Music to the children's ears Nada Brahma group exposes youngsters to sounds of foreign lands

November 06, 1996|By Diane E. Otts | Diane E. Otts,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A few dozen youngsters spent a recent rainy day listening to the exotic sounds of Australia, Africa and Asia -- all without leaving the confines of the Slayton House in west Columbia's Wilde Lake Village Center.

Tim Gregory, a co-director of Nada Brahma Productions, said he believes music and dance are every human's birthright. He and Made Mantle Hood of Ellicott City and Don Lee of Baltimore demonstrated ethnic instruments for the children during a four-hour program Friday.

The instruments were as simple as the Australian bull-roarer -- a small slab of wood on a long string that produces a pulsing roar when spun in the air -- and as elaborate as a 200-year-old Balinese children's gamelan ensemble, which consists of gongs and small xylophone-like instruments with bronze keys mounted on ornate gilded bases.

In between, the children were treated to animal-skin drums from Africa and Asia, a Caribbean steel drum, shakers made of nut shells and animal hoofs, a Native American flute, African thumb pianos and the Australian didgeridoo.

The didgeridoo, a long, hollow eucalyptus branch that produces an eerie hum when the player's lips buzz on the end, was a clear favorite among the children.

"The sound reminds me of electricity flowing back and forth," commented 10-year-old Nathan Thomas, a fifth-grader from Pointers Run Elementary School.

The children tried all of the instruments except the ones played by mouth and the few that were considered too dear, such as Hood's new guitar and the African-style Djembe drum that Lee made himself.

"I like these instruments," said Alexandra O'Neal, an 8-year-old third-grader from Thunder Hill Elementary School. "They make weird noises, and I like weird noises."

Led by Gregory, the children also created stories and dances inspired by nature. Everybody in the enthusiastic crowd had a good time, especially when things got silly, as they did when one of the dances featured a fight between a bear and a tiger cheered on by pompon-waving chickens.

The cheerleading chickens were the inspiration of Daniella Furey, 9, a third-grader at Clemens Crossing Elementary School.

"I don't know what made me think of it," Daniella said with a giggle. "I just did!"

Interspersed with the music and dance came lessons of respect, geography and multiculturalism. The children also learned how to make instruments from household items.

Herbrette Richardson, Thunder Hill Elementary School's music teacher, took notes during the program.

"Today, the teachers have workshops, but this is more useful for me as a music teacher," said Richardson, who hopes to use some of the ideas in her own teaching.

Nada Brahma Productions was founded by Gregory, 33, who refined his early presentations by volunteering in Howard County schools. The name of the group comes from the ancient Sanskrit language of India and translates as, "the world is sound."

Many instruments in the Nada Brahma presentations are from Gregory's own 15-year collection.

"From childhood I've been fascinated with other cultures. I looked at maps a lot," he said, "but I've always thought that the best way to learn about other cultures was through food and music."

Nada Brahma's other co-director, Hood, 27, has studied music of the world. He earned a bachelor's degree in ethnomusicology and is doing graduate work at West Virginia University.

Lee, a 42-year-old jazz musician who plays auxiliary percussion with Nada Brahma, has worked with children for a long time. "I like the kids because they are so receptive and so honest," Lee said.

The children found Nada Brahma's music to be welcome relief during a rainy day off.

"If I didn't come here, I would have sat and watched TV all day waiting for my friends to come home," Alexandra said. "This is a lot better."

The Wilde Lake Community Association is hosting events for children in a series titled "Rainbow Theater." Nada Brahma is scheduled for another "school's out" program on April 18. For information, call 730-3987.

Pub Date: 11/06/96

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