The culture of Latin America has its roots in three continents. It can be traced through history, language, religion, and even children’s stories. The cultural roots are, perhaps, most prominent in the music. The combination of Spanish guitars, African percussion, and Native American flutes has given rise to some of the most vibrant music on the planet: salsa, merengue, mambo, cumbia and scores of other styles.
Similarly, children’s songs from Latin America are based from the music of these three sources. They often draw inspiration from European nursery rhymes, as well as African and Native American folk tales. They tell the stories of ancient kingdoms, mythical journeys, natural wonders, and of course a host of wild animals.
On the opening track, Afrocubism gives us a modern twist to the magical journey theme on ‘A La Luna Yo Me Voy’, a song about a trip to the moon. Cuban band Vieja Trova Santiaguera are dedicated to traditional musical forms, including son, that are at the root of contemporary salsa. Here they sing about an age-old favourite mode of children’s transportation, the train in ‘El Tren’. In most parts of the world, and Latin America is no exception, songs about animals are adored by children young and old. Here, Ray Ramos’ salsa classic, ‘El Perro Rumbero’ describes the loyal dog.
Some of the most captivating songs deal with fables and myths of the supernatural. On the traditional folk song, ‘La Bruja’, Dan Zanes is joined by extraordinary Mexican vocalist Lila Downs. ‘La Bruja’ is a witch. The song describes what can happen if the witch catches you: she can turn you into a flowerpot, or a pumpkin.
Of course, what collection of Latin American children’s songs would be complete without songs about ‘La Fiesta’ (The Party)? Salsa diva Yoko sings about starting the party while legendary Colombian vocalist Totó La Momposina gives a scorching rendition of the folk song ‘Pacantó’, inviting everyone from nearby villages to join the street fiesta to sing and dance, a call that seems to have the same effect on the young ones that helped choose the tracks on this CD.