by Teresa Jennings
Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.
We wanted this spirited tune to capture the flavor of a Latin American or island festival like some of the Mardi Gras celebrations, the local carnivals or the Cervantes Festival. (Be sure to follow the pronunciation suggestions at the bottom of page 41.) At the same time, we wanted to keep the content simple enough to spur creativity and movement.
The recording on the Performance/Accompaniment Cassette for this issue is a great teaching tool, whether you use it every time you perform the piece or not. The band really sets up an infectious rhythm to follow, and the horn section is superb. The accompaniment side of the cassette removes many of the Latin percussion instruments so that they won't clutter the sound when your students play along.
Speaking of percussion, this piece is great for using any number of different Latin and/or classroom percussion instruments. The suggestions below can act as a point of departure for your players. During the intro, gradually add instruments until all are in. Start with say just claves (or rhythm sticks), cowbell and conga. Depending on how many instruments you add, you can have them enter adding one instrument every 2, 4 or 8 measures. Interesting instruments might include the ones shown below as well as agogo bells, maracas (in place of the shaker), samba and/or other whistles, and vibraslap. If you decide to add tambourine, keep the pattern simple or it will overpower everything else.
At measure 9, everyone gets a little quieter for the voice entrance, and you may want to thin out the texture a bit. The same is true of each verse. Start soft and thin then build. Everyone should be in and having a good time by 33.
Bar 43 is a special section. If you use the tape, have your students listen to what the instruments are doing. This is a great time to move! For "group movements," consider alternating hands in the air, arms bent at the elbow. Actually, though, the spirit of the festival is for individual expression so, "Move to the beat!"
In situations where you are not using the tape, you may want to extend this section for either percussion or melodic solos. With a couple of basic time keeper instruments always playing, players can improvise rhythmic solos on congas, hand drums, etc. A pitched percussion player (bass xylophone would be fun) can improvise rhythmically on the roots as set out below. There can be solos "traded" every four or eight bars, hopefully with some imitation going on among your performers.
We have included instrumental cues to show what the horns are doing on the cassette. Braver souls may actually play along on keyboards, recorders or other wind instruments. (This would be tough in the intro, but bar 43 is rather challenging.) Bar 43 also provides an opportunity to compose your own line based on pitches and rhythms learned.
Another interesting experiment might include some simple improvisation on recorders or xylophones or metallophones. Limit the possible notes to increase your success. Using just the D and C chords (with Ami7 being treated as a C), use A, C and D for the D chords and G, A and C on the C chords.
You can also add autoharp just playing D and C chords (again substituting a C chord for the Ami7 chords.)
Good Luck and Have Fun!