Listen To This: "Kutapira" - Oran Etkin (feat. Musekiwa Chingodza) (World Premiere!)

Album cover to Oran Etkin’s Finding Friends Far From Home: A Journey with Clara Net

Album cover to Oran Etkin’s Finding Friends Far From Home: A Journey with Clara Net

The clarinetist Oran Etkin is well-traveled. Sure, he’s based in New York City, but his concert schedule takes him literally all over the world. He plays concerts for adults, while also making music for families, both through his early music education program Timbalooloo as well as through concerts in the U.S. and abroad.

His forthcoming album Finding Friends Far From Home: A Journey with Clara Net is the fruit of many of these travels, featuring collaborations with musicians from Zimbabwe, China, the Czech Republic, and Turkey. Sure, the structure of the album, in which Etkin’s friend “Clara Net” (go ahead — I think you can guess what instrument plays that role) meets children in the various countries, is intended to serve as an introduction to young listeners. But such an overlay means very little if the music itself isn’t fun and well-played.

Oran Etkin holding his clarinet. Photo by John Abbott

Oran Etkin holding his clarinet. Photo by John Abbott

I guarantee that “Kutapira,” the track below, will get your day going right. It features Musekiwa Chingodza, a Zimbabwean Gwenyambira, or spiritual master of the mbira (thumb piano). Chingodza and Etkin (on the clarinet, of course) are joined by the girls choir of the Zimbabwe College of Music, Sam Mataure on drums, and Etkin’s bassist Marcos Varela.

What does “Kutapira” mean? Well, you can listen to this introductory track featuring Etkin and another mbira player, Irene Chingamba, who introduced Etkin to many of Zimbabwe’s mbira masters. But regardless of whether you listen to the intro track or not, I’m sure you'll agree that “Kutapira” is pretty sweet.

Finding Friends Far From Home: A Journey with Clara Net is out on August 30th, but is available on many digital streaming sites for “pre-order” today. (You can listen to “Kutapira” on Spotify right now.) Thanks to Etkin for letting me world-premiere the track!

Oran Etkin - “Kutapira” (feat. Musekiwa Chingodza) [Soundcloud]

Photo credit: John Abbott

Listen To This: "Halo-Halo" - Mista Cookie Jar feat. Little Miss Ann (World Premiere!)

Cover to “Halo-Halo” single by Mista Cookie Jar and Little Miss Ann

Cover to “Halo-Halo” single by Mista Cookie Jar and Little Miss Ann

I am new to the world of Filipino ice cream, but I had some Magnolia guava ice cream a few months back and was so wowed that I threw in a gratuitous reference to halo-halo, a Filipino ice cream treat that’s like an ice cream sundae with ALL the toppings, into a post featuring a song by Mista Cookie Jar and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo.

Fast forward 6 months, Trader Joe’s briefly had some awesome ube ice cream in their stores, and so it feels appropriate that Mista Cookie Jar is back, teaming up with Little Miss Ann to give the world an entire song about halo-halo, the dessert treat commonly served with a scoop of ube ice cream on top.

A serving of halo-halo

A serving of halo-halo

Both artists have Filipino ancestry, and in talking about the song, they both mentioned excitement about being able to share the treat with their families as restaurants like Jollibee and more locally-based places make inroads into America.

Most tracks featuring Mista Cookie Jar don’t bother limiting themselves with one genre, and this track, written by both artists, has a gentle folk vibe with some hip-hop swirled into the mix. In its mellow, mixed-up way, it’s a little scoop of halo-halo for the ears. I’m super glad to be world-premiering the track here today. It’s available in all the places you get your digital music, including via the link below.

Little Miss Ann and Mista Cookie Jar - “Halo-Halo” [Bandcamp]

Video: "Under the Big Umbrella" - Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could

Brady Rymer - Under the Big Umbrella cover art

Brady Rymer - Under the Big Umbrella cover art

We are in the midst of spring (or, if you’re in the desert Southwest, rapidly approaching summer), which means that it’s time for a sunnier attitude.

And as I think about kids’ musicians, Brady Rymer is right near the top of the list of those with sunnier attitudes. On May 17th, Rymer and his Little Band That Could release his tenth (!) studio album, Under the Big Umbrella.

Now, you might be thinking that I’ve failed in my narrative approach — “sunny” and “umbrella” being a more unusual pairing of words — but the album title track definitely takes more of a metaphorical than a meteorological view of the phrase. (If there were a camping-themed song here, it’d be titled “Big Tent" to be sure.) The whole album’s musical and lyrical approach will sound familiar to Rymer’s fans — roots-pop originals with an expansive sound and lyrics that welcome all. (These songs in particular were inspired by Rymer’s request for kids at a New Jersey elementary school for what was meaningful to them.) It’s a sunny set of tracks, hopeful in many ways.

We’re happy to be premiering the brand new video for “Under the Big Umbrella.” It’s a simple lyric video, but since it features the charming illustrations and hand-letterings of illustrator Emily Balsley, who did that cover art up there, that’s A-OK by me. (Go here for links to your favorite non-video way to listen to the track.)

Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could - “Under the Big Umbrella” [YouTube]

Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could - photo by Jayme Thornton

Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could - photo by Jayme Thornton

Photo credit: Jayme Thornton

Listen To This: "Le Grand K" - Pointed Man Band (World Premiere!)

“Le Grand K” single cover

“Le Grand K” single cover

Who’s in the mood for a jaunty song about the weight loss of a tiny Parisian cylinder made of platinum and iridium!?!?!

Believe it or not, YOU are.

That’s right, Dan Elliott and his allusion-dense chamber-pop-for-kids music of Pointed Man Band have a song for you based on this very topic. It is ten tons of fun, or, er, one kilogram of fun, or, er, ever so slightly less than one kilogram of fun.

Elliott wrote the song a number of years ago, around the time of Flight of the Blue Whale, but never recorded it. Now as he went into the studio to record new music earlier this year, he dug the song out and the result is the track “Le Grand K” below, a world premiere for you!

And, yes, there’s more new music from the Portland band on its way — Amongst the Tall Trees will get a release later this year, tentatively set for late spring. Until then, consider “Le Grand K” a bonus track for your edification and enjoyment.

Pointed Man Band - “Le Grand K” [Soundcloud]