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Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Japanese Music and Dance for Children

By
Taiko drums from Japan/ © flickr

Every year at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum families are invited to “ring” in the New Year Japanese style, by participating in the auspicious Japanese tradition of striking a temple bell. According to Japanese custom, striking the bell symbolically welcomes the New Year. It is hoped that with each reverberation, the bad experiences and ill luck of the past will be wiped away, giving space to a joyous and fresh New Year.

 

I was inspired by this community event and decided to have the children and families in my classes participate in our very own New Year tradition. So during our first 2013 classes children sang a Good Morning song I learned from Doug Goodkin; then each took a turn striking a bell and listening to the sound reverberate in the room. It’s a very calming ceremony and the perfect introduction to the music and dance of Japan.

 

Traditional Japanese music is quite different from Western music. With a sparse rhythm and periods of silence, the music tends to calm and tries to inspire feelings of nature. I am personally fascinated by the sounds of the Koto and the Taiko drums and the dreamy sounds of Japanese folk music.

 

In this article I would like to share with you some songs and a dance I introduce to all my preschool classes. The very first Japanese song I learned is called Moshi Moshi, and it is sometimes referred to as The Telephone Song. The song is sung to the tune of London Bridge and here are the lyrics:

 

Moshi Moshi a no ne, ah so desu ka!

 

Children really enjoy the song and it’s fun to sing it as a call and response. Another song I really like is called Okina Taiko. This song is great played with drums or sticks and teaches beat as well as the difference between big drums and small drums.

 

Okina Taiko don, don

Chiisana Taiko ton, ton, ton

Okina Taiko, Chiisana Taiko

Okina Taiko don don.

 

Last but not least, I would like to leave you with one of my favorite folk dances called Tanko Bushi. This dance is traditionally performed during the Bon Festival and depicts the actions of coal miners, i.e., digging, pushing a cart, etc.

 

You can find a nice rendition on youtube.

© 2013, Viola Pellegrini. All rights reserved.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Viola Pellegrini, born and raised in Florence (Italy), holds a Bachelor's Degree in Child Development from Mills College. She has received extensive training in music education from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has attended teacher trainings in both Suzuki Method and Orff. She has also taught preschool for seven years and has been a private music instructor for the past ten years. Viola currently teaches multicultural music and movement to young children and families. She hopes to inspire children to develop a lifelong enjoyment and appreciation for music and cultures from around the world. Viola plays violin, piano, guitar and recorder, and is constantly adding new instruments to her repertoire. In addition to English, she is fluent in Italian and German, and is working on her Spanish. In her free time she enjoys attending music and dance events, cooking, practicing yoga and traveling the world with her husband.

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