Music from Around the World



At our Tiny Tots programs last month, little ones and their grown-ups were encircled by our orchestra and special guest performers for a musical tour of the world. We played music from more than 12 different countries and cultures and featured 14 amazing individual guest artists. Here are just a few highlights with some activities to go with them.


Ireland – The Irish Washerwoman


About the Music

Leroy Anderson’s Irish Suite was commissioned by the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1947 and he composed most of the work in just 11 days. Each movement of the six-movement suite features a different traditional Irish tune.

The Irish Washerwoman is the first movement of the suite. It’s a lively jig that originated in the British Isles and is now well-known across the world. A jig is a style of dance and music that traditional features the Celtic fiddle and is usually bouncy and upbeat. The dance is a combination of hops and steps that repeat themselves over and over again.


Activities By Age

Babies and Toddlers: Engage them in some kinesthetic learning. Kinesthetic learning is a learning style in which learning takes place by the students carrying out physical activities – learning through movement. This will help them discover the rhythm and beat of the music.

  • Bounce your little ones up and down in your lap
  • Help them tap out the beat with their hand
  • Stand up and stomp your feet to the beat

Preschool and Elementary: Make the cute dancing shamrock from this blog post. Display your shamrock by hanging it up in your house, but only after you’ve had it dance along to some Irish tunes!

Middle-Elementary and Beyond: Looking to challenge your kids (or yourself)? Learn to do a short Irish Jig sequence by following along with this video.


West Africa – Fanga Alafia


About the Music

Fanga, sometimes spelled as Funga, is a traditional welcoming dance from West African countries. The song Fanga Alafia is based on traditional Fanga song and dance and is often a call and response piece. It uses words from the Yoruba and Vai languages. The main words in the chorus of the song are “Fanga alafia, Ashe Ashe.” This means something like, “We welcome you, Amen Amen.” At our Tiny Tots concerts, we had dancers from Cleo Parker Robinson Dance join us for this piece.


Activities by Age

Babies at Toddlers: This music is driven by a percussion section featuring two djembe playing traditional African rhythms. Encourage your little ones to tap and bang along on drums, shakers, or just some pots and pans as they listen.

Elementary and Older: Follow this video to learn how to do a welcoming dance to Fanga Alafia.


Italy – Tarantella Napoletana and Funiculì, Funiculà


About the Music

A tarantella is an upbeat folk dance that originated in Naples and the Southern region of Italy. The name tarantella is actually inspired by the tarantula. The tarantula spider is very common in this region on Italy and the folklore says that the dance wards off spider bites or help victims after they’ve been bitten. Funiculì, Funiculà is a song that was composed in 1880 to commemorate the opening of a funicular railway on Mount Vesuvius in Italy. A funicular railway is a special type of railway that typically goes up a very steep incline like the side of a mountain.


Activities By Age

Preschool and Early Elementary: Help introduce the concept of place before using this big list of activities that will get children exploring maps and places, near and far, without ever leaving the house. If you have a globe at home, we think this activity is a great way for kids to get hands-on in their exploration.

Preschool through Middle School: Michelangelo is one of the most famous artists of all time. Though he was primarily a sculptor, he is also well-known for his Sistine Chapel paintings. Check out this amazing virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel and then have your children create their own “upside down” art like Michelangelo did.


Venezuela – Alma Llanera


About the Music

Alma Llanera means “Soul of the Plains” and is a song about the beautiful landscape of Venezuela. It is a joropo, which is a traditional musical style from Venezuela and also the country’s national dance. It was composed in 1914 as a part of a zarzuela. A zarzuela is a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, including opera, popular songs, and dance. Alma Llanera is considered to be Venezuela’s unofficial national anthem. It’s tradition to end any social reunion or party by singing or playing it.


Activities by Age

Preschool and Elementary: Learn more about Venezuela and its music!

Elementary: Have your kids read these 10 Fun Facts about Brazil. They’ll learn that Venezuela is home to Angel Falls, the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall. Then have them create a collage depicting Angel Falls, based on this tutorial, using old magazines and newspapers you have around the house.


Music of the World Playlist