Songs in the Shade of the Cashew and Coconut Trees
There are many ways to enjoy this rich exploration of songs from countries in West Africa and the Caribbean, curated by Nathalie Soussana. It is a listen-along picture book to begin with, each page featuring a lyric excerpted from each of the 23 songs on the CD, set against artist Judith Gueyfier’s lushly colored, detailed illustrations. This is followed by a map showing the many countries represented here, with thoughtful text about the countries’ histories, languages, and traditions, and about the importance of music as a means of communication, as an expression of freedom, and as a fundamental part of family and community life. The next pages spotlight each song, identifying where it comes from, the singers and featured instruments. There are interest-kindling background notes, too, and lyrics in English and in the language of the country of origin. The well-produced tracks are as varied as a waltzing lullaby (Ninância), a tender reminiscence of a grandmother’s stories (Gongon), both from Cape Verde; a lively story song, Hormiguita retozona) from Cuba about a little ant who learns that there is a time for play and a time for helping others; and from Haiti, a gentle plea for help addressed to Papa Danmbala, the snake god of peace and justice.
Lynne Heffley ©2019 Parents’ Choice
A freelance writer and editor for the arts and non-profit organizations, Lynne is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, where she established the paper’s first weekly children’s arts and entertainment beat.