SONIA DE LOS SANTOS, ¡Alegría!
“I want to dedicate this album to all the children who have inspired me with their joy over the years, but especially to those who are struggling to find a reason to smile. May these songs bring you and your families that warm place in your heart where you can find ‘alegría’ to sing and dance!”~Sonia De Loa Santos
Just in time for Hispanic Heritage Month, Mexican-American singer-songwriter released her sophomore all-ages music album, ¡Alegría!. Like its title, the album exudes joy, joy for the soul-feeding stuff of life: community, diversity, adventure, nature, discovery, and culture. ¡Alegría! is a bilingual album, with songs largely written and performed in Spanish with 3 English language songs nestled between them. The album immediately projects a collaborative, global sound featuring many heavy-hitters in the Kindie recording world such as Elizabeth Mitchell, Samuel Torres, Dan Zanes and Claudia Eliaza to name a few. The instrumentation and arrangements are solidly in the traditional folk music of Latin America which gives the album a satisfying sonic depth, music coming from a respected and treasured heritage.
Some of the album’s stand out tracks are ¡Alegria! (literally reminding listeners there is always something to celebrate, the song is dedicated to Sonia’s mother who taught her that life is beautiful and encouraged her to use her voice to make an impact in the world), Mariposa Montuna (themed around the migration of the Monarch Butterfly, symbols of resilience), and La Maraca (quite simply about the joy of music and rhythm from the ubiquitous maraca). In the track Songs For the People (based on the poem by Frances Ellen Watkins, an African-American poet from the 1800s), Sonia De Los Santos presents a healing message, a song of resistance to the current negative atmosphere of defeat and despair, a song that states love conquers all. Closing the album, Donde Tú Estés is a song filled with words of reassurance to young listeners; wherever they go, they go accompanied by the love of their families. Soulful, personal and universal at the same time ¡Alegria! is a beautiful album definitely worth discovering as a family. Check it out!
Music Video for ¡Alegría!
MI AMIGO HAMLET, Happy Land is Tierra Felíz
Out of Chicago, Mi Amigo Hamlet has created a “bilingual music playground for kids, families, and educators” in his new album Happy Land is Tierra Felíz. As a musician and educator, Mi Amigo Hamlet promotes bilingual education for kids through art and music (largely through his GoCreative Programs), using songs as the foundation upon which all learning is built. Themes within the songs cover quintessential topics in kids’ educational music albums such as the days of the week, colors, months of the year, nature, transportation, and musical instruments. The songs are simple and catchy but rich in production and content and presented very accessibly in both Spanish and English.
Musically, the album has many Latin American influences, both traditional and contemporary. Mi Amigo Hamlet blends moments of merengue, Ibero-American salsa, rumba flamenco, reggae, and bossa nova into his own latin fusion sound. One of the most prominent influences in this fusion of styles is the echo of musician/ activist Manu Chao. Other influences include Catalan singer/ songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat, and Mexican musician of children’s music, Cri-Cri. All of these sources of musical inspiration result in songs that are as musically descriptive as they are lyrically expressive. For example, in the track Go Go Go, Mi Amigo Hamlet uses a driving rhythm with percussion, synth, and guitar to sonically illustrate the sensory experience of different vehicles described in the song, giving young listeners a more immersive experience than just following a simple melody. Rock Paper Scissors is an infectious merengue song that uses the children’s game as a metaphor for inclusivity, tolerance of differences, and resisting false preconceptions. The album’s final three songs (Love, Thankful, and Little Fish) end the record with messages of love, gratitude, discovery, and togetherness. I can’t imagine a better way to infuse the love of learning a second language with your family.