Thursday, August 14, 2014

Multicultural Movement Celebrates Jenkins' 90th

Twenty years ago, Smithsonian Folkways released MORE MULTICULTURAL CHILDREN'S SONGS FROM ELLA JENKINS. Over time, that CD has gained traction and become a perennial favorite for families. Now the label is re-releasing it as part of a celebration of Jenkins' 90th birthday.

Many would say that current kindie performer Laurie Berkner has usurped Jenkins' title as "First Lady of Children's Music." However those would be the parents who are unaware that Jenkins has 60 years in the trenches, educating and entertaining kids around the world before Berkner was even conceived. She received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 for her contributions to the recording industry. And the plaudits keep arriving in her golden years.

MORE MULTICULTURAL SONGS is pretty self-explanatory…it's a trip around the world (Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Germany, China, Greece, Russia) with tunes in many languages. As with most of Jenkin's oeuvre, there's a lot of call-and-response as well as hand clapping and other body movements. And there's nothing to a song as simple and expressive as "Shabbat Shalom" (repeat 300x).

The truest test is always exposing one's own children to the music and gauging their interest. Both kids recognized several songs and sang along, even to numbers that they had been unfamiliar with. Jenkins was a master of her craft and MORE MULTICULTURAL SONGS remains one of her seminal works. In her 90th year, she can rest well knowing her legacy is being preserved and that the traditions she fostered are being cultivated by her kindie disciples.

MORE MULTICULTURAL CHILDREN'S SONGS FROM ELLA JENKINS is available from Smithsonian Folkways' website, Amazon, and iTunes.

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