MUSICWE ALL LIVE DOWNSTREAM by Banana Slug String Band, Slug Music, $15, www.BananaSlugStringBand.com; ages 5-12.
I admit it. I am biased. I prefer to write about CDs and children’s music artists who bring some sort of educational element with them. This is because I believe strongly in the power of music to teach.
As we all know, solely by the power they wield, music and the media can "teach" us all sorts of things from what we are supposed to look like or consume to what we are to think. So when a CD comes along that helps our children learn some positive aspects about life, I want to share the good news. It’s that teacher in me.
But first a little side trip.
I was walking through a residential area near the beach in Lake Bluff and couldn’t help but notice the new DUMP NO WASTE plaques next to many of the manholes. I also had just been listening to the "We All Live Downstream," the new release by the Banana Slug String Band. This convergence just seemed to really bring home the fact that we are living in the most eco-conscious time. Think about all the new "green" products in the marketplace. Think about all the political discourse concerning our environment.
There are plenty of "hug a tree" CDs out there for children and there are a boatload of opportunistic artists who are trying to cash in on this "trend." But the Banana Slugs have been sharing their message and "toe-tappin’ earth lovin’ entertainment" for 23 years. They have established themselves as the premiere eco-band in the country and "We All Live Downstream" is their 10th album in a long list of award-winning recordings promoting science through song and celebration.
The theme of "We All Live Downstream" is watershed ecology. This project was 23 months in the making and the time spent is obvious from the concise lyrics, memorable melodies and well-thought-out musical arrangements. The Banana Slugs know kids and know the importance of creating songs for their audience that are not only educationally sound but musically engaging. I have spoken about this before, but that’s where the true artistry comes in—it is easy to write some lyrics and stick some music to them, but it is difficult to craft songs that are lyrically succinct and musically appealing. And that is exactly what the Banana Slugs do song after song.
Let’s take a quick look at a few of the songs:
• "We All Live Downstream"—a bouncy bluegrass tune that sets the tone from the start, "We all live downstream/Better watch out what we put in it." You’ll be singing along on the chorus before the song is done.
• "It’s a Blue Planet" reminds us how important water is to us and how much of it there is on our Earth, all set to a reggae beat.
• "Thankful for the Watershed"—another catchy hook on the chorus "Did you hear what the good earth said? Thankful for the watershed" set to a very grooving and rockin’ gospel feel.
• "One Little River" defines what a watershed is (the land area that drains into a particular lake, river or ocean) and encourages listeners to get to know the one near them.
• "Storm Drain Blues" instructs us on what actions we can take to minimize non-point source pollution (use soap that is phosphate free, keep chemicals out of our kitchen sink, dispose of oil properly).
• "Listen" teaches us how to identify the health of a stream by studying its aquatic invertebrates.
• "Let The Wetlands Stand" reminds us of the need to assure good quality water and how that in turn supports the abundance of life.
For more information about the Banana Slugs, visit their Web site (www.BananaSlugStringBand.com) where you can hear select music clips and learn about their other award-winning recordings.
And remember, music is a powerful learning tool. Take this CD and do your part in helping to raise the next green generation. You might be surprised to find out you have learned a few things along the way.
As always, if you have any comments, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fred Koch lives in Lake Bluff with his wife and son and is an award-winning music educator, recording artist and producer. His Web site, BestChildrensMusic.com, helps parents, teachers and librarians select quality children’s music. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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