BUDDHIST SONGS FOR CHILDREN
Shortly before I left Australia at the beginning of the year, I was approached at a Buddhist gathering by a woman who was preparing to open a new preschool ( named Blue Lion) in Singapore under the auspices of our common teacher Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. She asked if I might write a few songs specifically to fit into the curriculum of their new school.
“Sure,” I agreed. I mean….how hard can it be? Write a couple of ditties for small children.
Zoom calls are the flavour of the year, and it was on one of these strange methods of communication that I learned the full scope of what I had agreed to. An old friend of mine, Heather Sanche from Vancouver Island, is designing the curriculum and has big ideas when it comes to music.
“Well, we need one for packing away the toys, another for lining up, and another one before they eat their lunch,” she explained.
“Okay so three songs….that should be okay.” I replied
“Oh no, we need one for each theme as well, like impermanence and community. And then we want some for the ceremonies too.”
By the time we had isolated every nook and cranny of the curriculum which required a song, we were at a count of 16. I remember muttering something about it being a 70’s double album, however having worked with a committee some years back trying to establish a Buddhist primary school in Lismore, I know how difficult it is to get something like that off the ground.
I was happy to volunteer, but that is a lot of songs!
Wherever I travel in the world, I bring the bare essentials to do home recordings, but I need help to produce a song to professional quality. I enlisted my mate Gary Dyson from London, well-known for his beautiful voice and innovative dance tracks, to help in production. He was happy to assist, but strapped for time as the UK was just opening back up from Covid suspension. That was when we learned that all the songs were to be translated into Chinese, so we would have 16 more versions to record!
I needed some help, so applied to the Khyentse Foundation in the USA for a grant, given that they were already supporting the preschool. Luckily, they could see the value of the project and approved my application….on condition that I write a few more songs for the Middle Way School near Woodstock.
With a modest payment available, I approached a young musician and producer in New York named Max Milner, who is bringing his huge talent to the project.
Even though the team in Singapore are translating the songs into Chinese, and we can use the same music track, I still need somebody to record the Chinese versions. I decided to contact a rap artist/comedian from Shanghai named Tadi, who magically appeared in Bodh Gaya, India a couple of years back, when I needed somebody of just his talents for a big show I was running. Tadi wrote straight back to me saying, “You won’t believe this! Two weeks ago, I opened a new recording studio designed especially for children and families. I have kids coming in to sing every day and we are looking for original material for them to record.”
So, despite the Covid doom and gloom, the future of Buddhist songs for children is looking bright! If you would like more information, please follow my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/simonthomasmusic/ or visit me on Bandcamp https://simonthomasmusic.bandcamp.com/. I will make all the songs available by donation when they are ready.