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The Best World Music Albums for Children

From Africa to Asia and Beyond!

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Tired of the same old children's music albums? Check out some of these unique world music albums that are either made for children or are appropriate for children, and that also happen to be fun and interesting for adults!

1. 'The Gift of the Tortoise' - Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Ladysmith Black Mambazo are one of the best-known world music groups of all time, and they've made dozens of albums, all of which are lyrically squeaky-clean (though as they're a Christian group, Christian-themed, so perhaps not a first choice for non-Christian families), but this collection of traditional Zulu songs and stories will take your children on a fun journey through a fascinating culture.
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2. Putumayo Kids Presents Reggae Playground

Reggae and other forms of Caribbean music can be hard genres to navigate with kids because the lyrics are so often for grown-ups only. Putumayo has taken the work out of this for you, though, and created a fun compilation that incorporates kid-friendly songs from a number of Caribbean music legends.
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3. 'Le Hoogie Boogie' - Michael Doucet

Michael Doucet, of the Cajun fusion band Beausoleil, put together this fun collection of kid-appropriate traditional Cajun songs as well as a few originals. Being a Dad and music aficianado himself, Doucet is more than familiar with what a parent might want when it comes to kids' music. This album is fun and fresh, and your kids will be happy to dance around and burn off some extra energy while it's playing.
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4. Smithsonian Folkways Children's Music Collection

The Smithsonian Institute has hundreds of thousands of field recordings in their archives, many of which happen to be lullabies, jump-rope rhymes, hand-clapping songs and so on. These recordings are from all over the country and represent several different cultural groups. Many of these recordings are approaching 100 years old, but they've been cleaned up (the scratchy sounds have been removed) to make them easy and fun for modern kids to listen to.
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5. 'Seal Maiden' - Karan Casey

Karan Casey is a well-known name to fans of traditional Irish music, and she did a stunning job with this kids' album. The album tells an Irish folk tale of a seal who turns into a girl, and the brilliantly executed songs are interspersed with gentle spoken-word storytelling.
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6. 'Choo Choo Boogaloo' - Buckwheat Zydeco

Zydeco music, like reggae, can occasionally be lyrically questionable for kids, so this album is a godsend for parents who love to two-step. Like both the Ladysmith Black Mambazo album and the Karan Casey album (also put out by the "Music for Little People" Label), the songs on this album are interspersed with a fun story about a train.
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7. 'Songs In French For Children' - Lucienne Varnay

This is a classic collection of songs in the French language that at least two generations of people who learned French in school will likely be familiar with. Remember the lady with the lightly smoky voice backed up by the quartet of gentlemen who sang a variety of pleasant chansons? Well, this is it, and it's still fabulous and your kids will love it.
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8. The Rough Guide to African Music for Children

Rough Guides are consistently excellent (both the travel handbooks and the music compilations), and this album for kids is no different. It contains a variety of African music, from kora player Mory Kante to Afro-Brazilian master Ricardo Lemvo.
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9. Putumayo Presents Dreamland

If there's one thing that's culturally universal, it's the lullaby. Actually, it's the fact that parents want kids to "get to sleep already!" and lullabies seem to do the trick pretty well. If this gorgeous and soothing compilation of lullabies from six continents doesn't get your kid to sleep, then I just don't know what will.
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10. Planet Sleeps

While you're stocking up on world music lullaby collections, grab this one, too, it's equally as good as the Putumayo collection and covers a similarly expansive range of cultures.

And there you have it! Take your kids on a cultural journey around the world with some excellent music.
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