While driving to the Germantown Performing Arts Center for the season opener of their Peanut Butter and Jam children’s music series, my oldest daughter tries to get her tongue around the word mariachi:
“Meranachi, meramotti, maragacha!” she says.
While she never quite gets there, she and her little sister soon experience a host of new sounds with Memphis’ most visible Mexican folk string band, Los Cantadores (The Singers).
Saturday, November 7, 9:30 & 10:30 a.m. • $8
The PB&J concert series is made for kids ages 1 to 7. Held on Saturday mornings, the concerts don’t bump into nap times or the dinner/bath/books/bed routine. The music is highbrow and diverse, presented in a way that invites kids to enjoy the experience in their own way. Chairs are provided, but so are carpet squares. Kids can dance and sing along with friends from the floor, or watch from the audience with their parents.
Los Cantadores have lent their flavorful sound to concerts and festivals across the Mid-South for years. In a diverse urban space like ours, diversity abounds, and part of the mission of GPAC’s PB&J series is to show children tangible examples of a range of music and the people who make it.
“Kids see that other people are different,” said Emily Hefley, GPAC’s programming manager. “Music and dance are a great way to explore those differences through participation.
"It can be easy to go about your weekdays in family bubble, and at times you have to be intentional about making diverse cultural experiences happen for your children. We try to make that easy to do for parents with Peanut Butter & Jam.”
When she organized events for the Memphis Zoo in the late 90s, my wife would often hire Los Cantadores, led by singer and vihuela player (a small guitar-like instrument) Domingo Montes, and she was looking forward to seeing them after a decade. Senor Montes recognizes her from the stage, and tosses a grin our way.
“Hola, Adrienne! Beinvenidos!”
The band continues to toss nuggets of joy to the audience throughout the 10-song set, with Montes and three other musicians often engaging the audience by giving us context as to where the musical traditions come from, the names of the instruments, and the stories about the type of fiesta or celebration where these tunes might be played. The lessons mix well with the sheer fun of the songs, delivered in four-part harmony, along with improvised boot-stomping dance flourishes and spontaneous shouts and calls.
After the music, GPAC provides a few tables of crafty stuff. At our session, kids make maracas out of plastic eggs, beans, and spoons, and decorate hand fans with colored paper. The band mixes and mingles, obviously loving this time with their new, tiny fans. And GPAC's PB&J has found some new fans in our family.