Why Fund Our Indiegogo Campaign for “The ABC’s of Percussion?”

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The ABC’s of Percussion Children’s Book Indiegogo Campaign!

By Uncle Devin

Given the reduction of arts programs in schools across the United States, especially public schools, children are less exposed to musical instruments than they were 30 years ago.  Funding will allow me to publish over 1,000 copies of “The ABC’s of Percussion” and add a music CD that brings the book to life through world beats and rhythms.

It will also help bring diversity to the children’s book industry.  Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2014, just 84 were written by African Americans, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin.

Finally, this book will enhance The Uncle Devin Show®, which is an interactive musical experience for children using percussion instruments to cultivate their minds – a dynamic cross between Fat Albert and Schoolhouse Rock. This will bring me closer to my goal of connecting with children through percussion and the art of storytelling that will lead toward their personal, cultural and social development.

Instead of just focusing on the drum, “The ABC’s of Percussion” is one of few children’s books that specifically highlights 26 different percussion instruments in an educational and fun way by identifying one per letter of the alphabet through beautiful illustrations, with an accompanying music CD that recites the book aloud and plays each instrument.

1st Update of Indiegogo Campaign for Children’s Book

Week One Update of Uncle Devin’s Indiegogo Campaign for
“The ABC’s of Percussion” Children’s Book with Music CD

Hey everyone!  After our first week of our Crowd-Funding Campaign to raise funds for our new children’s book, we are happy to announce that we have reached nearly 25% ($3,568) of our goal as of March 9, 2015.
We have three weeks left and there is still time for others to make a contribution and receive some excellent perks in return.  Click on the picture above to see our video update or click Here!

Sistrum – Forked Jingle Stick – Instructions –   ANNA STANGE Folksinger

Sistrum – Forked Jingle Stick – Instructions –   ANNA STANGE Folksinger.

Sistrum – Forked Jingle Stick  – Instructions


The Sistrum is a type of rattle or shaker that uses metal to produce the sound, though wooden discs or seeds are sometimes used.

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Materials needed: forked stick, light wire, bottle caps, hammer, nail, wire cutters, board.


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Use the nail and hammer to pound a hole in the center of 6-10 bottle caps per jingle stick.


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Cut a piece of wire about 10-12 inches long and wrap one end of the wire on one end of the forked stick.

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Be sure to wrap the wire so that the end of the wire is under the wrapping.


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String the bottle caps onto the wire.


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Wrap the other end of the wire on the other end of the forked stick.


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Wrap a bit of the wire around the wire running between the two ends of the fork.

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Anna Stange
 brings her collection of “recycled” instruments & instrument-making supplies to schools, libraries, scout groups, and festivals for hands-on, educational & fun music-making workshops.  For more information including rates & availability, 
annastange@yahoo.com.

Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? – NYTimes.com

Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? – NYTimes.com.

Christopher Myers

Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin.

Reading came early to me, but I didn’t think of the words as anything special. I don’t think my stepmom thought of what she was doing as more than spending time with me in our small Harlem apartment. From my comfortable perch on her lap I watched as she moved her finger slowly across the page. She probably read at about the third grade level, but that was good enough for the True Romance magazines she read. I didn’t understand what the stories were about, what “bosom” meant or how someone’s heart could be “broken.” To me it was just the comfort of leaning against Mama and imagining the characters and what they were doing.

Later, when my sisters brought home comic books, I got Mama to read them to me, too. The magazines and comics pushed me along the road of the imaginative process. When I got my first books — “The Little Engine That Could,” “Bible Stories for Every Day,” and “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” — I used them on the same journeys. In the landscape of my mind I labored as hard as I could to get up the hill. I stood on the plain next to David as he fought Goliath, and tasted the porridge with Goldilocks.

As a teenager I romped the forests with Robin Hood, and trembled to the sound of gunfire with Henry in “The Red Badge of Courage.” Later, when Mama’s problems began to overwhelm her, I wrestled with the demons of dealing with one’s mother with Stephen Dedalus in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” But by then I was beginning the quest for my own identity. To an extent I found who I was in the books I read. I was a person who felt the drama of great pain and greater joys, whose emotions could soar within the five-act structure of a Shakespearean play, or find quiet comfort in the poems of Gabriela Mistral. Every book was a landscape upon which I was free to wander.

In the dark times, when my uncle was murdered, when my family became dysfunctional with alcohol and grief, or when I realized that our economics would not allow me to go to college, I began to despair. I read voraciously, spending days in Central Park reading when I should have been going to school.

But there was something missing. I needed more than the characters in the Bible to identify with, or even the characters in Arthur Miller’s plays or my beloved Balzac. As I discovered who I was, a black teenager in a white-dominated world, I saw that these characters, these lives, were not mine. I didn’t want to become the “black” representative, or some shining example of diversity. What I wanted, needed really, was to become an integral and valued part of the mosaic that I saw around me.

Books did not become my enemies. They were more like friends with whom I no longer felt comfortable. I stopped reading. I stopped going to school. On my 17th birthday, I joined the Army. In retrospect I see that I had lost the potential person I would become — an odd idea that I could not have articulated at the time, but that seems so clear today.

My post-Army days became dreadful, a drunken stumble through life, with me holding on just enough to survive. Fueled by the shortest and most meaningful conversation I had ever had in a school hallway, with the one English teacher in my high school, Stuyvesant, who knew I was going to drop out, I began to write short columns for a local tabloid, and racy stories for men’s magazines. Seeing my name in print helped. A little.

Then I read a story by James Baldwin: “Sonny’s Blues.” I didn’t love the story, but I was lifted by it, for it took place in Harlem, and it was a story concerned with black people like those I knew. By humanizing the people who were like me, Baldwin’s story also humanized me. The story gave me a permission that I didn’t know I needed, the permission to write about my own landscape, my own map.

During my only meeting with Baldwin, at City College, I blurted out to him what his story had done for me. “I know exactly what you mean,” he said. “I had to leave Harlem and the United States to search for who I was. Isn’t that a shame?”

When I left Baldwin that day I felt elated that I had met a writer I had so admired, and that we had had a shared experience. But later I realized how much more meaningful it would have been to have known Baldwin’s story at 15, or at 14. Perhaps even younger, before I had started my subconscious quest for identity.

TODAY I am a writer, but I also see myself as something of a landscape artist. I paint pictures of scenes for inner-city youth that are familiar, and I people the scenes with brothers and aunts and friends they all have met. Thousands of young people have come to me saying that they love my books for some reason or the other, but I strongly suspect that what they have found in my pages is the same thing I found in “Sonny’s Blues.” They have been struck by the recognition of themselves in the story, a validation of their existence as human beings, an acknowledgment of their value by someone who understands who they are. It is the shock of recognition at its highest level.

I’ve reached an age at which I find myself not only examining and weighing my life’s work, but thinking about how I will pass the baton so that those things I find important will continue. In 1969, when I first entered the world of writing children’s literature, the field was nearly empty. Children of color were not represented, nor were children from the lower economic classes. Today, when about 40 percent of public school students nationwide are black and Latino, the disparity of representation is even more egregious. In the middle of the night I ask myself if anyone really cares.

When I was doing research for my book “Monster,” I approached a white lawyer doing pro bono work in the courts defending poor clients. I said that it must be difficult to get witnesses to court to testify on behalf of an inner-city client, and he replied that getting witnesses was not as difficult as it sometimes appeared on television. “The trouble,” he said, “is to humanize my clients in the eyes of a jury. To make them think of this defendant as a human being and not just one of ‘them.’ ”

I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do when I wrote about poor inner-city children — to make them human in the eyes of readers and, especially, in their own eyes. I need to make them feel as if they are part of America’s dream, that all the rhetoric is meant for them, and that they are wanted in this country.

Years ago, I worked in the personnel office for a transformer firm. We needed to hire a chemist, and two candidates stood out, in my mind, for the position. One was a young white man with a degree from St. John’s University and the other an equally qualified black man from Grambling College (now Grambling State University) in Louisiana. I proposed to the department head that we send them both to the lab and let the chief chemist make the final decision. He looked at me as if I had said something so remarkable that he was having a hard time understanding me. “You’re kidding me,” he said. “That black guy’s no chemist.”

I pointed out the degrees on the résumé that suggested otherwise, and the tension between us soared. When I confronted my superior and demanded to know what about the candidate from Grambling made him not a chemist, he grumbled something under his breath, and reluctantly sent both candidates for an interview with the chief chemist.

Simple racism, I thought. On reflection, though, I understood that I was wrong. It was racism, but not simple racism. My white co-worker had simply never encountered a black chemist before. Or a black engineer. Or a black doctor. I realized that we hired people not so much on their résumés, but rather on our preconceived notions of what the successful candidate should be like. And where was my boss going to get the notion that a chemist should be black?

Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?

And what are the books that are being published about blacks? Joe Morton, the actor who starred in “The Brother From Another Planet,” has said that all but a few motion pictures being made about blacks are about blacks as victims. In them, we are always struggling to overcome either slavery or racism. Book publishing is little better. Black history is usually depicted as folklore about slavery, and then a fast-forward to the civil rights movement. Then I’m told that black children, and boys in particular, don’t read. Small wonder.

There is work to be done.

Continue reading the main story

Lead Belly Sings for Children on Throwback Thursday

In the fourth, and last, installment for our Black History Month Throwback Thursday series; we dive into the fascinating, tragic and triumphant life of Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter. Leadbelly_with_Accordeon     Huddie Ledbetter was born sometime between 1885 and 1889 near Mooringsport, in northern Louisiana, but he lived and attended school until he was about 13, in Texas, in Bowie County.  He spent his youth wandering and learning in the Deep South as a field hand, blues musician. A multi-instrumentalist,  his first instrument was the accordion. In 1917, he began working with  Blind Lemon Jefferson as his “Lead Boy”, guiding him, learning from him and helping him around the streets of Dallas, Texas. Their work together didn’t last long though, because Huddie was charged and convicted of murder in 1918. It is this stint in prison that is said to have given him his nickname. In 1925 he wrote a song to Governor Pat Morris Neff seeking his freedom. The story goes that Governor Neff was so affected by his song that he was pardoned, despite the fact that Neff had run for governor on a pledge not to issue pardons. He spent the next few years performing around the south, and concentrating on the 12-string guitar, which was to become his signature instrument. In 1930 he was once again convicted and jailed, this time for attempted murder, in Louisiana. It was at the Angola State Prison that he met John and Alan Lomax, who had come to Louisiana to record folk music for the Library of Congress. The Lomaxes were struck by Lead Belly’s powerful tenor, intense performance style, virtuosic guitar playing and obvious talent. They worked with Lead Belly to acquire him an early release, which was granted in 1934. After his release, he went on to work with the Lomax family in a variety of roles, and continued recording for the Smithsonian Folkways. He also began recording commercial music, playing on television and performing all over the country. He met, worked with and influenced other folk giants like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. In fact, The Weavers version of his song, Goodnight Irene was a smash hit just a year after he died of ALS. He left behind a vast legacy of music, and an influence that is felt in American Music to this day. More current artists who have covered him include Nirvana and LP. In 1999, Smithsonian Folkways released an album of his songs for children. Below are two songs from that collection.    

Pre-Crowd Funding Campaign for New Children’s Book!

Pre-Crowd Funding Launch Campaign for
The ABC’s of Percussion Children’s Book” with Music CD
by Uncle Devin


Click on image to play video!

Hey Everyone!

I just want to let you know that The Uncle Devin Show® is in its Pre-Crowd Funding Stage for our new children’s book entitled, “The ABC’s of Percussion” with Music CD.

This book is an educational and fun way for children to learn about the world of percussion instruments by identifying one percussion instrument per letter of the alphabet through beautiful illustrations – that’s 26 different percussion instruments.

The accompanying music CD brings the book to life through world beats and rhythms, as it recites the book aloud and plays each instrument.


Click on image to play video!

We have created our own theme song and music video for our book.The official launch date of our Crowd Funding campaign will be March 1, 2015.  Please spread the word!

Click Here to Follow Our Project!

Malaika, a Swahili lullaby, on Throwback Thursday

In our third installment for our Black History Month Throwback Thursday series; we celebrate the beautiful Swahili Lullaby, Malaika.   Miriam Makeba, one of the more famous musicians to cover Malaika. photo by Rob Mieremet Kenyan Musician Fadhili William is most often attributed as the composer of Malaika in 1959, for White Spots Music. Others dispute this, but all agree that he was the first artist to release the song, which he did with his band, The Jambo Boys, around 1963. Pete Seeger brought it to the US not long after, and it went on to be covered by artists like Harry Belafonte, Miriam Makemba, Angelique Kidjo, and was a hit in the early 80’s for the German group Boney M. The song, a lilting, gentle tune most often used as a lullaby, is actually a lament. The singer has been “defeated by money” and cannot marry the girl he loves, Malaika (which translates to Angel in English). Member Anna Stange covered the song for her album, Miss Anna’s Music Class, Vol. 2, you can listen to her version, and read the lyrics below. Malaika, as covered by Anna Stange.

Malaika – Angel

Malaika, nakupenda Malaika. Malaika, nakupenda Malaika. Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio, Nashindwa na mali sina, we, Ningekuoa Malaika. Nashindwa na mali sina, we, Ningekuoa Malaika. Malaika, nakupenda Malaika.  Malaika, nakupenda Malaika. Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio, Nashindwa na mali sina, we, Ningekuoa Malaika. Nashindwa na mali sina, we, Ningekuoa Malaika. Kidege, hukuwaza kidege. Kidege, hukuwaza kidege. ningekuoa dada ningekuoa mama  Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio, Nashindwa na mali sina, we, Ningekuoa Malaika. Nashindwa na mali sina, we, Ningekuoa Malaika. Malaika, nakupenda Malaika.  Malaika, nakupenda Malaika. Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio, Nashindwa na mali sina, we, Ningekuoa Malaika. Nashindwa na mali sina, we, Ningekuoa Malaika.
 

Angel, I love you Angel. Angel, I love you Angel. And me, what should I do, my love? I don’t have any money, (LITERALLY: I’m defeated by wealth, I don’t have any.) I would marry you, Angel. I don’t have any money, I would marry you, Angel.

Angel, I love you Angel. Angel, I love you Angel. And me, what should I do, my love? I don’t have any money, (LITERALLY: I’m defeated by wealth, I don’t have any.) I would marry you, Angel. I don’t have any money, I would marry you, Angel. Little bird, I always dream of you, little bird, Little bird, I always dream of you, little bird, And me, what should I do, my love? I don’t have any money, I would marry you, Angel. I don’t have any money, I would marry you, Angel. Angel, I love you Angel. Angel, I love you Angel. And me, what should I do, my love? I don’t have any money, (LITERALLY: I’m defeated by wealth, I don’t have any.) I would marry you, Angel. I don’t have any money, I would marry you, Angel