When I was a kid, I hated children’s music. I distinctly remember in the second grade rolling my eyes when the teacher would put on yet another record of off-key kids singing mind-numbing tunes.
Back then, I didn’t have the vocabulary to put it like that, but my older brother and sisters played the radio all the time and schooled me in the world of pop music at a very early age. The stuff I heard outside of the classroom was far more interesting than the stuff I heard in it.
So it’s not surprising my perception of children’s music in the last 32 years would be dismissive. The deep stuff, the challenging stuff — that would have to wait till later when kids are old enough to understand it.
But there’s a flaw to that assumption — parents will have to listen to children’s music too.
So it was a happy day when news broke that UA would release Uta UUA, an album based on appearances on the Japanese children’s program Do Re Mi.
UA has, literally and figuratively, done it all — jazz, pop, rock, electronica, improvisation. Her distinctive, resonant voice was a natural for children’s music.
But UA is also a creative magnet, the kind of charismatic performer who attracts talent from all over for collaboration.
So it’s something amazing to find avant-garde improviser Otomo Yoshihide and Buffalo Daughter’s Oono Yumiko alongside UA on, of all things, an album of children’s music.
UA, however, isn’t content just to phone in her performance. The eclecticism and open-minded approach to music she applies to other albums is in full force on Uta UUA.
In a way, the album is her most diverse work yet.
Unlike the strict parameters under which all popular genres work, children’s music prioritizes simplicity over all else. It doesn’t matter whether the song is a mambo, a folk song, or a lullbuy.
And in that sense, children’s music provides an incredibly broad canvas for experimentation.
“Teinsagunu Hana” finds UA singing in an highly embellished style, whereas “Omacha no Cha Cha Cha” is, literally, a cha-cha-cha.
“Umi” features some subcontinental Indian instrumentation, “Do Re Mi Mizundo” has a North African/Middle Eastern feel, while “Yama no Ongaku Uchi” is based on Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
UA isn’t afraid to challenge her young listeners either. Some of the timbres used on Uta UUA can get mildly strange. “Shalom” starts with a dischordant horn. “Omacha no Cha Cha Cha” includes some deep tablas.
“Ringo no Hitori Goto” is Japanese melody, but UA has Oono accompany her on steel drum.
With Uta UUA, UA has stamped children’s music with her singular, eclectic vision. She found a way to inject maturity into a style of music aimed for the developing mind.
Adults will find a lot to like about the album, and it’s great for children too.