'Funga Alafia': a welcome song from Nigeria!

We’ve had another great October at Bangers & Smash, singing songs from Africa and the Caribbean in celebration of Black History Month!

Iya and the Kuumba Kids

Iya and the Kuumba Kids

We’ve started each session with a name song from South Africa, Haya Ma, in which the children say their names and clap four times. It’s been lovely seeing even the youngest babies and toddlers recognise and respond to this simple song.

Moving on, we’ve looked at The Skin You Live In, a beautifully illustrated book which uses sumptuous language and imagery to celebrate skin colour:

  • your coffee and cream skin, your warm cocoa dream skin, your chocolate chip, double dip, sundae supreme skin

  • your marshmallow treat skin, your spun sugar sweet skin, your cherry topped, candy dropped, frosting complete skin

  • your butterscotch gold skin, your lemon tart bold skin, your mountain high, apple pie, cookie dough rolled skin

Children have looked at their own and their friends' skin and Cathy has talked about how people with brown and black skin come from the continent of Africa and live all over the world.

Our main song, Funga Alafia, comes from West Africa. There are many versions of this song but Cathy has chosen one by Iya and the Kuumba Kids with lyrics about Nigeria:

Funga alafia, ashe, ashe
Funga alafia, ashe, ashe

It’s a welcome song from Nigeria
Bringing peace and love to everyone
Grab a welcome if you please
I have nothing up my sleeves!

Children have had fun playing along to Funga Alafia with instruments from Drums for Schools’ fantastic Nursery Rhythm Kit. The kit contains a variety of instruments from around the world, including claves, agogos, shakers, scrapers, chime bars and drums.

Cathy has also asked black staff members to share songs from their childhoods and heritages.

Big thanks to the following:

  • Kemi for Labe Igi Orombo, a Nigerian song in Yoruba about playing under an orange tree

  • Tolu for Bata Mi A Dun Ko Ko Ka, a Nigerian song in Yoruba about the benefits of study, and Aiku, Ajé, Isegun, Ojo ru, Ojo bo, Eti, Abameta, a song about the days of the week

  • Juliet for O Kereke, a Nigerian song in Igbo in which the children sit opposite each other in a line with their legs outstretched and bounce a rolled-up cloth from one end to the other

  • Jane for Kedu Onye Ga Abu Ojim, a Nigerian song in Igbo about finding a friend

  • Sarah and Trianna for Kye Kye Kule, a West African call and response song

  • Vinette for Evenin' Time, a song by Jamaican poet, folklorist, writer and educator, Louise Bennett

  • Israel and Vinette for Go Down Emmanuel Road, a Jamaican song about passing stones around a circle, and Mango Time, a song about eschewing coffee in favour of mango juice

  • Marcia for Brown Girl In The Ring, a Jamaican song about dancing

In addition, both children and staff have enjoyed singing and dancing to two songs about beans, Jumping Beans and Nzama, Nzama (a Malawian song), before getting on down to Blame It On The Boogie by Michael Jackson.

Earth Story – the beginning of life

At new Bangers & Smash nursery, Under the Willow, we’ve continued our 10-week project, Earth Story, during which we are learning about the origins of the Earth and its inhabitants.

Our next four sessions have been about:

  • the elements: earth, fire, water, air

  • simple life forms

  • fossils, rocks and minerals

  • volcanoes

Children have enjoyed:

  • waving scarves and moving to Feux D’Artifice by Debussy and Vltava by Smetana while thinking about fire and water

  • creating their own bacterium from scrunched-up newspaper and wriggling along the floor to Nautilus by B Bumble & the Stingers

  • singing Let’s Dig, Dig, Dig, a song about finding fossils, rocks and minerals, and My Roots Go Down, a song by Sarah Pirtle, which Cathy has adapted to be about mountains and volcanoes

There are many versions of this last song but here’s Bangers & Smash’s favourite!

Under the Willow INSET and Project Celebration

Cathy also ran a successful INSET session at Under the Willow on Wednesday 24 October 2018.

With a variety of activities designed to explore teachers’ voices and vocal range, the session looked at:

  • building confidence in singing and leading songs

  • finding ways to reinforce songs from music sessions during the rest of the school day

Cathy, staff and children are working towards Under the Willow’s upcoming Earth Story Project Celebration and are looking forward to sharing songs and stories about the earth with parents and carers on Wednesday 28 November 2018.

Carols in the Wildlife Garden

Cathy (guitar/voice) and Sarah (flute/accordion) are delighted to have been invited to sing and play Christmas songs in the Mother Goose Nursery Wildlife Garden from 12-4pm on Saturday 15 December 2018.

As well as mulled drinks and mince pies, there’ll be wreath-making and, of course, the chance to sing your hearts out with Bangers & Smash.

Carols in the Wildlife Garden is a FREE family event so please bring your little ones along and join in the fun!

Riding on an elephant with Bangers & Smash!

It’s been an exciting September at Bangers & Smash with a series of music sessions inspired by Cathy’s Summer trip to Asia!

The children have enjoyed looking at this family of Indian elephants and guessing which is the daddy, which is the mummy and which the baby elephant!

The children have enjoyed looking at this family of Indian elephants and guessing which is the daddy, which is the mummy and which the baby elephant!

Taking elephants as our main theme, we’ve looked at:

Cathy has asked the children:

  • What does an elephant look like?

  • What does it sound like?

We’ve listened to a recording of elephants in the jungle and copied the sounds they make. Cathy has passed round a bicycle horn and we’ve talked about how the sound that comes out of an elephant’s trunk is similar to the sound that comes out of a trumpet.

We’ve followed this by listening to a recording of a short poem, An Elephant Goes Like This And That, and repeating the poem with actions.

Our main song has been Bangers & Smash original, Riding On An Elephant, in which the children intersperse short sung phrases with percussion breaks.

In the first session, Cathy has prepared the children by asking them to tap their knees, stamp their feet and bang on the floor in the gaps while in subsequent sessions, the children have played on junk drums made out of recycled plastic and cardboard containers.

Each session has included the opportunity to rehearse and then perform the song with children learning when to play and when to stop through Cathy’s use of simple hand signals.

Following on from this, Cathy has shown the children an Indonesian statuette of the Hindu elephant god, Ganesh, and invited individual children to the front to try on a T-shirt with a picture of Ganesh.

We’ve passed round a gangsa (a type of metallophone used mainly in Balinese and Javanese Gamelan music) and children have taken it in turns to play.

A gangsa

A gangsa

Returning to Lenny Leopard’s Jungle Dance, Cathy has asked the children to look at a picture of a snake:

  • What part of the elephant does the snake look like?

  • How does it move?

We’ve listened to two tracks from an album of traditional Thai music:

  • In the first – a recording of a Thai flute or khlui – we’ve put our arms in front of our faces and moved them like elephants’ trunks

  • In the second – a recording of a Thai ensemble or piphat – we’ve moved round the room on our hands and knees, waving our arms like trunks, spraying each other with (pretend) water and trumpeting like elephants

In addition, Cathy has brought in Indonesian sarungs and udengs (a type of headcloth worn by men) and invited individual children to dress up as elephant riders.

We’ve finished each session by marching to music, including:

  • The Liberty Bell

  • Colonel Hathi’s March (from The Jungle Book)

Earth Story – the origins of the Earth

At new Bangers & Smash nursery, Under the Willow, we’ve started our 10-week project, Earth Story, during which we are learning about the origins of the Earth and its inhabitants.

Our first three sessions have been about:

  • the Earth

  • the Solar System

  • the Big Bang

As well as teaching two songs by Canadian children’s songwriter, RaffiBig Beautiful Planet and One Light, One Sun – Cathy has introduced a variety of musical activities, including:

  • rolling a globe to different children while singing a name song

  • marching round the sun waving yellow scarves and playing bells

  • tapping the names of the planets with claves

  • playing a Big Bang on a djembe

  • dancing to Walking On Sunshine by Katrina & the Waves

Both children and staff have enjoyed vocalising, physicalising, dramatising and creating musical responses to this exciting theme!

Pulse and rhythm – finding the groove with Bangers & Smash!

We’ve had an excellent end to the Summer term at Bangers & Smash this June and July with six sessions on finding the groove!

Children have looked at a picture of a nautilus and used their hands and bodies to create tentacles and big eyes staring out of a shell

Children have looked at a picture of a nautilus and used their hands and bodies to create tentacles and big eyes staring out of a shell

Thinking about our work on keeping the pulse and feeling the rhythm in April and May, we’ve brought the two together to try out simple repeating rhythms over a steady pulse.

We’ve started each session by naming children one by one around the circle as part of our regular hello song. Cathy has asked each child to break the sound of their name into separate syllables and to clap once for each syllable (Kay-lee, Jon-a-than, A-bu-ba-kar etc). This task is all about physicalising sound and is complex because it involves matching action to speech.

As the children have become more familiar with the task, Cathy has extended it by asking them to add in an extra phrase ­– ‘cha, cha, cha’ – after their names (‘Meg-an cha cha cha’ etc). This grounds the task in 4/4 time and leads – with lots of practice – to the children being able to say their names and the 'cha cha cha' phrase one after the other without gaps. This is an important development because it creates a piece of simple percussive music – word rhythms spoken and clapped over a shared pulse that is ‘felt’ rather than played.

Moving on, Cathy has introduced an ocean drum and invited individual children to the front to play it. We’ve looked at the back of the drum, which has a picture of sea creatures on it, and Cathy has taught the children a song about a little crab.

Using a piece of blue cloth to represent the sea, we’ve then sung a number of sea-based songs including:

  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat

  • A Sailor Went To Sea, Sea, Sea

  • Bobby Shaftoe

  • Down There Under The Sea

In this last song, the children have bounced different sea creatures on the cloth and Cathy has asked them to find short phrases to describe the creatures and to play these phrases on claves (‘scary shark’, ‘tiny octopus’ etc). Cathy has introduced a slow, steady pulse by repeating the word, ‘whale’, and the children have practised playing their phrases over this pulse. With some groups, it’s been possible to take this one step further by splitting the children into two sections with one half playing the phrases and the other half playing the pulse.

The children have also learned Baby Beluga by Canadian children’s songwriter, Raffi, and this has proved to be immensely popular – with teachers reporting hearing children singing it around the nursery and in the garden.

Other activities have included:

  • singing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 while counting laminated fish

  • making a (pretend) fish stew and eating it while singing and swaying to You Shall Have A Fishy On A Little Dishy

  • creating a circle dance to The Big Ship Sailed On The Alley, Alley Oh

We’ve finished each session with some dancing and Cathy has chosen two very different songs, both with distinctive grooves:

  • Nautilus by B Bumble and the Stingers

  • Dancing With The Captain by Paul Nicholas

In the first, children have looked at a picture of a nautilus and used their hands and bodies to create tentacles and big eyes staring out of a shell as they move along the ocean bed. In the second, children and staff have performed jaunty nautical actions and had fun disco-dancing! 

New nursery for Bangers & Smash

In other news, Bangers & Smash was delighted to run a taster session for Under the Willow Nursery in Dulwich in May. Following this, Cathy was asked to provide musical support for the nursery's upcoming performance for parents in June, rehearsing a selection of songs about Australia, including:

  • I’m A Kangaroo

  • El Senor Koala

  • Dig Like A Wombat

  • Once There Was A Lizard

  • I Had A Little Turtle

  • Baby Shark

The performance was a great success with Head of Nursery, Mandy, commenting, 'We have lots of happy parents and the children are still singing this morning! Your input was so much appreciated and we are looking forward to building this relationship.'

We are delighted to welcome Under the Willow to our roster and looking forward to starting regular music sessions at the nursery next term.

Summer break

Bangers & Smash is now taking a break and music sessions will start again in September. We hope you have a wonderful Summer and wish all the children moving on to ‘big school’ the best of luck – we’ll miss you very much!

Feeling the rhythm with Bangers & Smash!

Following on from April's sessions on keeping the pulse, we've been feeling the rhythm this May at Bangers & Smash!


Continuing our mouse theme, we've sung and played to songs and nursery rhymes about mice, including:

  • Hickory Dickory Dock

  • I Want To Be A Little Mouse

  • Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat

  • Three Blind Mice

Building on last month's work of tapping a steady pulse on claves while singing, we've practised tapping in time with the words of each song, using our listening and fine motor skills to match the sounds we make with our voices to the rhythms we make with our claves.

In Three Blind Mice, we've used an updated version of the words:

Three blind mice, three blind mice
See how they run, see how they run
They all were chased by the farmer's cat
They ran and hid in an old straw hat
Did you ever see such a thing as that
As three blind mice?

Younger children have enjoyed hiding three different mice in a straw hat: a finger puppet, a mouse shaker and a mouse toy that wobbles from side to side.

Moving on to our Tick Tock Clock song, we've isolated three repeating rhythms and played them on junk drums made out of recycled plastic containers:

  • Tick tock tick tock (crotchets – four to a bar)

  • Ticka tocka ticka tocka (quavers – eight to a bar)

  • Ticka tocka ticka tocka ticka tocka ticka tocka (semiquavers – sixteen to a bar)

Older children have split into two groups with one group playing the first rhythm and the other the second. Once established, Cathy has asked a member of staff to add in a slow, steady pulse:

  • Tick – tock – (minims – two to a bar)

We've finished each session by listening and moving to a children's song from 1965: A Windmill In Old Amsterdam by Ronnie Hilton.

The children have had fun pretending to be little mice clog-dancing while chanting a repeating rhythm: 'Clip clippity clop on the stair'.

Next month, we'll be bringing pulse and rhythm together as we work on finding the groove while singing songs about the sea!