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Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Fun African Songs and Rhymes for Your Children

Fun African Songs and Rhymes for Your Children / © arindambanerjee /

Jaha and Jamil went down the hill

To fetch a pail of water.

They met Atu and Siwatu

And Asha with her daughter.


This is one of the many rhymes you can find in the African Mother Goose book titled Jaha and Jamil Went Down the Hill: An African Mother Goose by Virginia Kroll and Katherine Roundtree. This beautifully illustrated book contains 48 rhymes that Mother Goose might have written had she visited Africa. The rhymes, which many children might recognize, contain different lyrics that teach about a few of the wonderful, colorful and diverse aspects of African life, both modern and traditional. I have used this book in my classes as a resource for rhymes and as a starting point from which to tell stories and learn about African culture.


Let’s see if you can match the following rhyme to the original Mother Goose!


Bend a wire, bend a wire,

Coppersmith man.

Make me a bracelet

Fast as you can.

Swerve it and curve it

And add a nice charm,

So mama will wear it

Each day on her arm.


I like to pair this rhyme with body percussion and at the end of class I invite children to recite it as they make their own bracelets with wire and beads.


Songs from the Baobab: African Lullabies & Nursery Rhymes is another beautiful book I discovered this summer. This storybook with accompanying CD features 29 songs from 10 countries, recorded with indigenous instruments and performed by women, men and children. All the songs, rhymes and lullabies are traditional and capture the staccato rhythm of African children’s rhymes, teaching us aspects of each culture.


One of the songs called “Eya Be’” has an accompanying fingerplay you can play with your children. The rhyme is in the Mina dialect spoken by the Guins, who originally came from Ghana and then settled in the southern coastal region of Togo.


Learn it on this YouTube video:




© 2013, Viola Pellegrini. All rights reserved.

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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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