sleeped" as she held the pumpkin pez in front of the open coffin with the monster in it.

This release from the "king of the desert blues singers" proved to be a great soundtrack in the days leading up to Halloween.

Thandiswa Makes Good Soccer Music

One of the latest CDs that DJ B selected from the public library was South African artist Thandiswa's debut album "Zabalaza." After putting the CD in the player, Miss B immediately turned up the volume and then turned to the booklet. When she heard the female vocals coming from the speakers, she began to sway and cracked a small smile. In spite of her vaguely positive response, she turned off the music and asked to try something else.

A few days later Miss B requested this CD again. After the music began, she climbed up into a chair next to me to snuggle. A short time later she got off the chair and began to dance about, wearing her ballet shoes. She shook her hair like a rock star, then did some wild dancing while saying, "ballet this!" She then lifted her head up and down and eventually rested her head on the chair arm dramatically. When she stopped, she demanded, "I want Cheerios in a cup!" and then wandered off into the kitchen.

When I asked her what the music sounded like, she said, "princesses." Then, she picked up her Dora the Explorer soccer ball and asked me to throw it to her. When I asked if she liked the music, she said, "yep," and continued to kick her soccer ball.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Indie Rock on Sesame Street

I guess I'm a bad parent because, as of yet, Miss B has not watched a single episode of "Sesame Street." I grew up watching that show, but for some reason it has never occurred to me to expose her to it. Of course she's known about Elmo since birth as his face adorned her very first pair of diapers.

The only Sesame-esque media that DJ B has watched was the public library copy of "Elmo's Potty Time." She LOVED it and it was cool, even surreal at times. My favorite scene was in the toilet paper factory. Genius! I hate to admit it, but we also still sing some of the tunes from it ("It's potty time...gotta get down's potty time, gotta go with the flow") when behind closed doors. Potty training can be a very embarrassing time for parents....

"It's Potty Time" from Elmo's Potty Time Video

An article on this week "Indie Rockers Find New Fans in the Preschool Set" by Ellen Carpenter talks about some of the famous musical guests on Sesame Street, including a recent stint by the artist Feist. Ellen's two and a half year old niece Rilla watches the Feist segment obsessively and perhaps may be a budding DJ B with a taste for non-kid music. Ellen writes:

"Right now, she only has time for Feist. My brother finally broke down and bought Feist's 2007 album The Reminder. Rilla's new favorite song is "Sea Lion Woman," which was originally popularized by Nina Simone. Nina Simone! I'm fully expecting Rilla to be into Bessie Smith, the Soft Boys, and Neu! before she turns three."

Indeed! I look forward to hearing 2-year-old Rilla's reviews.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

John Coltrane is Great Grocery Shopping Music

Next up from the public library shelves was some classic jazz from John Coltrane. DJ B selected the CD "Live at the Village Vanguard: The Master Takes." She was a little disappointed in the enclosed booklet, as she was unable to open it. We soon realized that it was actually just a piece of cardboard with album art on the front and back. She didn't respond to the music, but did ask me, "Wanna watch my move?" before stretching her leg into the air. She quickly turned off Coltrane and requested Nortec Collective.

The following day we tried John Coltrane again and Miss B initially said, "no...I want Easy Ride!," but I persisted and kept it in the player. She did some more ballet moves and then grabbed her toy shopping cart. As beautiful jazz played in the background, DJ B pushed her shopping cart back and forth across the room, while consulting her imaginary list. She said, "purple cauliflower, Mac 'n Cheese, yogurt, some yogurt and um...what else...squash?" Eventually she unloaded her cart, found a toy penguin and squeaked it. Later she ate her dinner, while the music continued to play. I asked if she liked it and she just nodded.

Once again, jazz proves to be just background music for Miss B as she goes about her daily activities.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Nortec Collective Prompts Miss B to Play Accordion on a Slinky

The Latin-electronic hybrid music of Nortec Collective's "Tijuana Sessions Vol. 3" was the latest CD that Miss B selected from the public library. She listened to this album on multiple occasions and didn't have too much reaction to it. As she typically does these days, she immediately pulled the booklet out of the case to check out all the pictures and liner notes. On first listen she asked for it to be turned off after less than a song. The next time she rocked a little bit and did a slight dance before asking for cheddar bunnies.

Finally, we listened as a whole family and Miss B eventually did some big, elaborate dance moves to track 8 ("Almada"). The next day she really got into "Tijuana Makes Me Happy," and marched around the room stretching a pink slinky open and closed like an accordion, probably not even realizing that she was listening to an accordion in the song. Unfortunately DJ B's dad had a much stronger reaction to the same track, saying, "This song was running through my head this morning and it was annoying me. I'd rather hear Celine Dion." Harsh!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Canto-Pop Whips Miss B into a Frenzy

It's the rare library CD that prompts an immediate, enthusiastic response from Miss B and once again, the culprit is Asian pop. As soon as we slipped "The Easy Ride," the CD from Eason Chan's 2001 concert at the Hong Kong Coliseum, into the player, DJ B began dancing wildly. She closed her eyes, stretched her arms over her head and lifted her leg into the air. She then said, "Help me spin around, mama. Help me spin around fast."

She took a quick break from the dancing to read the enclosed booklet. After spotting the second CD, she asked to take a listen to that. While listening to the live concert recording, Miss B would pause to clap along when she heard applause. Her dancing continued, and she told me, "it's princess music." We continued to play this and dance as it grew closer to the time when Miss B's father would return home. As he walked in the door, he was a bit taken aback by the loud, dramatic Canto-pop and the sight of Miss B grooving to the tunes with closed eyes.

The next day we played this again and DJ B danced for a little while before turning off the CD and telling me, "For later. When dada comes back." Clearly this is music that deserves an audience and Miss B caught on to that instantly.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lead Belly Makes Miss B Think about Pizza

One of the more interesting releases that DJ B has grabbed from the public library shelf was Lead Belly's "Absolutely the Best." These very early blues recordings caught my attention immediately and I hoped that Miss B would be similarly entranced.

She did sway a bit when the music started, taking a cursory look at the booklet. But this was short-lived enthusiasm, as she stopped the CD before the end of track 1 and demanded her favorite TV show.

A few days later we listened to it again and DJ B didn't react much at all. She played with a Kleenex box, laughed, and ran around the room saying, "" She pretended to eat pizza, galloped, then danced for a few seconds. When the second track began, she started to march. When I asked her what it sounded like, she said, "Uh. good." She turned her attention to the booklet again and tried to insert it into the VCR. As "Goodnight, Irene" started to play, she ejected the CD and moved on to the next thing.

It turns out that Lead Belly also released a popular children's album, "Lead Belly Sings for Children." I wonder if Miss B would be more drawn to that?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Nigel Kennedy is all Bark, Sounds like Cinderella

Appearances can be deceiving. When DJ B selected Nigel Kennedy's "Greatest Hits" CD from the public library, I was a bit skeptical about the music just based on the cover photo. The picture turned me off, as it looked like somebody working really hard to say "I'm radical!" Of course, I hoped that he really was radical, as I'm a fan of string music and was sort of intrigued to hear if this was a collection of deconstructed violin sounds.

Miss B's response to this was quite telling, as she paid considerable attention to the artwork, but had little response to the classical violin music. As we turned the music on, she was very interested in the CD booklet and kept pointing at pictures, asking, "Is that him? Is that him with paint on?" She scrutinized each page of the liner notes and got very upset when I tried to take them from her, saying, "Hey! This is my mat! [her term for CD booklet]"

I had to prompt Miss B in order to get any sort of reaction to the music. When I asked her what the music sounded like, she said, " a princess." I probed further, asking her what the music was good for and she said, "Cinderella." I asked if it was dancing music, and she replied, "Yes. It's Cinderella dancing music." When I asked if it was sleeping music, she also said, "Yes. With Cinderella. Night night time." From that point on she kept referring to this album as "Cinderella music" and she told me that liked it.

As it turns out, the CD wasn't as radical as one would expect, with its violin solos of compositions from classical greats like Vivaldi, Debussy, and Bach. For Miss B, that was just fine, as the Nigel Kennedy album was sort of a blank slate, on to which she could superimpose her current princess passion.