FolkWorld Issue 40 11/2009; Children Music Reviews by Michael Moll (with the help of Yasmine, 1.25 year)

Folk for Children
A Journey Through Europe's Children's Music

Yasmine Having recently started my journey through folk music for children, I remain impressed by the top quality some children's music has - not only cheering the kids up but also keeping the parents happy when listening to it again and again on car journeys and at home. This time I am journeying a bit further afield from the UK, with a little journey around Europe, only to find myself in the end back in the UK...

Mimmit, Hats, Hats Harakkainen

Mimmit @ FolkWorld:
FW#38, #38

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We start in the far North East of Europe, in Finland, with a real treat for Finnish children. The band Mimmit features strong female Finnish singing, with very appealing, high standard, folksy music. Stylistically it reminds strongly of the likes of Finnish folk/world music stars Värttinä or Sari Kaasinen - and this should not be a surprise: One half of the duo, Pauliina Lerche (vocals, accordion, kantele), is a founding member of Värttinä, the other half is her younger sister Hannamari Luukanen (vocals, fiddle), and they feature also a backing band on the album. In comparison, "Mimmit" is on this album, "Hats, Hats Harakkainen", more on the folky side of things. Non-Finnish audiences would not notice that this is a children's album - and we are missing out on the stories of "creatures of the Forest, princesses, mermaids, water-elves, trolls and characters from Kalevala like the Magical Giant Eagle and the Witch of Lappland" that Mimmit tell the kids in their original compositions. In fact, for non-Finnish audiences, parents are likely to appreciate this album more than their little ones. Lucky Finnish juniors to have such a top duo performing children's music!

Putumayo Kids Presents: European Playground

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The next album takes us all around Europe, and in fact starts with a Finnish/Swedish duo, "Sås & Kopp". Putumayo Kids' "European Playground" takes us to 15 different European countries - from Ireland to Italy and from Portugal to Hungary - with one song from each country. So there should be at least one understandable song in there for most European kids. But children will enjoy also the international mix. In fact, deliberately or not, quite a few songs have words in their chorus which are internationally recognisable - such as the Danish "Stop den lille Kaenguru" or the Swedish "Trampolin". Many titles are lively and have my daughter dancing along. The Putumayo label with its range of albums with bright covers can usually be associated with world music collections. It is delightful that they have put together, as part of their Kids series, with this album a superb collection of children's music from closer to home. It is a treasure trove of music from bands which I have never heard of. The music is varied but of high quality, and generally in a folk/world music style. In most cases the titles are from a band or a singer specialised in children's music, and you can hear, in a positive way, that this is children's music. Some titles are however from singers that are not known for children's music but operate in a mainstream folk circuit - and two examples of this are the only two performers I have known: Irish accordionist Sharon Shannon and the Scottish contribution from folk singer Ian F Benzie (ex Old Blind Dogs).

The Singing Kettle, Greatest Hits 3

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An alternative choice for children's music from Scotland for the Putumayo album could have been Scotland's greatest kids band, The Singing Kettle featuring Cilla Fisher, Artie Tresize and Gary Coupland. Their music is great fun, as well as often having some serious messages in them. They tend to combine in their programme traditional children's songs with their own material - and it is great. On their compilation, "Greatest Hits Vol. 3", there are songs such as "Old MacDonald Had A Farm" or "Do Your Ears Hang Low" with their own contributions such as "Five Wee Monkeys", "Toys Toys Toys". Some few songs may go on your nerve - "Clean Sweep" is one of those for me, as is "Three of a Kind" which has one verse with the names of three well know fast food chains - but overall this album makes great listening. Look out for their website - which has videos showing how popular and how much fun their live shows are.

Danny Kyle @ Bute Beach Party 1995

The Danny Kyle Corner

One of the favourite CDs of Yasmine right from her earliest days has been a classic from my folk collection: Danny Kyle's "Heroes and Soft Targets". And this is not really a surprise - as this CD features some of the most wonderful newly written children's songs. "Keek-a-boo" is a very warm song with the wonderful chorus "Keek-a-boo my wee lassie hidin' behind the chair - Keek-a-boo my wee lassie daddy can see you there".
There is the classic "Yawning Man", "Music of the Loom (Peanickle-Ponickle)" and, not Danny's composition, "Messing about on the River". There is such a warmth on this album, and the music with it is beautiful (the album was produced by Brian McNeill) - Danny's singing calmed Yasmine already down when she was only 1 month old. Despite having also a number of more serious and less children orientated songs, this is for us a favourite children's CD. What a shame that Danny is not with us any more - he was so good with children; his children's shows on festival were real classics.

To finish off this time's round of kids CDs, we stay in the Celtic world, and go back to Putumayo's Kids series, listening now to their album "Celtic Dreamland". This album does not really have any particular reason to be part of a children's series. All 10 titles are from well known and very good Celtic folk musicians from Scotland, Ireland and Canada, none of them being known as children's performers, and unless they are lullabies the titles are also not necessarily related to children. The CD states that these are songs "for bedtime or relaxation", and this is indeed a calming CD of quiet songs, in English, Scots, Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic, from the best performers around (including Dougie MacLean, Karen Matheson, The Cast, Seamus Egan, Mary Jane Lamind). So a good quiet collection not only for kids but for adults alike!


Children (FW#39)
German Titles

Photo Credits: (1) Yasmine, (5) Danny Kyle @ Bute Beach Party 1995 (by The Mollis); (2) Mimmit, Hats, Hats Harakkainen, (3) Putumayo Kids Presents: European Playground, (4) The Singing Kettle, Greatest Hits 3 (from website).

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