Music from Down Under


I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve written…the summer was quite busy. I taught Kodaly Level I Methodology and Folk Song Research at DePaul University and Colorado State University, took a week vacation to Mrytle Beach, and opened up a brand new room at the newest elementary in my district (which involved unpacking boxes, boxes, and more boxes!) The summer was full of wonderful experiences, and I am all settled into my room. I’m going on my third week teaching, so time to look to the year ahead.

This year will be full of musical programs…every grade will perform a musical, although fourth and fifth grade will be combined. We will be performing a concert series this year called “Music of Many Cultures,” with each grade performing music from a different culture. The first program will be on October 12, with my third graders, and will be music from Australia. I did a musical a few years ago with third graders, with music from Australia, but I’m changing some of the music as well as the narration. After revising and revising what I’d be doing, I still wasn’t completely happy with my list of songs. These students are brand new to me, and it’s an early musical, so I want music that will be easily accessible. In my research of Australian music, I found some interesting facts.

First of all, it is VERY hard to find chants from Australia. I like to include at least one chant among all the other songs and dances that we can add spoken ostinati and partwork to. I searched children’s poetry, chants, nursery rhymes, anything I could think of, and couldn’t find anything that was truly Australian. I have dozens and dozens of folk song resources, and don’t have anything from Australia. In fact, most of the music I’ll be using I learned at the International Kodaly Symposium in Columbus a few years ago. Finally, this morning, after much searching, I finally found this little gem:

Little Billy Bandicoot

For potatoes loves to root.

Eats them ’til his skin is tight,

All the long black foggy night.

The bandicoot is an animal native to Australia, but I also found this on how to “bandicoot” potatoes:

To bandicoot potatoes, gently put your hand into the side of the hill at the base of a plant and feel for small potatoes. Remove any you find. This doesn’t disturb the main plant and will give you a real treat early in the potato season. A meal of new potatoes, fresh from your own backyard, is one of the many rewards of vegetable gardening that you never know about if you always buy your vegetables.

Interesting, I thought! And the poem is authentically Australian…some of the sources I found said that all children learn the poem growing up in Australia.

Another interesting tidbit I found is that “Kookaburra” is not a folk song. It was actually written by a music teacher named Marion Sinclair, and the group “Men at Work” stole a riff from the song in the song “Down Under.” Sinclair sued the group recently and actually won! I had to listen to the song to see what they were talking about, and sure enough, the flute part sounds like “Kookaburra.” Again, very interesting!

I think I finally have a list of songs and dances that I’ll use for the program, and hopefully the music will be accessible for both the students and the audience (but if you know of any great Australian songs, feel free to pass them on!) I will keep you updated!


2 responses »

  1. What songs did you end up using? I try to do a lot of multi-cultural music with my kids. Each grade level focuses on a continent, and while I have a few songs from Australia, I’d love to all more to my rep.

    • Hi Katie! For the Australian program, I used the book “Australia ABC’s” as narration to tie it all together, and used these songs:

      Aboriginal Lullaby
      Taba Naba
      Little Billy Bandicoot (chant)
      Waltzing Matilda

      I also used these dances:
      Highway #1
      Sesere Eeye
      Lachlan Tigers

      It was lots of fun! I think I’ll be sharing Sesere Eeye at the TRIKE workshop in February. I’ve also been doing lots of multicultural music this year…all of the programs are celebrating different cultures/ countries. Next up is a program I based on the book “I see the rhythm”….all African and African-American music. I’m very excited!

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