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Revolutionize Music Education with Singing to the Rain's Teaching Resources

Dr.Matías Recharte, Aline Morales and Padideh Ahrarnejad
(l-r) Dr.Matías Recharte, Aline Morales and Padideh Ahrarnejad

Dr. Matías Recharte is a musician, researcher and the Education Director for the band KUNE, an eleven piece collective based in Toronto, Canada. I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Recharte to find out about their free resource for music teachers and educators called ‘Singing to the rain’.

What is 'Singing to the rain'?

“Singing to the rain” is a curriculum resource for teachers and students based on a piece arranged by KUNE called Baroom-Chuva. The arrangement, made by Padideh Ahrarnejad and Aline Morales combines two songs, an Iranian folk song and an Afro-Brazilian song from the Capoeira tradition. This resource is a guide to learning the lyrics, the melody, the accompanying rhythms – and even the dance moves! It contains a slide show that has links to videos of Aline and Padideh demonstrating all the different parts as well as a PDF guide for teachers that contains all the sheet music, more contextual information and a guide for using this resource. 

What was the thinking behind this resource?

KUNE’s repertoire is pretty unique because it combines styles, languages and musical instruments that don’t usually encounter each other. KUNE emerged in one of the world’s most diverse cities and our music speaks to that unique experience. Toronto’s schools are also extremely diverse and when we started performing in schools we quickly realized how much students of different backgrounds could see themselves represented in our music and our style of collaboration. 

We also realized how teachers have become much more aware of issues of representation and cultural appropriation and were understandably cautious about using materials, arrangements and songs that have been traditionally used in music education in Canada. Most of these materials were not properly sourced, did not include enough background information or context and teachers did not have proper training to represent these traditions properly to their students. 

That’s why we decided to create materials out of our own repertoire, which represents that combination of different cultures and experiences through our lived experiences and collaborations. We didn’t want to present these songs as “Music from Iran” or “Songs from Brazil”, we wanted them to be more specifically focused on the members of the ensemble and THEIR relationship to the music of their country or region. This way we avoid essentialisms in representation and we stay focused on the actual lived experience of KUNE musicians. 

How did you put it together?

We put this together in collaboration with classroom music teachers because we wanted it to be designed in a way that made it immediately accessible and useful to teachers. We wanted to keep in mind the strengths and limitations imposed on schools and teachers so that we could offer them materials, information, and flexible options that they could adapt to their needs and circumstances. 

We collaborated with Elizabeth Seo, Catherine West, and Linda Song who are classroom teachers and also experts in Orff methodologies because we could safely assume that this approach would be familiar to most teachers and that many schools in the area would have some Orff instrumental. But we also wanted it to make it accessible to teachers who might not have a strong music background or access to instruments, so we added options for body percussion and voice only and we included video instructions for each part. 

We really enjoyed this collaborative process between teachers and musicians, because each of us has unique perspectives and skills that are necessary in order to create an innovative, unique, accessible, and useful resource for the classroom. 

Why this selection of music?

This resource is a pilot in a larger project we have in mind. The idea is to create an expanding “album” of resources based on the ensemble’s repertoire. We started with Baroom/Chuva because it was a very neat arrangement of very simple melodies, based on rhythms and modes that would sound familiar to Western(ized) ears and because of the neat fit of ‘rain’ themes between both songs. It’s important to note that this piece is based on traditional songs from both Iran and Brazil and that this arrangement emerged from the collaborative friendship of Aline Morales and Padidhe Ahrarnejad who work together within and outside KUNE. In our artistic and educational work, we want to highlight these personal connections and our journeys as immigrant musicians, rather than focusing on ‘countries’ or regions as abstract and static entities.  

Aline Morales

Who is it aimed at?

This resource is meant to be as accessible to as many audiences as possible. Music teachers will find familiar ways of presenting musical material (sheet music, charts, etc). Teachers without a strong music background will also find accessible ways to learn the material and teach it to their students (videos, pictures, slide shows). We’ve made the resource as open as possible, with lots of flexible options so that teachers can adapt this to a wide range of classroom circumstances. We have framed the material in this resource in a way that empowers teachers to learn alongside their students and to be confident in their facilitation of the learning process, even when dealing with languages and traditions they may not be familiar with. 

How can teachers or students use it?

Teachers can use this resource in many ways, depending on their goals. But the resource is first and foremost a window into: 

(1) musical traditions, cultures, and languages from Iran and Brazil that may or may not be familiar to the teacher or students,

 (2) the musicians in KUNE –specifically Aline and Padideh– and their stories, their knowledge and their perspectives, 

(3) KUNE as a unique ensemble that creates spaces for innovation through musical dialogue, cultural exchange, friendship and understanding. 

The resource has material that can be used to learn some basics about Farsi and Iranian folk music, as well as Portuguese and the Afro-Brazilian art of Capoeira. Teachers interested in performance can use the resource to facilitate this learning in a way that leads into a performance with instruments and voice, or body percussion. Or it can be used simply as a fun exploration of different ways of dancing, singing and playing that might not be familiar to you.  

The results are not as important as the experience of exploring, trying out and learning in the process. But the resource also has all the tools you need to be able to perform the song in many different ways.  

In our opening letter to users, we emphasize that nothing can replace direct learning and so ideally, this resource is a vehicle to start a direct relationship with KUNE and its members. We want everyone to feel free to contact us and build a relationship with their school or learning community. Even if you are far away, in 2024 there are many different ways to interact and learn from each other!

Singing to the rain with a group of children

Do you have any other resources planned?

YES! This is just the first in a series of many resources based on KUNE’s repertoire that we want to do. The next step will be to create more resources based on other pieces we have recorded in our two albums: KUNE (2018) and Universal Echoes (2023). 

Can you share with us some of the feedback you've heard from people who have used it?

What we’ve heard from music teachers is that they can easily see themselves using this resource in their classrooms. This is very important to us because the main purpose of this resource is to be useful and accessible, without compromising quality or authenticity.  We presented it at the Ontario Music Education Conference in Canada in 2023 and we had many attendees who were very positive about the resource. But we are still waiting to hear from folks so please reach out if you have any feedback! 

What do you think music education needs more of?

I personally think music education needs to go on an excursion beyond the limits of what is normally considered “music education”. There is so much happening in terms of learning and teaching musical skills, repertoires and traditions beyond typical classrooms and programs.

 At the same time, music teachers need to be more empowered to create curriculum and to share horizontally, rather than wait for solutions to come from publishers or academics. I think music teachers need to explore and better utilize the resources in their own communities, collaborate with artists, musicians, storytellers, grandparents, aunties, etc. to harvest the cultural resources in and around their school community and use their pedagogical skills to create curricular resources for themselves and others. 

I think that the current push to diversify and de-center Western Art music is important and urgent, but the quest for culturally ‘pure’ or ‘authentic’, ‘ethically-sourced’ curriculum resources is misguided. Instead, what we need is more collaboration, more focus on lived experience, and more innovation from the ground up: teachers engaged with their school and surrounding communities, creating and sharing resources with each other.

To find out more and to download this resource, click this link

KUNE and their music can be found on these social media platforms:

Twitter: @kuneworld1

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1 comentario

I see you're talking about music and modern music education. I really love music and video music, but I realise that to create them you have to be a real music professional. I can't say that I'm a real professional in music, but I learn with the help of video lessons on and practice musical instruments to be able to play different instruments and make music in the future

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