Review: Dance for the Sun (Yoga Songs for Kids) - Kira Willey

DanceForTheSun.jpgYou think kids' music has taken off (again) in the past few years? Think about yoga. Seems like whatever available retail space isn't being taken up by a pharmacy is being occupied by a yoga studio. The idea of "yoga songs for kids," therefore, could very easily be one exploited for a quick buck, resulting in a horrible-sounding, goopy mess.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found Kira Willey's Dance for the Sun (Yoga Songs for Kids), released in late 2006 to be, well, not horrible-sounding at all. In fact, it's kinda fun. Even if you (or your kids) don't do yoga.

(I should note for the record here that I'm in the "we have yoga DVDs at home that we still use on a mostly regular basis" camp, which means I like practicing it but have no deep and abiding need to take classes.)

Musically, the CD definitely exceeded my expectations. Willey did some performing in nightclubs (no, not of her yoga music) in New York City before becoming a certified yoga instructor and writing songs to use in her classes there. So rather than feeling like the songs were rushed together, they feel organic, like these were actually the best of the bunch. In particular, "Surfer Mama" is a great little doo-wop influenced surfing pop tune that would sound great on any album. You would never know it was a yoga-related song if there weren't yoga moves illustrated in the colorful liner notes. Willey's brother Tom Shields, who sings bass on "Surfer Mama" also sings on "Caterpillar Caterpillar," turning the song's title into a neat little counterpoint to the lyrics. The instrumentation is fairly simple on the mostly folk-rock tracks throughout, which draws attention to Willey's clear voice, though some tracks bring in a few more instruments (Willey plays the fiddle and is accompanied on clarinet and saxophone on the poppy "Midnight Moonlight," for example). If you're looking for reference points, think of a slightly folkier, more abstract Frances England.

Very few songs actually have a direct yoga reference in the lyrics -- the title track, for example, goes through the "Sun Salutation" series of poses. Willey could have called this album Movement Songs for Kids or just some other random title. I'm a visual learner, so the 40-minute-or-so "live" yoga class that follows the half-hour of studio tracks didn't really do much for me other than to think that a yoga class with Willey would be lots of fun -- she interacts quite well with the kids.

The CD is most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 7. You can hear samples of most of the tracks here.

Whether or not Dance for the Sun is a good album for helping your kids learn yoga depends on what kind of learner your kids (and you) are. But this album stands up on its own merits -- pleasant, occasionally poppy songs that encourage movement, even if it's just swaying along. Recommended.