The Story Behind Every Song - Cultural Influences to Music

The Story Behind Every Song – Cultural Influences to Music

Raising World Children

Beethoven, my favorite composer went deaf before he composed some of his most famous piano and orchestral musical works. He was very poor, living in Vienna, but didn’t let his financial hardships or disability deter him from playing and composing music.

In my opinion, he was one of the first true composers to really understand the piano. Other composers before him helped bring the piano to the forefront as a true and important instrument, but the harpsichord was very famous still too. I believe that the culture he lived in was a major influence on his music.

Music Around the World


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Every composer creates music based on their experiences and culture. While playing piano for vocalists, they would sing in different languages. Depending on what language they were singing in would determine how I would interpret and play the piano accompaniment part.

When you hear music from around the world, it will all sound different. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why? People from other cultures are also unique individuals.

Even though I am from America, I could compose a song and my neighbor down the street could compose another song, but they would still end up sounding completely different.

Because we’re both from America, we may use a lot of the same sounds, rhythms, and instruments, but our own personal style will go into our music. Most of the time when you are from a different country, you can tell if music is from Jamaica, Africa, Mexico, India, or Italy just by hearing it. Your experiences and knowledge bring you to this understanding.

So many different cultures have shaped me as a music teacher.

My Musical Journey & Influences

My journey began in my first grade classroom one December day.  Our class  was called to the carpet to sit around the piano. It is not very often that a classroom teacher has an instrument in their classroom, so I thought this was pretty cool that our teacher  played  for us daily.

On this particular occasion, she played the song “Jolly Old St. Nicholas.” I ran home from school that day and couldn’t wait to sit at the old piano my dad had just gotten from our church. After picking at the notes for a little while, I finally figured out how to play the melody of that song we had just learned, all by myself. It felt fabulous!

culture music

I went on to take piano lessons and learned how many famous composers played piano and composed such amazing music and the rest as they say is destiny.

I enjoy teaching the African, American, and Spanish cultures the most. I love to teach and play the African drumshey are a great way to teach rhythm and steady beat. Student’s love learning how to play the different types of African drums (djembe, talking drum, and African drum) and the dances to go along with the drumming as a group.

When teaching a song from the Spanish culture, we learn the Spanish language first, then the dances that go along with the song like flamenco, and sometimes even add maracas.

When learning American music, my favorite type to teach is folk music. Students love learning how these songs have been passed down from generation to generation and are songs even their grandparents used to sing. There are so many folk dances where kids have a partner and can dance down the middle or in a circle while singing the song.

Teaching Music

When I taught piano and music in the classroom, teaching music from other cultures was so important to me. Not only would my student’s learn the music, but they would learn about what the people of that culture or country liked to eat, how they liked to celebrate, what their families were like, clothes they enjoyed wearing, and so much more.

We would immerse ourselves in the culture we were studying and when it came time to learn a story or song, the students were so into it. One of my favorite memories of teaching about music from other cultures was when I introduced my students to Native American music. They got to see and hear me play the Indian flute I had made in my music in diversity class in college.

The students understanding before that day, was that a flute was just a flute you would see in a modern day orchestra. They had no idea that a flute can look different in so many different cultures but still go by the same name.

I love to hear stories from my friends or other musician’s about their favorite music to study or listen to. There is so much amazing music out there and I love to continue learning more and more about what’s out there. There are chants, raps, gospel, country, pop, rock, jazz, blues, Classical, reggae, and so much more.

Every single style of music originates from somewhere and there is a story behind every single song written. Do you create music? What has country influences your music the most ?

Cultural Influences To Music - The Stories Behind Every Song #cultures #music #kids #learning #stories

 Jessica Peresta is a mom to 3 little boys. Music has always been a passion loves teaching kids of all ages, inspiring them towards music. She has taught elementary music for 7 years as well as private piano lessons. Seeing many who did not have access to quality music education, she started The Domestic Musician site.  Her goal is to teach music to as many children as possible, no matter where they live, what their demographic is, what culture they come from, or what disability they may be facing. Every child can and should learn music. You can follow her on Facebook @thedomesticmusican or Twitter @thedommusician

Teaching Mother tongue

Teaching the Mother Tongue to Children in a Foreign Country

Being bilingual is beneficial for children. People who know more than one language have better problem-solving skills and are good at decision making as per the latest research. If you are like me, who relocated to a foreign country, do you feel difficult to teach mother tongue to your kids?

When we moved to the USA 2 years ago, we visited a doctor for a regular checkup for my kids, the doctor asked if my toddler can speak/ understand 2 languages. I said, “yes”. She told me that it is good for the development of children to learn more than one language and she encouraged me to continue teaching 2 languages to my children. But, Teaching the mother tongue to children in a foreign country is not that easy as everyone around our kids speak one language which influences them more. My children speak English fluently with friends and teachers and converse in “Telugu” (our mother tongue – a South Indian Language) at home.

Here is a post on a few tips for the parents staying in foreign countries to teach mother tongue to their children.

Teaching Mother tongue

1. Speak the mother tongue at home:

Learning always starts at home for children. If we speak in our native language to our kids, they tend to catch the words and use them. The only way to teach a new language is to get them exposed to the vocabulary in that language. By constantly listening to the language at home, children learn quickly. Start with teaching simple instructions like – “Switch on the light” and get them familiar with basics like greeting others, asking for help, requesting and thanking someone.

2. Make writing the new language a part of their homework:

If we have to separately teach Telugu at our home, it is tough as the concentration levels of children below 7 years is not more than 20 to 30 mins. So, I make it a part of their homework. After finishing their class homework, they spend only 10 mins writing the Telugu alphabets. After the children learn all the alphabets we can move to forming words and sentences and making them write simple words like their name, some objects/ toys they like etc.,

3. Read stories in native language:

Reading stories is the best way to teach anything to the children. They focus and understand better when anything is narrated as a story. So, get some books of your native language and read them daily. This way, they catch the new words and sentences and even try to use them when they speak.

4. Encourage and Correct their mistakes then and there:

When children try a new language, they are hesitant if they are using right words or not. So, encourage them to speak and help them with the vocabulary. If they use wrong words/ make mistakes while speaking, gently correct them then and there, so that they won’t forget. Use the language that they are comfortable with(like English) as a medium to teach new words and their meanings so that they can correlate both the languages easily.

5. Use tools/ aids to support learning:

We can make use of word games to encourage kids to learn new words. Crossword puzzles, word jumble, and Pictionary are some of the fun ways to teach languages. We can ask kids to identify the letters, form sentences using specific words and even ask them to give an impromptu speech for one minute on their favorite topic. Watching movies in our native language also improves vocabulary to a great extent.

Click here to download our comprehensive checklist. A great tool to make sure your kids speak their native language. 

Numerous studies have shown that learning more than one language can improve brain function and can help in multitasking. It is surprising to know that being bilingual also slows the aging process.

Can your children speak 2 languages? Do you encourage them to learn a new language? If you are in a foreign country, do you teach your children your mother tongue? Let me know if any of my tips find helpful.

 Mahathi Ramya is a mom of 2 boys, a blogger, software testing professional and a classical dance teacher. She writes on books, travel, and parenting. She loves writing, traveling and painting a lot.