Monday, December 22, 2014

Oh, Listen To The Music

And the Grammy goes to....

Two Sundays ago our family had the opportunity to see the Grammy award-winning Okee Dokee Brothers live in concert at the Historic Paramount Theater.  Yeah, big time.  For those of you unfamiliar with The Okee Dokee Brothers, or "Hokee Dokees" as my kids like to call them, they are two childhood friends who started an Americana Folk music group geared toward families and young children.  And yes, they won a Grammy for Best Children's Album two years ago for their debut album, Can You Canoe?, and have been nominated again in for their most recent album, Through the Woods.

I like music, a lot.  In my mind, what these guys do is fucking genius (yes, the expletive is necessary).  They are incredibly talented musicians and they've also found a perfect niche - people like me, with somewhat particular music tastes and enough disposable income (my wife's) that they want to expose their kids to music that even the parents will enjoy.  Yo Gabba Gabba is tolerable, these guys are legit.  As one of my friends mentioned, "I think I actually like them more than my kids do."  We also feel somewhat of a sentimental tie to the group as one of the "Brothers" went to the same college I did, and I graduated with his older sister and used to work with his wife.  Despite the fact that I've only met him a few times, I talk about him like we're best friends.

I'm very fortunate that my girls have both taken to music appreciation on some level.  The daycare they were at had an emphasis on music, and an incredible music teacher that they loved being around, so that really helped their exposure to the art form.  They love to dance, sing, and make up their own songs.  Isla went through a week-long "screamo" phase a few months ago which was both comical and somewhat frightening.  I wouldn't say I necessarily have a "proud papa moment" when she sings the chorus of "Timber", but it is somewhat endearing.  If they had ambivalence toward music, I would be heartbroken.  Some of you may know that I "play" sporadically in a cover "band".  So yeah, I like music, and I want my kids to like it too.

The genius of the Okee Dokee Brothers is that they combine simple, but beautiful and educational melodies, like learning how to spell Mississippi forwards and backwards, to make songs that parent and child can both enjoy on their own levels.  My girls like their music because they sing about trains, mosquitoes, and crazy boatmen.  I like their music because their instrumentation is complex, the harmonies tight, and the lyrics can be pretty deep if you really listen to them.  And I like the boatman too, he's just so crazy.  

Seeing them live was a a real treat (yes, I just said "real treat").  As talented musicians, I'm sure the first place they really want to be playing is a theater full of hyper-active kids with overly-concerned parents.  But they bring a genuine stage presence which engages the audience and encourages maximum crowd participation.  They talk about their instruments so the kids understand what is happening on stage, and they didn't seem to mind when an uncooperative youngster got on stage during their encore and had no interest in returning to his mortified mother.  It might not be their dream gig as musicians, but they seem to enjoy themselves and make sure that the audience enjoys it even more.  Seeing them live also gives you an excuse to dress the whole family up in flannel (if you need one) - it's standard issue show attire.

My girls loved the show, and as I was watching them enjoy it, singing along myself since I know pretty much all of the lyrics, I actually found myself getting a little choked up.  I'm sure many tears were shed at this particular Okee Dokee Brother's Concert for a variety of reasons.  But as I watched my girls dance and clap along to the music, it was emotional to think that they were enjoying something that I too enjoy so much.  Music can provide me with a whole host of emotions, but most often it brings me happiness.  To see that same happiness on the faces of my kids was one of those incredible parenting moments.

One of the first "kids" albums we picked up was a VeggieTales singalong CD.  It was, and still is annoying,   and has spent the better part of six months in our vehicle.  Isla pretty much has all of the songs down pat, and Havi is getting better as her ability to string sentences together increases.  I would listen to the Okee Dokee Brothers by myself if my kids were not around, but not VeggieTales.  As bad as this CD is though, when they start singing those songs, kind of off pitch, usually with the wrong words, I can't get enough of it.  I could listen to them sing "Bicycle Built for Two" from the backseat until I went deaf.

In that regard, I have to thank my parents for exposing me to music when I was young, or at least having musical tastes and playing them, even if my sister and I didn't understand it at the time.  There is a reason I hum a lot of Simon & Garfunkel and always tend to put on James Taylor on Sunday mornings.  Hopefully, in due time, my kids will appreciate more of the music that I enjoy, save maybe the Nine Inch Nails.  I've already started to see some glimmers of hope when Isla requests "songs she doesn't know" for her dance parties.  That means DJ DaddyO gets to control the playlist.  You better move, you better dance.  

In the meantime, I'll keep playing my random mix of eclectic music and we'll still listen to our fair share of Radio Disney and Raffi.  When we can't seem to agree on something, we'll go with the "Hokee Dokees".

We opted for pink instead of flannel.
We actually always opt for pink instead of well, anything.

My other recommendations for tolerable kid's music:

Rockabye Baby - Lullaby renditions of rock bands.  If you are into music, you gotta check this out.
Baby Einstein - Yes this is kind of cop out, but they have everything you're looking for in one fell swoop - lullaby music, sing-a-longs, Mozart and animal sounds.
Yo Gabba Gabba - The TV show is crazy, but I like how they enlist actual artists (if somewhat obscure ones) to sing/write the songs     
Putumayo - It's like Baby Einstein for the worldly, cloth-diaper crowd.
Radio Disney - Yes it's over the top, and probably a little to promiscuous, especially for little girls.  But at four, they don't understand what they are singing.  Tread lightly here, or you may get requests to buy tickets for a Miley Cyrus show, or whoever will fill her shoes in five years.

*Before you buy, I always recommend checking out your local library to give these a test spin before you want to invest any money on said products.




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