What Kind of Cat Are You?!
Billy Jonas, 2002
What Kind of Cat Are You?! is a collection of call-and-response songs that encourage improvised drumming, snapping, tapping and singing. Its driving force is Billy Jonas [website], a composer, songwriter and master percussionist.
The lyrics target kids five and older due to rich vocabulary. At age two, my daughter would clap and drum along. At age three she is picking up new vocabulary words. When my daughter asks about the lyrics I view it as a learning opportunity.
"Bear to the Left" is a lyrical conversation with a fictional friend who has been asked for walking directions. The friend replies with directions that invoke animal names as puns. He is a bit daft though, so the song slowly unfolds like a chain, with each stanza incorporating a new instruction he had forgotten while he repeats the previous ones. His full advice is thus: "Bear to the left, snake to the right, weasel on down and duck out of sight, horse around, flounder about, worm your way in, and bug out! Steer straight home, yak on the phone, wolf down your dinner and say so long!" My wife acts out each animal as a physical movement with our daughter that has proven to be a fun diversion during car travel.
"Nocturnal" is the penultimate campfire song, yet with such a soft tempo that it works as a bedtime song, too. The refrain begins, "Hey, hey middle of the night; Hey hey, everything's alright. Hey, hey, what's that sound? Nocturnal animals coming 'round." Each stanza introduces a new animal for you to mimic with Jonas. By the end you've created crickets, snakes, frogs, a wolf and a snoring brother. All of the sounds are easily made with your mouth, except crickets, which require snapping your fingers.
"Some Houses" is a good example of a vocabulary-rich song about a complex topic, and yet it's my daughter's favorite. The song explores what houses are made of, starting with their base material (wood, metal, plastic, cloth, etc.) and extrapolating out its creation. For example, wood houses "come from trees which came from seeds which came from the ground." The unifying theme is that all houses originate from the Earth, itself being "a house that's spinning round and round."
The song's drum beats are generated by the material being discussed. When we listen to "Some Houses" over lunch, we have all the drumming instruments we need within reach - knuckles on a wood table, metal utensils, plastic bottles and our own cloth shirts.
Percussion songs often aren't dancing songs, but if you're prepared to engage your child and have fun, they can be quite an experience. - AJ, Thingamababy
Top Tracks: Bear to the Left / Nocturnal / Some Houses
Buy it at: Amazon.com | CDBaby | iTunes
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Tuesday, September 25, 2007
What Kind of Cat Are You?!