A friend was recently lamenting to me that her three-year-old son is really drawn to reggae music, and how she wished that she had the time to go through her substantial reggae CD collection and burn discs of child-appropriate songs, as she'd rather he not listen to songs with drug-related lyrics. ("Mostly," she admits, "because I'll never hear the end of it from my Mother-in-Law if Benny sings some of those lyrics at family dinner!") The truth is, the majority of recorded reggae songs aren't particularly offensive, but many roots reggae songs do reference ganja, and lots of modern dancehall is peppered with slack lyrics, so Jamaican music can be a little bit of a minefield with a certain age of child. Luckily, some kind souls have either recorded or compiled various reggae CDs specifically for little ears. The best ones are those that grown-ups can listen to and love also, and that's why I've put together this list of Great Reggae Music for Kids.
Kids love reggae music. It's upbeat, danceable, and infectious... what's not to love from a child's (or adult's) standpoint? From the parent's side of things, reggae can be a bit tricky. With lyrics that address various less-than-child-friendly themes popping up all over the place, it's hard to find good reggae that has kid-appropriate lyrics. It can be found, though, and here are some fantastic kids' reggae CDs to get you started.
1. Putumayo Presents Reggae Playground
Exploring the music of Jamaica from a distinctly fun and child-friendly perspective, Putumayo Records once again makes a child-friendly slam-dunk with this catchy collection of reggae songs from around the world. With artists like ska legends Toots and the Maytals, Trinidadian kids' music star Asheba, and Rita Marley (widow of Bob), this is an album that the whole family really can love, and is undoubtedly the best children's reggae compilation on the market.
2. 'Family Time' - Ziggy Marley
This children's album from Ziggy Marley (Bob's oldest son) is musically catchy, lyrically exuberant, and completely family-friendly. Named one of the Best Children's Albums of 2009 by About.com's Guide to Children's Music, Warren Truitt, this CD is both an outstanding example of children's music and an outstanding example of reggae music, and isn't that exactly what we're looking for?
3. 'B is for Bob' - Bob Marley
Ziggy Marley remixed and compiled this collection of G-rated Bob Marley songs, to pretty good effect. It's not as strong as Family Time, but it's really not a bad release. If you're not interested in remixes of all of these songs, check out a copy so you can see the track listings, and then compile your own album out of the original versions of the Bob Marley songs... they're available anywhere you can purchase MP3s, after all!
4. 'It's a Bam Bam Diddly' - Father Goose
Father Goose is perhaps the most luminous and entertaining of Dan Zanes's regular sidekicks, bringing his dancehall stylings to many a Zanes record and live performance. Stepping solo (well, not really -- Zanes, as well as Sheryl Crow and others, make guest appearances), Father Goose has made a really stellar kids' album with a great deal of staying power.
5. Reggae for Kids
This compilation was originally released almost 20 years ago, and has been re-packaged and re-released several times since then. Why? Because it's a good CD. Real reggae artists (including Gregory Isaacs, Eek-A-Mouse, and Yellowman) take on a variety of children's songs ("Puff the Magic Dragon" and "Over the Rainbow," for example) and child-friendly reggae classics (including Bob Marley's charming "Three Little Birds," as performed by Freddie MacGregor), resulting in an album that's all-around good fun listening.
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