I am not a big fan of Chinese children’s music. Yet over the past seven years I have spent innumerable hours listening to it, in all it’s synthesized, saccharine sweetness, and have learned to tune it out to such a degree that after I drop my children off at school, I occasionally leave the CD playing because I no longer hear it. Nevertheless, early on, I bought and downloaded as many Chinese songs as I could, as I was (and still am) convinced that music is one of the surest and fastest ways for children to learn language. Now that my two children are comfortably fluent in Mandarin, I have tried to wean them off the CDs, which has worked without effort for my seven-year-old but not so well for my three-year-old.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the new Little Dragon Tales, Chinese Songs for Children CD, performed by Shanghai Restoration Project featuring Yip’s Canada Children’s Choir. Shanghai Restoration Project is a music group led by Dave Liang which introduces “Eastern instruments and rhythms to the Western sounds of hip-hop and electronica,” according to their own description. They produced a beautiful album, Afterquake, with bluegrass singer Abigail Washburn which remixes sounds, including children’s voices, from the area of Sichuan devastated by the 2008 earthquake.
Their new album of children’s songs is unique and surprisingly enticing. It contains all the same songs I now know by heart and which my three-year-old sings ad nauseum around the house. But backed by real music with the simple, sweet children’s voices they sound completely different and totally endearing. The final song on the album, a solo by Zhang Le of 小白船 (Little White Boat) is especially soothing and beautiful. And as soon as I started playing the CD, my kids both stopped what they were doing and came in the room to listen, singing along.
See two videos below of the recording of Little Dragon Tales:
The CD can be purchased from Amazon or downloaded from iTunes. The liner notes helpfully include full lyrics of all songs with pinyin and English translation. What better way to celebrate the Year of the Dragon with your little ones?
And hear Shanghai Restoration Project’s beautiful interpretation of the folk song Sala, sung by children in Sichuan (this one even made it onto my workout playlist):
[Full disclosure: Cheng & Tsui sent me a free review copy of the CD but the opinions expressed herein are 100% mine.]