by Author Natalie Mason

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Multicultural Music Making - Family Connections

Our Multicultural Music Making sessions include in-depth introductions to a range of music traditions, enabling a critical engagement with international sounds. As the choice of music we learn and gain inspiration from is based on the heritages and cultural interests of the young people in the project, we value all the opportunities we have to connect with our participants’ families.

To join the project, the children initially completed questionnaires with their parents, noting the music they already play or listen to, exploring the geographical and linguistic connections the young people have to different parts of the world. Once the groups were up and running we invited families to attend one of our sessions, and to bring some music from a place they have a connection or interest in. At one school, one girl’s grandmother brought in a recording of her husband, a ‘Carnival King’ of Montserrat. A mum at another school brought in an Antiguan flag and a piece of music from the island that we all had a dance to. And later that week we talked about rhythms associated with the Garifuna people of Belize, the birthplace of the mum of one of our musicians at our third school. We watched videos of drumming, learning a Garifuna ‘Paranda’ rhythm on drums and as a body percussion pattern we could play while moving around the school hall.

It has been great to have the opportunity to chat to parents as they collect their children after our sessions, and build a relationship that is so valuable in reflecting and reinforcing connections within the project. These conversations also give us the opportunity to collaborate with parents on research around the musical material we introduce and discover in our workshops. For example, we might enquire about possible meanings of song lyrics written in the Yoruba language, or the name and story behind a Polish folk song a child has sung that afternoon. Our private project website has also allowed for families to feedback on our workshops, commenting on our composition recordings and photos of our music making.  

This week we are preparing for our big group session, where we bring all the participants and their families together. We are hoping to extend the families’ role in the project, as our musicians invite their relatives to create performance ideas, make decorations and discuss recipes for our festival celebration concerts this summer. Parents and siblings with instrumental skills will be encouraged to rehearse with us, one boy’s aunt with great sewing skills requested to make some costumes, siblings to help make flower decorations, and food ideas so far include Mamon cake from the Philippines, Nigerian yam dishes and Antiguan 'fungi' for our family dinner element of our celebrations.

We believe the connections we are developing are an invaluable resource in ensuring the impact of our music making reaches beyond the school walls, and into the communities we are a part of.