Flowers are not the only beautiful things blooming this spring. En masse, children’s artists used the 2020 pandemic year to expand their networks and create positive, forward-thinking music. Those recordings are now exploding like La Tomatina (a festival in Buñol, Spain where close to 30,000 people gather every summer to collect overripe tomatoes and throw them at each other). Putting aside whether or not you enjoy tomatoes, you will sway and dance to Esperanza, the third collection of tunes from Mexican-American singer-songwriter Sonia de los Santos.
Homebound, locked down, and quarantined in New Jersey during the early days of the pandemic, Sonia live-streamed concerts and counted the days until she could visit family living south of the border. Sonia also recorded segments for SiriusXM Kids Place Live called ¿Que Pasa, Sonia? featuring her favorite Spanish-language and bilingual songs about friendship, food, travel, and more.
The ebullient title track translates into “Hope,” and young audiences are encouraged to find and explore the things that got through the pandemic and continue to inspire them. With “Quiero Que Nueva York Sea Mi Casa (I Want New York to Be My Home),” Sonia pumps up the beat to match the 24/7 vibe and ferocity of New York City. The track is also perfectly timed with the upcoming release of the film version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway play, In the Heights:
In Nueva York you can find sounds from all over the world
The Caribbean is alive with its people and their songs
You can hear them in the street
Dancing all over the Bronx
The bodega in Washington Heights
Everybody is sharing love
On “This Land Is Also Mine,” Sonia remains upbeat in the face of rising racism and fear of “the other,” deftly addressing the twin issues of immigration and citizenship. Many have taken the same path that she did. “If you were in my shoes I bet you’d understand,” Sonia points out. Perhaps, eternally optimistic. Other standout tracks are the dance-tastic “¡Fiesta, Fiesta!” and “Fan-dan-go,” which touts the fun and festivity of being part of a community (locally and globally).
The face of children’s music is evolving. While it once encompassed mostly white faces (Raffi, Laurie Berkner, Dan Zanes), we now have a multi-cultural coalition that demands to be heard, respected, and embraced. Sonia de los Santos offers children a friendly figurative hug (social distancing still in effect), a strong, singular voice, and plenty of esperanza.
Here is the video for the song “Esperanza”: