Music for Little People

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA, in VOA Special English.

Songs for big people are easier to find than songs for little people. But the market in children’s music is growing. Today, Faith Lapidus and Steve Ember tell about one company that is helping to meet the increasing demand.

That's BB King, the great blues musician, and his famous black guitar he calls Lucille. The song is “Rainy Day Blues.” Later in the song, he asks children to play a game called “BB Says.” It is a little like a game that a parent would play with a small child.

Babies learn about music from the simple songs that their mothers and fathers sing to them. When the children are older, their parents might teach them songs as part of a game. BB King's recording of “Rainy Day Blues” follows this tradition.

Most of his fans, though, may not know about his recordings for children. They only know that he makes very popular blues recordings for adults.

BB King recorded "Rainy Day Blues" for a company called Music for Little People.

It all began when a man named Leib Ostrow was looking for music for his children. He searched in stores, looked through books and phoned toy companies. He could not find anything he really liked.

So Mr. Ostrow decided to begin a recording company of his own. He went to a bank and borrowed some money. He began the company in his home. He used the part of the house where most people keep their automobile.

Soon he was recording music for children. Many parents thought it was a great idea. So did many recording artists.

Music for Little People is located in northern California. It started as a mail-order business in nineteen-eighty-five. Today it is one of the largest children’s musical and educational companies in the United States.

It has released more than eighty-five recordings. And it has won many awards.

BB King is only one of the performers on Music for Little People. Others include country music stars Faith Hill and Charlie Daniels. There are also recordings by Taj Mahal, Maria Muldaur, Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt, and the rock groups Red Hot Chili Peppers and Los Lobos.

The members of Los Lobos are from Los Angeles and are of Mexican ancestry. Their songs on Music for Little People are in both Spanish and English. In one recording they had the help of Lalo Guerrero, a Mexican-American singer.

Listen for a moment as Lalo Guerrero and Los Lobos perform “La Bamba,” a traditional Mexican song. You may have heard it before. It was a very famous song in the nineteen-fifties.

"La Bamba for Little People" begins with Lalo Guerrero telling everyone -- not just children -- to dance!

Leib Ostrow, the man who started Music for Little People, says he wants children to hear good music by great performers from around the world. The company sells many different kinds of music. If a parent thinks a child might like rock music, they have it. If a parent wants music in French, Spanish, Swedish or Zulu -- they have that, too.

There are religious songs, dance songs, slow songs, fast songs, songs from movies -- just about anything a child might like.

Taj Mahal is another artist well known to fans of blues music. Here, he and Linda Tillery sing “Shake a Tail Feather.” This song won several awards, and was a nineteen-ninety-eight nominee for a Grammy Award for Best Children’s Recording.

Dan and Kiley McMichael have a two-year-old daughter named Fiona. Fiona likes music. And, like most little children, Fiona wants to hear the same recordings over and over again. Her mother does not mind. She says she likes the Music for Little People as much as Fiona does.

Here is one of the songs that Fiona likes. It tells a story about the power of music to calm the fears of a little boy. The group singing is Ladysmith Black Mambazo, from South Africa. The song is “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

Our program was written by Paul Thompson and produced by Caty Weaver. Our studio engineer was Suleiman Tarawali. Music For Little People can be found on the Internet at mflp.com. I’m Faith Lapidus.

And I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for the VOA Special English program THIS IS AMERICA. We leave you now with a song called "Three Sisters: Corn, Beans and Squash." It's performed by Native American singer Joanne Shenandoah.