You’d think removing politics from children’s music would be easy. These days, though, there are many variables and minefields to avoid. I thought a major misstep was Randy and Dave’s “I Should Have Been Born in Mexico” earlier this year, which was released at the height of the separation of immigrant children from their parents. Children’s music can address sorrow and other negative emotions, but at its core it’s built from hope and optimism. Sonia de los Santos‘s second CD, ¡Alegria! abounds with those qualities. “These days it feels more important than ever to find reasons to be happy and stay grateful,” Sonia writes in her liner notes, dedicating the music to those who are struggling to find a reason to smile.
“Alegria” translates literally into “joy,” and Sonia certainly conveys that sentiment with her clear, friendly vocals. The title track will dig into your skull like a warm, fuzzy earwig. Highlights include the street-strutting, horn-heavy “La Maraca” and “Mariposa Montuna” (Mariposa Mountain) with rich Columbian flutes and vocals from Nilko Andreas Guarin.
Sonia includes a few English songs – “Hey Little Bunny!” a bouncy animal pals tune “Daisy Mae,” a balled with Elizabeth Mitchell, and “Songs for the People,” a folkie anthem with Dan Zanes and Claudia Eliaza. Ordinarily they be a welcome break for non-Spanish speakers. Instead, it’s almost a distraction from all the good done on the other tracks by Sonia and company. Closer “Donde TuEstes (Wherever You Go)” with Cathy and Marcy gets the mix just right, however:
When you can button up your shirt
And brush off your own dust and dirt
When you can spell and write your name
I will love you just the same.
While there is power in happiness, ¡Alegria! also celebrates the resiliency of happiness. Whether it’s monarch butterflies (“Mariposa Montuna”) or rabbits (“Hey Little Bunny”) or the unending love of parents (“Wherever You Go”), the sheer endurance of these things offer hope and inspiration every day. Sonia asserts that our differences should bring us together as a community, not divide us. Basically, that would result in alegria for all.
Here is the video for the title track of the CD: