MusicallyMontessori10: African Call & Answer Song With a Welcoming Dance, Too!

See my new Lesson Plan Activities Pack at the end of this post: Musically Montessori Activities from Africa. 

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

***©Carolyn Lucento 2015. You are warmly welcome to use any of the ideas I have posted here, however, the content & photos are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without my permission.

This is the tenth article in my series: "Musically Montessori, A Sequential Curriculum for Everyday Music." You can read the previous articles here. You can have these first 7 articles collected into my 162 PAGE eBook/ teacher manual as a FREE DOWNLOAD when you SUBSCRIBE to my site. Just click on the subscribe panel of this blog!

Year after year, I have enjoyed celebrating African dance & drumming with little children in the Montessori environment. From toddlers, up to lower Elementary, everyone loves moving to the music of Africa. And, there is something for everyone: the mesmerizing sound of the high pitched Doumbek of North Africa, the strong & powerful Djembe of West & Sub Saharan Africa, the light & playful West African talking drum...not to mention the big tall Ngoma drums found in villages throughout Africa.

We always begin music class by singing a hello song. With this African drumming lesson, it's fun to substitute the word "Jambo" for the word "Hello" in whatever hello song your group likes. I explain that "Jambo" is the Swahili word for hello and Swahili is one of the languages of Africa.

As a first introduction to African drumming, the children really love dancing to a little story I tell about walking down to the river to get water, and then carrying the water back home so we can cook up some soup over an open fire. 
You can read about this activity here: Musical Story, African Style Walk to the River.

     Photos by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

This week, in our Montessori music classes, I started with the story/dance mentioned above. First, I showed the children some nice big photos of an African village with the water flowing nearby, and then some photos of people carrying water in baskets on their heads, and finally some pictures of big pots of soup being cooked over an open fire.

Photos by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Then, I put on some African drumming music ( I like Iroko Percussion, "Transport Urban" at Amazon) and told the story of walking down to the river to get some water. On the way, we might see birds and monkeys, and I told the children that sometimes in African dance the motions are like the animals in the jungle. So, we had fun moving like animals in our dance. You can read more details about this activity at the post mentioned above. 

Later in the lesson, I passed around a child size African style Djembe drum for each child to play as well as a wonderful Mbira with its soft & sweet sound.


Child size Djembe at Amazon                                                                    Child size Mbira at Amazon

The children were so careful when playing these lovely instruments as they were passed from child to child! They kept  a nice relaxed open hand for the drumming and they used their strong finger & thumb muscles to play the Mbira.

For the younger groups in my music classes, I introduced the African Welcoming song, "Fanga Alafia" by telling them we were going to listen to a welcoming song from Africa that starts with drumming and then has a call & response (answer) singing part. The call is: "Fanga Alafia" and the answer is: "Ashay Ashay". Then I showed the children how to pretend we were drumming with our open hands on the carpet where we were sitting. After a half a minute of "drumming" we began the call & answer song. (see mp3 music selection link in the Lesson Plan below.)

For the older groups, we dramatized the welcoming song in this activity that follows.

LESSON TITLE: “A Welcoming Dance, African Style!”

Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

  • Concentration
  • Body Coordination
  • Using Drama in Musical Understanding 
  • Developing Ability to “Call & Answer” 
    1. PREPARE: If you have an African style drum or other African percussion instruments, this is a good time to introduce it to the children, by passing it around the circle for each child to briefly explore.   As well, it is helpful to show the children photos of rural villages in Africa, drummers & dancers of Africa,  and special celebrations of Africa before introducing this song story. 

    Village life in Africa
    Photos by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

    Also, it’s nice if you have already offered some movement & dance activities about Africa, such as these at my past posts: Musical Story for Preschoolers to Enjoy: Let's walk to the river, African-style! (see above)
    Africa-inspired Balance Beam Fun: Crossing the Bridge at Alligator Alley!

    To prepare the environment , I PLACE two parallel lines of MASKING TAPE down the middle of the circle time area. This will be the pretend "river" between the two pretend "villages" that we will use in our little song story about Africa.

    2. EXPLANATION: The idea is that children will dramatize the “Fanga Alafia” song with singing, dancing and playing percussion instruments. This song is a West African welcoming song. I explain to the children that in parts of rural Africa people from one village walk to see their friends in a nearby village. Long time ago, instead of calling them on the phone, they let them know they were coming by drumming and singing. To let them know they were on the way, they first drummed on their drums. As they got closer, they began singing a “Call and Answer” song. In the song, “Fanga Alafia”, the visiting group calls to let the other village know they are almost there. And, the other villagers answer by singing back to tell them they are expecting them and WELCOME! When they finally arrive at the village, everybody plays drums & dances together to celebrate the visit!

    3. MODEL: Invite everybody to stand up for a movement activity. Put on some African traditional drumming music (see selection mentioned above) and begin by demonstrating for the children how to walk in place to the beat of the music. I also show children how to pretend that they are doing their daily work in their “village”, such as sweeping, or cooking, or digging in the garden, etc.

    "The Fanga" Welcoming Song begins with drumming.

    Then, there are greetings with singing!

    The best part of the welcome is the celebration!
    Above photos by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

    4. SAY: “Let’s pretend that we are people living in 2 villages in the countryside of Africa. I’m going to divide our group, so that one half goes to the left side of our circle and the other half goes to the right side of our circle. (Direct the children to move to the left or the right) 

    What shall we call our villages?”  (The children usually come up with lovely names for their villages, but feel free to help them if they ask. This group came up with: The Purple Vine Village and the Running Cheetah Village.)

    “Let's practice! First, the “Running Cheetah” Village is going to visit the “Purple Vine” Village. So, the Purple Vine villagers will pretend to be doing their daily work.” (Prompt the children on the left to pretend to be working). 

    “Now, the Running Cheetah villagers are going to start slowly walking toward the Purple Vine Village. First they will walk to the drumming. (Prompt the Running Cheetah villagers to start walking toward the taped lines that represent the pretend river.) 

    Then, when they are closer, they will begin singing. The Running Cheetah villagers will call by singing, ‘Fanga Alafia’ and then  the Purple Vine villagers will answer by singing, ‘Ashay, Ashay’. Then: Running Cheetah villagers will sing again, ‘Fanga Alafia’ and the Purple Vine villagers with answer again by singing, ‘Ashay, Ashay.’ (Prompt children from each “village” to move closer and to sing the call and answer parts of the song.) 

    “When the people from the Running Cheetah village arrive, then everybody starts dancing to the drum music. There’s a celebration!”  (Prompt children to dance & celebrate!) 

    Then, it’s time for everyone to say goodbye, and the villagers of Running Cheetah Village turn around and walk back home. Then, we’ll start all over and this time, the Purple Vine villagers will be the visitors!”

    5. SHOW: I think this activity works best, if there are 2 teachers. That way each teacher can go with each of the village groups and guide them along in the dramatization, singing, and then dancing. Also, it is important to explain that after the first group visits their friends' village and celebrates with a dance, then they will start all over and the second group will be the ones to visit their friends' village. This way both groups have a turn at being visited and also being the visitors.

    6. INVITE: Put the "Fanga Alafia" music on and invite the children to move!
    a. ~The first village starts walking to the drum beat in the music, while the second village pretends to be working. 
    b. ~The first village gets closer and then starts to call by singing: “Fanga Alafia”. 
    c. ~ The second village stops working and answers by singing: “Ashay, Ashay.”
    d. ~ The first village repeats the call by singing: “Fanga Alafia.”
    e. ~ The second village repeats the answer by singing: “Ashay, Ashay!”
    f. ~ By now, both groups meet at the pretend “river” and everyone dances. 
    g.~ When the song is done, then everyone says goodbye to their friends, and the first village returns to their home. 
    i. ~ CONTINUE this process, but reverse the groups.

    7. SHELF WORK: You can place the photos of rural African villages, African drummers, and dancers/celebrations in a basket for the children to examine more closely at work time or free choice time.  It is nice to include one of the small African percussion instruments in the basket, as well. (ex: mbira or afuche

    Afuche image from Wikipedia
    Mbira image from Wikipedia

     ~  Play a hand drum yourself instead of using a recording from a cd.
     ~  If the children are experienced, they can carry small percussion instruments and play them during their walk to visit the other village.
     ~ Use instrumental African drumming music instead of the "Fanga Alafia" cd and have the children move, then sing the Call & Answer song, then dance. 
     ~ This is a lovely activity to feature in a small performance at your end of the year family cultural celebration.
     ~ I always include this fun activity during our classroom studies of the continent of Africa. The children usually want to do it again and so we end up doing it a few more times over several days or weeks.
    Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

    Well, as you can see, I love the music and dance of Africa and I so enjoy bringing it to the children I work with! African studies is one way to begin Black History Month in February.

    Don't miss my upcoming post in this series, Musically Montessori: A Sequential Curriculum for Everyday Music
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    You can get even more ideas to enhance this lesson with MY NEWEST T.P.T. Lesson Plan Activity Pack, Musically Montessori: Fanga Alafia Welcoming Song from Africa. 39 pages chock full of fun music, dance & drama activities (including the above Lesson Plan) along with Montessori style printables for individual and group time fun. $7.99 at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. 

    Trillium Montessori has a wonderful & comprehensive set of cultural card materials for the study of Africa! It is part of their bundle: THE CONTINENTS A-Z downloadable & affordable at this link: Trillium Montessori Contintents Bundle Affiliate . 

    I am so delighted to have you visiting my blog today! Please feel free to leave a comment or two in the section that follows. I love to hear your ideas.

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