Songs in the Shade of the Cashew and Coconut Trees is an enchanting collection of 23 traditional songs that pays homage to the rich cultural heritage and multilingual communities of West Africa and the Caribbean. Stories about children playing in the schoolyard at recess, sisters braiding each other’s hair at the beach, and parents dancing and singing late into the night mesh together thanks to the music. A wide array of styles—nursery rhymes from Gabon, lullabies from Cape Verde, rumbas from the Congo, work songs from Jamaica—are all performed exquisitely by men, women, and children in more than a dozen languages. Luminous artwork and homegrown instruments, such as the djembe, the cavaquinho and the Peul flute, round off this wonderful celebration of history, language, and culture. Lyrics appear transcribed in their original language and translated to English followed by extensive notes describing the cultural background of each song and a world map. A CD is enclosed with the book.
Evaluation comments from our Music Judge:
“You can pretty much guarantee that a musical picture book from The Secret Mountain is going to be quite good, but this one ranks as one of their best. First off, the book is expertly conceived. The initial section contains Judith Gueyfier’s simple, lovely illustrations for the CD’s 23 songs. The book then has a map showing the locations of the Caribbean and West African countries where the songs come from. Next comes a short section providing historical, cultural and linguistic context for the music. Finally, each song gets a page that includes some additional explanatory information on the song along with its lyrics in English and its native language. Because the book moves from simple to more sophisticated ways of reflecting or explaining the CD’s music, kids basically can grow up with the book. Oh, yes, the music – the 23 tracks make for a beautiful listening experience with or without the book to accompany it. The Caribbean and West African-based tunes blend well with each other. Most are traditional numbers but a few are originals. “Day-O” probably is the most known (or perhaps only known) song in this collection but it isn’t hard to connect to the tunes even if they aren’t familiar to the most listeners. Songs flow between gentle and more spirited tempos, and they easily sweep you up on a terrific musical journey that travels back and forth between West African and the Caribbean. Besides being a gorgeous set of music, the CD also can serve as a gateway into seeking out more music and stories from these regions.”