01 October 2008

Sesame Street Is the Weapon of the Future

No wait...that's not right. But both music and the children's TV show are tools for cross-border communication. As a kid watching Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, I had no idea that kids in foreign lands might be watching the same characters, and hearing them in their own languages.
Sesame Street India - Galli Galli Sim Sim - on SoundRoots.org
A new CD/DVD combo from Putumayo shows how the culture of Sesame Street has spread around the globe, with 13 songs from Tanzania, Brazil, France, Russia, South Africa, India, China, Israel, Mexico, Palestine, and the Netherlands. The inclusion of a DVD with five music videos helps balance the relative brevity of the music CD, weighing in at under 30 minutes.

Music is an extremely powerful medium... While musical style is unique to different regions of the world, music itself is something we have in common. (Sesame Workshop President Gary Knell)

Many of the songs are either unknown to me or forgotten with other childhood details. Others are clearly distinct to their own cultures, such as "Galli Galli Sim Sim," the Indian show's theme song that sounds like a kids Bollywood tune. And the "Traditional Game Song" from Palestine.
Putumayo Presents Sesame Street Playground on SoundRoots.org
I would gladly have done without the USA version (or any version) of "Elmo's Song," but the Tanzanian "Don't Be Sad Song" really lives up to its billing, with an uplifting rhythm and Kiswahili vocals.

[mp3] Kilimani Sesame: Don't Be Sad Song
from Sesame Street Playground

But honestly, who could argue that the album's highlight is a Chinese version of "Rubber Duckie," sung by Zhima Jie. As kids' albums go, Sesame Street Playground will stand up well to repeated listenings by adults. Just skip over Elmo.

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