At my house, the music gets turned on after dinner for our daily dance party. It’s a great way to end the day laughing and breaking a little sweat. And because it uses rhythm, movement and vocalization, it turns out music is also a great tool for language learning. My kids love to move their bodies to the beat and sing along, never realizing they’re learning new Spanish and English vocabulary along the way.
However, in my Spanish language journey, finding music for my kids to enjoy that I also like has been something of a challenge. I’ve spent many hours listening to Pandora trying to find the right Spanish-language and bilingual music for my family. My kids have been obsessed with “Uptown Funk” and “Let It Go,” and I wanted to find something that would appeal to them just as much in Spanish. But every time I asked my Latin friends, I got recommendations that were great for me (Julieta Venegas, Bacilos, Juanes, and Manu Chao) but not so much for a 3- and 5-year old.Fortunately, I recently discovered two artists whose music and musical message I highly recommend for kids — and for parents.
I must have been hanging around the right online crowd, because I got a direct message from singer-songwriter Nathalia Palis-McLaughlinintroducing me to Nathalia Music — and it’s wonderful! Nathalia incorporates Latin beats that just make you want to get up and dance. And her music is not only for kids, it’s for adults, too.
Nathalia is originally from Colombia, and you can hear the influence in her work. In fact, the first time I heard her music, it reminded me of Shakira (and I happen to love Shakira). Nathalia’s music incorporates memories from her childhood in Colombia and memories she’s made with her own children here in the U.S. “La Iguana Pepa” recalls a story of an iguana that took over her mom’s garden in Colombia, and her mom’s daily attempts to get Pepa to leave. “Que Llueva,” a title from her latest album, is a song about her desire for rain in Los Angeles, where she currently lives with her family.
“Music has always been a part of my life,” Nathalia says. She talks about how her family used to gather around to sing and dance together. “My mom would play the guitar and my brother and I would sing together beside her. It was a family affair.”
Today, Nathalia incorporates that family focus in her music — her entire family is involved in the band. “I want families to enjoy what our family enjoys creating,” she says.
And even while she creates great musical entertainment, Nathalia has always used music as an educational tool. As a music therapist, she worked with children with special needs, using music to help expand their attention span and recall basic routines. The experience is what led her to use music to teach Spanish and Latin culture to her own children, and ultimately to launch her career as a bilingual performer. “I would sing about everything — brushing their teeth, getting dressed, setting the table — and I saw how much they enjoyed it,” she says. Now Nathalia’s music helps teach her kids about her cultural heritage and the person she is today.
To learn more, check out Nathalia’s three albums, which include a mix of Spanish, English and bilingual songs.
Just last week, I got an email from another musician — Andrés Salguero of 123 Andrés. Andrés is also from Colombia and based in Washington, DC. In 2015, he was nominated for a Latin Grammy. I recently bought his latest album, “Arriba Abajo,” which I’ve been enjoying with my children.
What I like about Andrés is his ability to create songs that are both educational and fun. His “Arriba Abajo” album has one of my favorite new songs, “Diez Pajaritos.” It’s an interactive song that teaches kids how to count and subtract, and it even features vocals from Nathalia. My eldest loves it because he has to keep up with the math and listen carefully. Andrés’ songs cover colors, numbers, vocabulary, love, and Latin culture using a diversity of rhythmic styles.
Andrés’ albums move from bachata to bolero to mariachi and vallenato. “I like to feature many rhythms and genres in my songs to represent the variety and diversity of cultures within the Latino experience,” he says. “My performances are a trip around the Americas, also borrowing elements from Africa, the US, and beyond!”
Lucky for us, we get to see those performances on YouTube. My kids already love watching “Salta, Salta,” and today, we at MamaLingua are excited to announce the premiere of Andrés’ latest music video for “Diez Pajaritos.” Check it out! I can’t wait to put it on for my kids later today!
My topmost favorite song by Andrés is “Hola Amigo,” from his first album “¡Uno, Dos, Tres con Andrés! en español y en inglés.” He teaches that it doesn’t matter what you look like, where you’re from, or what language you speak, but whether or not you’re a good person. As a mother, this is the kind of message I want to send to my kids — in Spanish or English — or both.
Nathalia Music and 123 Andrés offer albums with a mix of Spanish and English. The songs are catchy and easy to understand, which is key for language acquisition and a great way to embrace both language learning and cultural understanding. Give them a listen!